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CFB Petawawa’s beaches now open

TINA PEPLINSKIE, Pembroke Daily Observer - Friday, June 15, 2007

After years of being closed because of a project to clean up the munitions, beaches adjacent to the base are being reopened to the public.

The $5-million project to rid the beaches along the Ottawa River of Unexploded Explosive Ordnance (UXO) took four summers to complete, beginning in 2002, when the beaches were closed and the public was first alerted to the dangers lurking in the sand and water.

The hazard zone stretched approximately 6.5 kilometres from Black Point to Black Bear Beach along the north bank of the river next to the base. Landmarks in between include Angler Point, Wegner Point, Gust Point and Kiska Beach. The affected area comprised 27 hectares of beach and 167 hectares of river bottom.

Although there is not a 100 per cent guarantee that everything has been cleared from the beaches, Base Commander Lt.
-Col. Dave Rundle believes the problem and risk has been greatly mitigated.

“This will ensure the finest beaches are safe for use,” he added.

Through the clean-up effort, nearly 200 UXOs were discovered, the majority along with thousands of non-munitions and munitions-related items, noted Adrian Albon, project manager for the CFB/ASU Petawawa clearance portion of the Department of National Defence UXO and Legacy Sites Program.

Among the items found on the beaches were parachute flares, smoke grenades, artillery rounds, mortar shells, Russian projectiles and 18-pound shrapnel, explained Sergeant Dave Gillis of 2 Service Battalion ammo.

Sgt. Gillis was on hand with examples of items that were found.

At a public meeting Thursday night at the Troyes Cinema, attended by about 40 people, Mr. Albon explained what the program entailed.

In 2001, a company specially trained in locating UXOs visited the beaches and using a grid system, surveyed a small area to come up with an estimate for the number of munitions along the entire stretch of beach. They were also responsible for locating UXOs in the Ottawa River to a five-metre depth.

Throughout the project fencing, signs and buoys in the river were prominent to warn people of the dangers. Discussions are ongoing between the base and UXO Legacy Sites Program to determine what kind of fencing and signage will be used now to make it a little less visible to users, especially the fence.

Three local boaters who spoke at the meeting, Carl Gauthier, Vance Bedore and Ron Tremblay, are all eager to use the beaches again and congratulated the group and the base for their work in making the beaches safe.

Local boaters are being asked to mark the official opening of the beaches Saturday, June 18 at 1 p.m. by gathering at the Petawawa Yacht Club dock for a brief ceremony before joining a flotilla to Wegner’s Point, where the ribbon- cutting will take place. The event is being organized by the office of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MP Cheryl Gallant.

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