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New Beach Care Standards – Saugeen Shores

Cheryl Ferguson Articles, Local News, Port Elgin, Updates from the Beach

SAUGEEN SHORES – Town staff could be “hand bombing and whipper snipping” to groom sections of the 18 kilometres of waterfront in Saugeen Shores,following new minimum service levels, expected to be approved by Town Council March 1.

(Hand bombing is doing work by hand, not machine).

Noting it is difficult to balance demands of beach-users and Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) restrictions, Jayne Jagelewski, the Town’s Director of Community Services told councillors at a recent committee of the whole meeting that the Waterfront Maintenance Plan details the frequency and extent of ongoing maintenance in 10 separate areas, from MacGregor Point Provincial Park, to north of the Saugeen River in Southampton.

Maintenance in the areas could include garbage and litter pickup, beach grading, playground, washroom and parking lot maintenance, and dune and common reed care.

The Plan sets Council’s expected level of service when dealing with inquiries or complaints, Jagelewski said.

“With the addition of a new Parks Manager and Waterfront lead hand, the waterfront will now have dedicated staff to deal with these issues, concerns [and] planning of overall maintenance…” she said.

Feedback from key stakeholders led to enhanced service in some areas, Jagelewski said, including increased grading in the South Beach Street and Gobles Grove area. The Town will also investigate “alternative grooming techniques with enhanced machinery” at the Port Elgin Main Beach, where the presence of Piping Plovers – an endangered species with the Ministry of Natural Resources – required nesting areas to be cordoned off in 2014, and restricted use of heavy grooming machinery last summer.

Coun. John Rich asked for clarification on what the Town can and can not do to meet MNR regulations, prompting Jagelewski to say they don’t “really have a firm answer” on how they can provide the same level of service beach patrons expect with the restrictions.

“If that means hand bombing and whipper snipping, that’s what we may end up doing at our beaches now,” she said, adding each spring the Town discusses beach maintenance with MNR officials.

Both Coun. Cheryl Grace and Vice-Deputy Mayor Diane Huber raised concerns in Area 10, north of the river in Southampton. Grace asked staff to try to head-off a return of poison ivy that grew long trails to the Southampton beach last year.

She and Huber asked that staff address complaints made last year, which were not dealt with, about large logs and debris – and in one instance a dead animal – along the waterfront, possibly with one major cleanup.

Jagelewski said Area 10 is a “unique” area along the waterfront because of the difficulty getting large equipment to the area to clear debris.

Deputy-Mayor Luke Charbonneau had concerns with some of the language in the Plan, specifically for common reed control in area five, from the Port Elgin Harbour to Concession 10. That area is a “hot spot” for common reed growth Jagelewski, adding they’ve had to be “more aggressive” with control measures.

“The way we’re going to control common reed is by spraying it,” Charbonneau said, adding they should be “real up front with the public” and say so.

He was also concerned with the reported “slightly hostile environment” for Town staff in Area four – from Izzard Beach to North Shore Park, encompassing Port Elgin’s Main Beach – created by beach users, some who want increased maintenance, and some who want less.

Staff said some people unhappy with beach issues have made very derogatory, inappropriate verbal comments to Town staff working at the waterfront,conduct deemed “outrageous” and “unacceptable” by Mayor Mike Smith.

Charbonneau said staff spent months consulting groups to develop a “compromise that meet the needs of the public and meets the needs of the environment at the beach – that’s a difficult line to draw…” he said, adding the Town wants people to enjoy the beach, and wants a healthy environment at the beach.