Letter to Editor – Boater raises concerns over Beach proposal

To the Editor:

Dear Mayor and Council Members,

This letter is to address my concern over the proposal that is before you concerning the Port Elgin Beach.

I want to begin by saying that the walkway around the harbour and the improvements with the harbour are very beautiful. This summer as I was running along I saw the hard work that was put into the project.

I don’t object to everything, I believe our mariners, myself included, would like some upgraded amenities. Such as a place they can clean their clothes. A place where they can pick up a carton of milk, cheese, and perhaps some beer or a bottle of wine?

I too have a boat at the harbor. The boaters I’ve talked to don’t want a noisy area next to the docks, but more of a parkland setting that enhances the beautiful shores of Lake Huron.

We truly are one of the remaining hidden gems on the shoreline that hasn’t been taken over by huge private business.

However, I need to voice my objection to the idea of a building that is supposed to hold up to 300 people. The idea of the parking this would need, and to have it for those who are not going to the beach, is mind-boggling.

When a concern was raised about this subject, the response was “allowing for the necessary arrangements to be made in advance with a possible shuttle service”. [David Smith CAO at the Ad Hoc committee meeting Sept. 11th]

This notion alone has to put red flags to even make a suggestion like this!

A restaurant has been suggested. We already have two of them on the beach.  Ice-cream, beach fries, foot longs, a fresh hamburger that takes 15 minutes. Slushies’ muffins, coffee, bacon and eggs, what more do you need at the beach?

The Harbour Light (I refer to it as Edna’s place) has a hot dinner for the boaters every night. If you need fancier dishes we have amazing choices uptown that is a $10.00 taxi ride away. The town even has a shuttle “trolley” that will take you to Southampton for $5 dollars.

Of course I think this proposal is suggesting a Bar. Harry’s on the harbour tried it, and where is it now?

When a question was raised about the possible noise we heard this response.  “If you want a quiet beach, don’t go to the Port Elgin Main Beach”. [CAO Dave Smith at the same meeting September 11th]

This concerns me, as it should you too.

I’d like to stay at this beach with my relatives who come to visit and shop uptown. And perhaps someday raise grandchildren on THIS BEACH. I don’t want to go somewhere else!

The noise was always an issue when we ran the carnivals at the beach. The fact that those carnivals were so successful was that they brought the community of visitors and residents together, it was family oriented, and it was a set-up, take-down situation. Then that space could then be used for other things.

The waterfront committee had a good vision to create a multi-use area. I think the concept of Movie under the stars is cool. They do it on Princess Cruises. I like the memory of the tennis courts coming back, but perhaps updated to be pickle ball.

I sincerely believe that change at the beach is desirable.

I also get offended too at the notion that, it’s just the “beachers” raising these concerns.

When you have a beach that is clean, peaceful, fun , natural and family centered, you will have generations who want to come back. Then perhaps they become permanent residents. Then their families also buy houses here, it snow balls to become growth, yes many are beachers, but many are not.

As a Bus driver and a gymnastics Coach, I hear people who are too timid to speak for fear of what others might think.

The most common things everyone is saying

1. Things are moving too quickly
2. The RFP should be scaled down
3. In favor of beautifying the beach

The beach has been changing, and some of it is very good. The interlocking brick promenade where cars back in the day would park. Makes it easier for our seniors.

The new pump house, which replaced the middle booth where the best beach fries were discovered, is accessible.

This expansion has taken up some of the beach where our visitors would sit. I believe people are referring that as “towel space”.  The lack of such space with the high water mark is concerning. Add the fact that the two volleyball nets were not removed this summer was troubling. But we can’t change the past, but can only look forward to the future.

Of course, we all have fond memories of our past, growing up on the beach, these will be with us until our last breath. The present is a gamble however, and if not done with out a lot of community support and feedback it could be devastating.

I am asking that the mayor and fellow counselors keep in mind  –

“Simplicity is the ultimate in sophistication” [Occam’s razor Leonardo da Vinci’s]

“Less is more” [Bjarne Stroustrup]

Remember KISS, “keep it simple stupid.” [Kelly Johnson]   This was used by the USA Navy where is recognized, systems work better kept simple rather than complicated.

OUR beach can be a beautiful destination and become the #1 harbour on the Lake Huron coastline.

LASTLY, I would be wrong if I didn’t bring up the need for a community center – NOT ON THE BEACH

We need a pool.
We need an upgraded community center inclusive for Saugeen Shores.
We need an indoor walking track.
We need a school or two

These are the things this community needs.  Southampton and Port Elgin, the whole of us.

Take a look at other surrounding towns that have had rapid growth in the past decade, look at what they have achieved.

Bracebridge built a school and attached their community center to it, with a pool, a walking track, climbing wall, all purpose-courts. Conference rooms.

Orangeville’s high school is across the street and the community center has an arena, a restaurant, a pool, conference rooms, a library, Good life fitness, and a gymnastics club.

This is a community gathering space – keep the beach a beach!

Thank you for your time,

Patty Bowman.