Residents unhappy with beach condition
by Sandy Lindsay

August 25, 2015

Town Council

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Jeff Page of Elora and a visitor to Saugeen Shores for over 40 years, is not happy with the condition of the beach at Gobles Grove nor are the more than 30 residents who also signed a petition.

"The south end of the beach is almost unusable," Page told the Committee of the Whole on Monday night. 

According to Page, the area in question makes up 60 per cent of Gobles Grove beach and it is covered in swampy grass.

"There has been no maintenance done on this part of the beach," he said, "and we would like to know why."

With the high-water level of Lake Huron this year, all beaches in the region have been considerably reduced.

He also pointed out in his presentation that what is said on the Port Elgin Tourism website regarding Gobles Grove beach (see below) is not, in reality, what exists today.

According to Page, what started out as naturalization of the beach has become a lack of management and an imbalance now exists at Gobles Grove.  There is now 200 metres of sandy beach and almost 400 metres of swamp grass.

Tourism and summer months are critical for small businesses and beaches are the primary attraction. "Tourists are looking elsewhere," he said, "and taking their dollars with them."

He suggested removing a portion of the invasive grass and grading the beach to help dry it out.  He also said that guided pathways help preserve dunes and interpretive signage help to the make beaches an educational experience.

Page asked that Saugeen Shores make a commitment to try to restore the beach at Gobles Grove and for the same standard of care that take place on other beaches to be applied at Gobles Grove.

"I believe there is a common ground for social, environmental and economic interests," said Councilor Mike Myatt. "I think we need to take a serious look at the area.  I know there has to be a balance and I appreciate stewardship."

He also asked the Director of Public Works, Stu Doyle, why grading, that had been included in a 2007 policy, had been discontinued.  Doyle said it had been stopped at the request of some residents but, if directed by Council, it could be continued again.

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Mayor Mike Smith said that a number of recommendations had been included in the most recent Waterfront Master Plan, including dune grasses. 

"We will hear what the community wants," said Smith, "but there will always be controversy about the beach.  I think we can come up with a policy however, that will satisfy most people."

Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau added that a beach maintenance policy is coming forward and that staff is always trying to work with people on trying to figure out what best suits the neighbourhood, what people want concerning the beach, what is in the best interests of the municipality and the general public in how the beaches operate. 

"What we really need," he said, "is a comprehensive policy covering the entire waterfront from Southampton to Saugeen Township and everything in between and coming up with good solutions.  The difficulty is they have to be solutions that can withstand the test of time and that don't get pushed back and forth dependent on things such as whether the water level is high or low".

According to Charbonneau, the policy has to also be flexible to meet the economic, social and environmental needs of the area and it will require working with organizations, such as the Lake Huron Coastal Conservation Centre and the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority (SVCA), and stakeholders across the community. 

"We will all have to compromise and enter discussions in the spirit of compromise and understand and agree on policy and then stand behind it as a community, so we don't have to change it every year."

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015