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chabrak 560Ed Chabrak during his speech in opposition to the North Shore Park location for the Port Elgin Splash Pad at Saugeen Shores Council Open Forum, October 11.

Hub Staff

A petition opposing Port Elgin’s North Shore Park as a location for a proposed splash pad received a response from Saugeen Shores Council during the Committee of the Whole meeting, October 11.

Those against the proposed location, spearheaded by the Friends of North Shore Park, were well represented and came prepared with information and a map detailing concerns about the location. Concerned citizen Ed Chabrak addressed council during the open forum.

Chabrak said he used the park every day with his dog and has a strong disappointment with the proposed “slider park”. He said North Shore Park has a problem with maintenance, or lack thereof; and brought up erosion to the area, stumps all about and a lack of cleanup after the busy season.

“My question is location, we’ve got one of the biggest waterslides in Ontario right next to us,” said Chabrak. “Why would you want to deteriorate the calling of Lake Huron to a waterslide park so adjacent. We have better lands to put that on.” Chabrak then suggested that the space beside the Plex would be a perfect spot.

“Leave the pristine park as it is,” said Chabrak following his open forum speech, addressing the media. “What I was really trying to say that there is minimum of maintenance being done right now, something as complicated and maintenance required as a waterslide park is going to be a major problem.”

When it was pointed out to Chabrak that it wasn't going to be a “waterslide park” but a splash pad for small children, Chabrak said, “no, that’s not what my understanding is like. I mean they're going to take trees down, they're going to enlarge the parking area and they're going to disrupt the whole neighbourhood.”

PE Splash Pad image 2 560A concept drawing of the Port Elgin Splash Pad proposed at North Shore Park. The splash pad is expected to occupy 1.23 percent of the park.

When the issue arose during the Committee of a Whole, Mayor Mike Smith said they were trying to find a solution, brought up the idea of a public meeting and asked new Town of Saugeen Shores CAO David Smith to speak on the subject.

David Smith said that the Town has met with concerned citizens and feels that a lot of misinformation has been addressed and told those in attendance that council only approved the North Shore Park location in principle. David Smith continued to say that the Parks and Recreation Master Plan is preeminent and that there is a consultant who works with a subcommittee. The Town has asked the consultant to recommend a multitude of recreation facilities around Saugeen Shores.

“The petition as I read it supports many of our natural and normal park development processes,” said David Smith, adding that the Town would surely consider feedback they’re hearing through the petition. The CAO said they would be happy to facilitate a public information session for residents to have their concerns heard and addressed.

He then said that there is a lot of misinformation about the proposed Port Elgin Splash Pad location. “There’s a lot of confusion. A couple of meetings ago we had a resident speak during open forum about geese and she said that geese are an issue and she spoke quite passionately about that,” recalled Smith. He said during the recess he followed her out to ask her a little bit about the issue.

“She had the [splash pad] location completely wrong,” said Smith. “I showed her a map and said ‘where do you think the splash pad is going?’ and she pointed and I said, ‘no, no, it’s 500 metres or more than the north’.” He then said he had a resident come in that day to ask questions as they were concerned.

northshorepark 560North Shore Park, the proposed location of the Port Elgin Splash Pad, the decision for which was deferred October 11 until a public meeting can be held.

“There’s lots of confusion on this topic. I think it’s appropriate to present the facts to the community so they can make an informed decision, so council can make an informed decision.” David Smith again suggested a public information session, where citizens would be invited to come and see the actual to-scale diagram.

Both Councillor Neil Menage and Councillor Mike Myatt said that it would be hard to turn that recommendation down. Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau referred the petition back to staff for a report which was seconded by Councillor Dave Myette.

While in support of the idea, Menage was concerned about the timeline and the delay of the decision making process as the Splash Pad Committee is tied to grants based on the North Shore Park location and any delays could cause issues and impact funding that the committee needs for the splash pad.

Vice-Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau said he hoped that the intent of the meeting is to come to the public with a real plan, “and then we will take that to a public meeting, then taking that back to council,” said Charbonneau.

CAO David Smith delved into an explanation that following public consultation things could be tweaked based on public feedback. “Things like parking, we need to have a parking strategy, we need to be able to address that, the environmental mitigation we need to address that, so it’s nothing that shocking or surprising, it’s things that we would normally do in any kind of development,” said David Smith, whose words caused a reaction from Port Elgin Ward Councillor Neil Menage, leading to a back and forth between Menage and Mayor Mike Smith. Menage expressed concerns with how much discussion was taking place and eventually asking why a public meeting was needed.

“I think the public’s entitled to have some input on where this site goes,” said Mayor Smith, to which the Friends of North Shore Park responded with admiration and applause.

Before Mayor Smith called for the recommendation, Councillor Mike Myatt addressed the handiwork and thanked those fundraising for the Port Elgin Splash Pad and told them that they're moving it along as quickly as possible “under trying circumstance.”

All councillors then approved the recommendation for a public meeting, the date and location of which is yet to be determined.

Following the discussion Friends of North Shore Park member Paul Knechtel said he wouldn't call this a victory and instead called it “smoke and mirrors.”

“I agree with the public consultation, we should do that, have more people come forward. But the public doesn't want it, it’s obvious now. It should be obvious to council that the location is wrong for many reasons. The public’s opposed to it, it’s a safety issue, there’s not enough parking and everyone that lives in the park knows that,” said Knechtel.

He continued, “I don’t know why the councillors are insisting on pushing it forward quickly, you can’t rush an infrastructure project like this fast because it’s worth a lot of money.”

Knechtel said he feels insulted that people assume that he and the Friends of North Shore Park are against members of the Port Elgin Splash Pad Committee and added that in the media as well as in the petition, which has so far gathered over 1,600 signatures both locally and online, they have praised the committee for what they have accomplished. Knechtel then said he didn't know why Councillor Mike Myatt would bring the committee members up in the discussion.

Knechtel disagreed with the “misinformation” being shared and later said that people can still sign the petition as long as the North Shore Park location for the splash pad is on the agenda.

Following the Committee of a Whole meeting Councillor Menage clarified that he had asked the mayor prior to the October 11 meeting if they were going to discuss the splash pad location that night because if they were, he would have liked the opportunity to make a presentation.

“Clearly this a typical, selfish, local ‘NIMBY-ism’ that’s reigning supreme here. These local residents and they've managed to put together a tainted petition that’s been signed by everyone and anybody all over the world, who doesn't even know where the park is, doesn’t even know where the splash pad is going to be located. The whole process is flawed. And the problem is the wonderful people on the [Port Elgin Splash Pad] Committee that raised the good money have tied grants to the location and the timeline. And I tried to make that point tonight,” said Menage, adding that as soon as they wavered, council didn't do what it was elected to do and make a decision.

When asked where the misinformation that was pointed out by CAO David Smith and previously touched upon at a recent council meeting was coming from, Menage said it’s coming from local residents. “I think it’s coming from residents who are dreaming up anything they can and tainting the process by leading people and telling them the wrong things. And so what we’ve got is a local number of residents who live there who think that they shouldn't have it close to them. This is a perfect opportunity to take a piece of municipal property that is zoned correctly and establish a splash pad and we should have the guts and determination to follow through with our elected responsibilities,” said Menage.

The Port Elgin Ward Councillor invited people to talk to him directly about the location and said he would be more than willing to walk down there with them.

“This is a first world problem we’ve got here and it’s called a splash pad,” said Menage.

While Menage was continuing to answer media questions, former Southampton Mayor Art Knechtel, who has been speaking publicly in support of Saugeen Shores Council pursuing an OPP costing, interrupted Menage to say that what the councillor was saying in regards to a misinformed public was inaccurate.

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