Bay owners’ association takes position on Muskoka Centre
Property usage study to begin shortly
GRAVENHURST – A public process with Infrastructure Ontario and the town is about to get under way to determine the fate of the Muskoka Centre property and its condemned buildings.
And although they won’t get to play as active a role as they would like in that process, the nearly 140 members of the Muskoka Bay Property Owner’s Association have already taken their official position.
“Destroy the bay (and you’ll) destroy our foundation for the future,” said Eric Gilbert, a resident of Henry Island on Muskoka Bay, who represented the association during town council’s meeting Nov. 20. “We understand the importance of preserving our special natural surroundings and take pride, as people from around the world visit and take home their special memories of Muskoka Bay and Gravenhurst.”
He said the desire of the association is to ensure the bay remains environmentally healthy and open for all to enjoy and as such, they hope the land will remain public and not be sold to private enterprise for such developments as condos or resorts. The future of the more than 100-acre lakefront property will be considered by Infrastructure Ontario as it attempts to divest itself of surplus property. The centre has long been condemned and will be torn down, but the province will look at options for the land there, including selling off or potentially redeveloping. Gilbert said the association has no desire to see it remain as is but the prospect of private development isn’t much better.
Gilbert said the association’s official position is that registered public access to the shoreline remains and that the first 30 metres of shoreline be maintained as public. They also want at least 30 per cent of the property, not including the shoreline, to be dedicated for public parkland; local employment opportunities created with whatever development does take place; vegetation and the shoreline’s nature protected; and all potential impacts to the environment and public’s enjoyment of the area be thoroughly studied before development approvals.
“The Muskoka Centre lands were a gift to all people of Ontario and thus should stay owned by the people of Ontario through our provincial government,” he said, adding the association hoped to be part of any board or committee established to investigate the property’s future.
“Gravenhurst has many jewels; this property needs to be cut into a diamond and fitted into the crown we already own,” he added. “This crown needs to belong to the community and we need to keep wearing it as the gateway to Muskoka.”
That open process was to begin during the Nov. 20 meeting with representatives of Infrastructure Ontario scheduled for a delegation. They were unable to attend and have rescheduled for the next council meeting Dec. 4.
CAO David Weldon has had preliminary discussions with Infrastructure Ontario to prepare for their presentation to council, and said there will be a steering panel created, however, it will likely only include provincial and municipal representatives, he said.
Weldon explained Infrastructure Ontario has hired a consulting team to help lead the exercise and will provide a terms of reference for the process prior to their early December meeting with council.
“I’m advised it’s one (a process) that will involve considerable stakeholder input,” Weldon said. “Whether they will ultimately propose to do anything different than what’s going on there now, I don’t know and they don’t know, at least they’ve told me they don’t know.
“They’re going into it with a fully open mind though; their mandate is to, where there are properties that have been declared surplus, determine what the best use might be of those properties and to maximize the return to the province,” he added. “They did say that the end result may be that it should not be surplused; there could be a provincial use at the end of the day.”
“We’re in Day 1 stages of this whole, long process; but they (Infrastructure Ontario) have started to talk with us which we think is a good step moving forward,” said Mayor Paisley Donaldson.
Gravenhurst has many jewels; this property needs t