Beyond transshipment

June 2022

Taking in the view at Thunder Bay’s waterfront one quickly realizes just how dramatic the landscape is! The Nor’Wester Mountains to the south, houses rising up towards Hillcrest Park in the west, and Lake Superior to the east; you only need to think of the city’s catch phrase “It’s Superior by Nature” to understand the interplay at hand.

Not only is the view filled with abundant nature and cargo vessels, but also the waterfront’s infrastructure of transshipment; grain elevators, bulk handling terminals and sawmills that are economic engines to our very existence and survival. This leaves only .7% of the waterfront accessible to citizens and visitors to our City on Thunder Bay.

The Lakehead has operated as the hinge of the nation in bygone fur trading days with products moved by the Coureur des bois at Fort William. Today, trade still takes place but it’s the movement of potash, coal, grain, and other commodities that go through the Port of Thunder Bay’s Keefer Terminal.

Being behind the waterfront infrastructure, even as we view the Sleeping Giant, the breakwater rocks protect our port and livelihood. With a somewhat narrow view created from behind the movement of commodities, how do we access and explore where we live and change our perspectives?

By taking steps.

Breaching our captive and economic infrastructure is simple when you are prepared to step outside. It might be to take a walk around Chippewa Park, hike around the Sleeping Giant or take a ride on a waterfront charter; it’s all about getting to the other side, the waterside and seeing how the city is surrounded in nature, not dominated by commerce.

Once the infrastructure is breached and you’ve escaped, look back towards the city. Quickly you see a different perspective and new opportunities start to flow. Now, communing with nature, you have some space to breath, take in the grandeur of the landscape and start to imagine the history that tamed these shores.

Imagine standing at the recently refurbished harbour at Silver Islet (located near the Sleeping Giant) and wonder where all that silver came from. Or, as the dusk falls seeing a blinking light on the horizon signaling ships to steer clear of grand land masses and rocky shoals. Where are you now?

By taking a small step beyond, one is connecting their imagination with how the First Nations peoples might have seen these landscapes. Think of the legends and stories that come from these landscapes; for example the Sleeping Giant. Underfoot you might discover volcanic sands from the mid-continent rift that occurred 1.1 billion years ago, or witness a dark sky event without light pollution.

Take a Lake Superior charter to experience more and set yourself free from landlock and a one-sided view. Turn around and look at the green hills surrounding your port as the summer takes hold. Look into the water to see many meters down into the silver mine. Imagine the silver miners on a small island holding back the flow of Superior as they dropped their mining shaft 1,141 feet (384 meters) to the treasures below. See the remnants of broken wooden cribs and two dark shafts glimmering in the sunlight. Where are you?

Circle the craggy island of Trowbridge named after one of the owners of the silver mine and see the lighthouse atop. What brave mariners have sought solace from the light to find their way to their home port?

Bending and twisting along the coastline, see the amazing strata of rocks in all their colours. Watch the fishing tugs encircled by seagulls as they take their fill. See the changing perspectives of the land as you round up into another bay.

We already have an understanding of what it’s like to be part of our environment as we live in our city today. Taking some respite from city life by connecting with nature, changes perspectives.

You’ll catch yourself saying, “I didn’t know that.” and have a source of pride as you share your observations with others.

In some respects, by stepping out into the unknown one can actually tighten their bond with where they live.

We all know the scourges of the pandemic with everyone’s mental health affected. Let’s take small steps to truly explore where we live and be proud of what we have.

All it takes is one simple step. Make that step and enjoy our amazing landscape of forests and brilliant waters with a tiny speed bump, waterfront infrastructure.

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