thestation 560Residents and tourists attended a rally August 6 in front of The Station at Port Elgin Main Beach.

Hub Staff

Armed with slogans and signs, residents and tourists came together on Sunday, August 6 to back The Station replica Steam Train and its owner at an event that was said to be organized by “the kids” in front of The Station at Port Elgin Main Beach.

Many attending felt the future of the train was uncertain and would like to see longtime owners Andy and Debbie Hess receive a five year lease for the property instead of the Town proposed one year agreement; while others in attendance used the opportunity to express their grief about the Edinburgh Club condominium building and the end of the Carnival Nights.

Seasonal resident Bruce Coghill was armed with a petition to “Save the Train” with a poster that had been circulating online. Coghill said the train was an institution and that he believed that communication doesn't seem to be going well between the Town of Saugeen Shores and the Hesses.

Coghill said it didn’t seem the train or Station were included in the Waterfront Master Plan and that there was a call to move the Station down the beach “or get rid of [The Station] entirely.” He went on to say that at the time the signature had garnered 1,400 signatures, “80 percent of the signatures have been visitors from out of town, which really helps Port Elgin and enhances the economy.”

The Station and its neighbour, the Harbourlite Restaurant, are in fact referenced in the Waterfront Master Plan. A recommendation reads to establish new building design guidelines and existing building maintenance requirements while consideration should be given to; new building and structures required to replace existing, new buildings and structures to be added to existing stock, and create an inventory to address annual minor and other long term maintenance.

The Plan states that through public meetings and surveys they heard that there is a need to “refurbish and enhance existing recreational activities [at Port Elgin Main Beach] - train and mini putt.”

Former train engineer Greg Brimblecombe was in attendance, along with members of his family, from Kitchener. Brimblecombe started working on the train in 1974 when it was located at North Shore Park and stated that the train is one of the most unique attractions on the Lake Huron shoreline. “There’s not a lot of steam powered anything left so there’s a heritage component to it.” He added that it brings significant joy to kids and went on to say that he is not against changes to The Station establishment. “I think change isn't a bad thing, there’s always need to grow and renew but I think this is a significant attraction and I think to lose it would be a shame.”

Although the Waterfront Master Plan did not highlight moving the train from its current location, a concept map included in a subsequent report titled, Port Elgin Waterfront Design Concept and Budget Allotment, created by consulting firm EDA Collaborative Inc. and released in October 2014 featured a relocation of the tourist train to North Shore Park. The same design concept recommended a Splash Pad be located between the washroom building and the dry play area within the activity zone playground; a splash pad was ultimately built at North Shore Park.

In a August 8 e-mail Town of Saugeen Shores CAO David Smith said concept documents might reach out 20 years and are rarely “approved” in the traditional sense. “Generally they are received or endorsed with the full intention that individual components will come back for approval, generally at budget time,” he said, adding that, “This recognizes that things change over time, opportunities present themselves, priorities evolve, budgets can be limiting or enabling.”

Smith said that specific items ultimately brought to Council for approval “may or may not reflect the exact information in a Master Plan, but generally should advance the overall direction articulated in the Plan."

In a July 27 interview Smith said that as far as the Town is concerned the train is not in danger. “We have never suggested that the train isn’t a valuable contribution to our beach."

See: The Town says they want the train so why a rally to save it

Andy Hess was unavailable for comment August 6.


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