Beachers’ Association a collective voice for change

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Large attendance at Beachers’ Association AGM
Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau addressed the residents

Port Elgin Beachers’ Association held its 96th annual general meeting (AGM) on Saturday morning, July 7th at Gobles Grove beach with one of the largest groups in attendance.

The AGM formed in 1922 gives residents of the area the opportunity to hear representatives from the Town and to also ask them questions or raise concerns.

The Association of some 200 members maintains dialogue with the Town on behalf of the residents through its Board of eight members: Greg Schmalz, Jamie Styles, John Mann,  John Kyles, MaryLou Brown, Jane Barrett and director Bert Kuntz with Emeritus members Glen Reist, Linda Reddik, Wayne McGrath and Bill Rose, who provide input to the Board.

Past-President John Kyles emceed the meeting…
… and leant a helping hand to current President Greg Schmalz

“I don’t know of any other local organization that has the length of heritage that the Beachers has,” said President Greg Schmalz, “and that has been able to accomplish more with a united voice for our full-time and seasonal residents.  We have improved and will continue to improve open communication with Saugeen Shores Council.

Mayor Mike Smith

Mayor Mike Smith paid his last official visit as mayor since he has decided not to run in the upcoming election.  “I’ve attended every Beachers AGM since the 1980s. Council gets perspectives from the community and the Beachers have an important voice.  As Mayor, I have enjoyed working with the professional staff at the Town and the community.”

Smith also informed the meeting that a Master Transportation Study is being undertaken to come up with a design to deal with the traffic issue.  “Saugeen Shores is the fastest growing community in Grey and Bruce and that growth has to be dealt with in a rational way.”

When asked if the Town was trying to attract other industry, the Mayor pointed out that an Economic Development Committee has been formed and a Manager of Strategic Initiatives has been meeting on a regular basis with developers.  “The Town purchased the Lamont pit of 140 acres for an outdoor recreation facility and 40 to 50 acres are going to be held for possible industrial development.”  He also added that a feasibility study is being done regarding an aquatic centre to determine the capital required and how many people are interested in pursuing it.

Frank Burrows, Parks Manager, showed the new signage that the Town is installing at varous beach access points

Members raised several concerns that included parking on South Beach road, washrooms on the main beach that have been locked at 9:00 pm, while it was also agreed that maintenance of the main beach has improved and that the Rail Trail is in very good condition.

Burrows recommended that residents contact the By-Law Officer regarding the parking issue and that the washrooms are, in fact, being left open from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.  “Cleaning of the washrooms is a constant challenge,” he said. “We have a crew of six students and 18 washrooms to go through.  These students deserve a bonus for what they have to deal with.

“We are fortunate to have this 18km strip of beach but it is one of the most complex ecological systems,” said Burrows. “When it comes to beach maintenance, there is a plan that is a ‘living’ document and the key is each section of the beach is different and we have to understand each differently when it comes to maintenance.”

He added that there are a variety of methods used for beach maintenance.  “Grading is almost never used.  It may look efficient but it does a lot of damage to the beach … the preferred method is raking and hand-raking to minimize use of motorized equipment.  The biggest single factor when it comes to maintenance is water levels. The highest level was in 1986 and we are currently only 18 inches below that level.  Water levels is what drives the beaches.”

He also pointed out that buoys offshore were not an indication for swimmers but instead a navigational aid to boaters to stay away from a swimming area.

Luke Charbonneau – Chair of Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority (SVCA)

Deputy Mayor, Luke Charbonneau attended the meeting wearing his Chair of SVCA hat. “The mission of the SVCA is to protect natural hazards and ensure any development does not make an impact or cause flooding, etc. Storm Water overflow has been an interest of the SVCA and the legislated rule is to ensure the protection of beaches.  Everyone who lives near a natural hazard and undertakes a building project may be of interest to the SVCA.  The Authority wants to look at projects to ensure that they do not exacerbate erosion or harm the environment.”

Charbonneau suggested that before beginning any kind of development, information on hazardous areas that are of interest to the SVCA can be found on the Bruce County website.

A resident asked Charbonneau what the situation is regarding the potential parking lot of the Unifor Family Centre.  “This organization thinks they can do whatever they want from burying electrical cable to cutting down trees without permission.”

Charbonneau said that the SVCA was not consulted initially but that “… permission has now been granted by the SVCA.  The SVCA has an Act to enforce and there is also the Town’s Planning Department.  This matter still has to come before and be approved by Council.”

John Kyles informed the meeting that he had attended a conference hosted by Lake Huron Coast Conservation where he learned that lake levels are expected to remain constant for the next six years.  “Something that was also interesting was about E-coli.  Two rules are – do not feed the gulls and do not encourage Canada geese.  The other is that there is no E-coli in dog urine. In addition, if the weather is extremely hot and the water near shore is cloudy, swim further out where the water is deeper as E-coli develops along a shoreline.”

Councilor Mike Myatt

Councilor Mike Myatt assured residents that Council tries to make informed decisions.  He pointed out that the proposed off-road bike lanes that will lead from the beach area to Hwy. 21 will make cycling a lot safer.  “With regard to the outflow pipe that is planned, everything is going to be ok.  This will, in fact, set a standard on what these outflow pipes should look like. There will be a collecting pond and then the path to the lake will be a meandering one to slow down any outflow and there will also be landscaping.”

Greg Schmalz

Greg Schmalz said that a new Beachers’ website is in the works and will include a survey.  “If you (resident) do not see the value of paying $35 to join the Beachers and do not feel the benefit of 200 voices is better than one individual voice, then don’t join.  Our mission is to speak with one clear voice and respect.  We have made a difference when it comes to washrooms, the McGrath Pavilion painting, rototilling of grasses, drainage of parking lots, etc.  We are working with the Town’s Engineer on the outflow pipe and landscaping and, if there is erosion, the municipality has agreed to re-groom.  It takes time and perseverance to achieve things.”

Schmalz who has long been an advocate in the stand against the Unifor wind turbine said that, after five years of testing that has proven the turbine was running illegally, “… top levels of government are aware of the most notorious turbine in Ontario.  It has since been reduced from 800kw to 300 and we are still waiting for the results of the testing at the lower level.