March 3, 2021


Is overtourism coming to the Port Elgin Main Beach?

My concerns for the Port Elgin Main Beach area can best described by the term overtourism, a phenomena that is quickly becoming a worldwide concern and is effecting the Grey Bruce area (just think of the GROTTO).

According to a report released by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) overtourism can be described as "the impact of tourism on a destination, or parts thereof, that excessively influences perceived quality of life of citizens and/or quality of visitor experiences in a negative way".

The effects of overtourism should be a concern to all residents of Saugeen Shores. A restaurant and tuck shop located at the Port Elgin Main beach would be welcomed by many residents and their impact on the current finite parking would likely be manageable. This alone will be a big change, and and a positive one. A banquet hall puts an additional and significant strain on the parking space at the Main Beach. This is where my fear of overtourism for this area really starts to take hold. How will its needs be accommodated? The remaining portion of the proposed village takes up an even larger section of land and puts more strain on the area. How will these new demands be met?

In response to my presentation to Saugeen Shores Council on February 8, comments were made by council members stating that predicting the future is not an exact science, that the Town and Council had completed all required studies related to the Cedar Crescent Village (CCV), and there was nothing more to do. Yet during the same Council meeting both the CAO and Director of Infrastructure and Development, when asked by Councillor Shrider, verified that studies related the Main Beach area (parking and sanitary sewers) had been put on pause and that they were now moving forward with them. Town staff will be working with a consultant to provide potential solutions for the entire beach front area. Public consultation and public information centres are to be set up this summer as part of the process. That's great news and clearly shows that there is more work to be done and more data to be collected before final approvals can be given. A very critical piece of the puzzle is still missing.

A clear picture of “what is to be shared and how” must be made available to all effected parties including CCV owners and patrons, users of the marina and the public boat ramp (north shore parking lot), traditional and new beach goers, picnickers, cyclists and pedestrians; boardwalk and break wall users, Harbourlite and Beachside Café owners and patrons, owners of adjacent and area properties.

To protect this area from the effects of overtourism and to ensure that it is not over utilized I have made requests for the Town and Council to consider:

Allow for a construction free summer at the beach to heal from the effects of COVID and delay CCV construction until the Fall of 2021.
Allow time for the parking study to be completed and presented to Council and the public.
Approve a staged build schedule so that effects of the restaurant, tuck shop and banquet hall can be assessed.
Determine if the limitations of the Main Beach area have been reached or, in a worst case, exceeded.

Paul Lewko,
Saugeen Shores


February 22, 2021


Waterfront Master Plan (2013), point #3 on page 14 very clearly states the expectations of including stakeholder's (residents and visitors) contributions to any beach development. On page 21, Figure 4.1, #8 from the Waterfront Concept Design Plan (2014) distinctly defines the term ‘Future Development Site.’ This designation appears again on page 39, Figure 4.18. On page 47, Figure A.3 under the letter ‘D’ delegates any structures to “low rise mixed use.” These ideas were submitted by community members and supported by the EDA consultant’s preamble stating the importance of ‘community driven’.

According to endorsements by this council and two previous councils, the WMP and the WCDP are the integral charters in directing future beach evolution. But moments before council voted to accept the beach village plan one councillor referred to the WMP as ‘just a study,’ attempting to undermine or contradict the importance of said chronicle. Further, council’s voting is an explicit inconsistency with their often stated applause for these expensive evaluations. One might suggest the curtailing of future costly inquiries if convenient interpretations banish unwanted sections to fit an agenda not driven by the input of some citizens.

Tax payers should assume that staff completed due diligence, allowing council to make educated decisions. In an almost unanimous approval vote of the beach village, questions then arise as to council’s knowledge of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport Report, which began in 2014, was made publicly available in 2017 and was based on 6.5 million visitors to Ontario beaches. Zero percent said they would go to a conference centre yet a 250 seat banquet hall is still planned. Only two percent said they would visit from January to March yet the plan calls for a four seasons business model. Most egregious is the impact on beach space when 74 percent of 6.5 million beach goers want to be on the beach just for the pure pleasure.

Question #1 to the mayor, council and administration becomes this. Would you please document the times and occasions and the results of any stakeholder driven requests to alter the beach village that have actually altered the beach village plan? Particular attention towards relocation and building size/height would be appreciated.

Question #2 asks if council knew about the above mentioned report and, if yes, please explain your obstructive vote that questions those 6.5 million tourists.

Question #3 comes on the heels of that. A feasibility study analyzes the potential strengths and weaknesses of a new business venture and assesses its overall workability. Was an examination of this nature ever completed to ensure developers of possible success?

The importance of our beach is recorded in the Bruce County Tourism Report and our own Strategic Plan Report. Tourism remains our number one economic driver ($70 million annually) and the beach is the reason why. Question #4 is this. Why would this council think that relinquishing responsibility of the motherlode location, the Port Elgin Main Beach, to private investors is appropriate and accountable especially to the 85 percent of local businesses who are directly impacted by tourism?

Council voted yes to this project. Many stakeholders say no in its present form. These questions demand answers.

Wayne McGrath,
Port Elgin