Third-year “Urbanization, Poverty and Politics” students from UNB Saint John have focused their attention on a stretch of land in Saint John’s south end. Their efforts to revitalize Tin Can Beach were featured in the Telegraph Journal on November 4.

Read the full story below.

Students see potential in Tin Can Beach
New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
Mon Nov 4 2013
Byline: KARISSA DONKIN

A group of students from the University of New Brunswick Saint John are hoping to help revitalize a long-ignored piece of south end land.

Students in Hepzibah Munoz-Martinez’s third-year Urbanization, Poverty and Politics class have spent the semester studying how access to bodies of water can affect a city’s economic prosperity.

They’ve focused their efforts on Tin Can Beach, a piece of land that is a beach more by lore than in reality. It sits at the foot of the south end, across from Rainbow Park, and has developed a reputation as a dangerous, garbage-littered place.

The end goal is to have the students author a report they could present to decision-makers at Common Council and other stakeholders in the neighbourhood.

“One of the things that I’m looking forward to having in this active learning project is students feel empowered to do something to improve their own lives and the lives of the community,” Munoz-Martinez said.

“What I would like to see is to start a concrete conversation about Tin Can Beach. Not only have ideas about it but actually start a concrete conversation that leads to a policy.”

It’s a project close to the professor’s heart. She’s originally from Mexico, where direct access to water attracts both tourists and members of the community to spend time together.

But when she moved to Saint John, she felt sheltered from the water in the south end and uptown area. She takes walks at Tin Can Beach when she can.

“It’s become this isolated place where people hardly go except for doing drugs or things like that. That’s what I’ve heard. I’ve also heard a lot of people say, ‘I go there because it’s so peaceful and I can see the water and sometimes I see marine life when the tide goes down.’

“People tell me, ‘I would go more often if there was easier access, if I would feel more safe,’ especially late during the day.”

After learning about what makes direct access to water appealing and good for a community’s economic growth, the professor’s students began talking to the community to find out what they want to see at Tin Can Beach.

Some ideas residents have offered include extending Harbour Passage, adding sculptures or fire pits, installing lights and having concerts or other cultural events at Tin Can Beach.

It’s gotten the students, many who live in the suburbs, to spend time at Tin Can Beach and meet people who live near it.

“What’s been interesting for me is students are so invested in the project and so interested that even though they’re from the Valley, now they feel somehow attached to uptown,” Munoz-Martinez said.

The students’ final report will include facts and examples of best practices to show how people in other cities with spaces like Tin Can Beach have maximized the land’s potential.

It will also include what they’ve heard from the community about how they want to see the land used.

The students met with members of PULSE (People United in the Lower South End) and Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Lowe to talk about the land’s possibilities last week.

“It’s great. They’re really excited. They had some great ideas,” Lowe said.

The councillor grew up around the corner from Tin Can Beach on Broad Street. Fixing it up is near the top of his priority list, the first piece of a plan he described as building the south end from the bottom to uptown.

“I know the beach very well and it’s just been left to decay. We can put Tin Can Beach and (Rainbow Park) together somehow,” he said.

His vision includes some benches, garbage cans and lighting to make the area safer. Lowe is confident the private sector will pitch in if the city can’t afford the upgrades, using St. John the Baptist-King Edward School’s brand new, privately-funded industrial grade kitchen as an example.

“There’s a lot of good people in Saint John that will put money out and will help. But they’ve got to be asked.”

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