Public Open House at Parks’ New Driftwood Cove Property

Ethan Meleg from Parks Canada addresses the crowd gathered at the May 5 Driftwood Cove Open House.
By John Francis

Parks Canada held an Open House at its recently acquired Driftwood Cove property on May 5, 2019. Access was by chartered buses (handled by Parks Canada) and the 270 available spaces booked up well ahead of time.

Guests at the May 5th Driftwood Cove Open House explored the property’s 9000 sq ft cottage. Photo Credit: Willy Waterton/SOK

Participants got to explore the shoreline and tour the various buildings left by the previous owner. The buildings are opulent in a 1980s residential standard sort of way. The fire pit patio has a breathtaking view of Driftwood Cove.
Parks Canada is consulting the public as to what should be done with the buildings, the shoreline and the driveway to Highway 6. Public comment will be incorporated into the new management plan.
Open House visitors made many suggestions, including:
• tear down the buildings, close the road and let it all return to nature. (Having paid $20+ million for the property, Parks would be understandably reluctant to destroy a potentially valuable asset.)
• turn the 9,000 square foot cottage, the 3,000 square foot “bunkie” and the 1,000 square foot boathouse/bunkie into some kind of rental accommodation. (All square footage estimates are mine. Rental accommodation would require upgrades to 2019 commercial building code. My guesstimate would put that in the millions of dollars. It would be difficult to do this without turning the one-lane driveway into a two-lane road.)
• turn the buildings into some kind of arts or science facility, perhaps modelled on the Banff School of Fine Arts or the field research stations maintained by various universities. This might allow use of the buildings without major renovations, but on the other hand, would not generate a lot of revenue. The Sources of Knowledge Forum has been lobbying for a research station in Bruce/Fathom Five for a long time. They think this property is perfect.
• turn the buildings into some sort of visitor centre or display, possibly promoting First Nations heritage. This idea would probably not require major renovation but would not generate a lot of revenue.
• there are probably other good ideas. Please submit them to Parks (or to the Bruce Peninsula Press).

The fire pit patio at Driftwood Cove: free hot dogs and a breathtaking view of Driftwood Cove.

One of the major environmental concerns is the driveway. In its current form, it represents a break in the wilderness, a pathway for invasive plants and animals and a killing ground for snakes, frogs and turtles. Parks would probably like to let most of it grow in, perhaps reserving a 3 metre wide hiking trail which would also serve as a logistics track for the light utility vehicles used by Parks maintenance crews. This would be a compromise between turning the driveway into a road and letting it all return to nature.

The cobble beach at Driftwood Cove has been private property for more than 30 years — tantalizingly visible from clifftop along the Bruce Trail but posted No Trespassing. 270 Open House visitors fell in love with it on May 5. Bruce Trail hikers will have access to Driftwood Cove beach this summer.

Here is the official line, courtesy of National Parks Field Unit Supervisor Katherine Patterson: “There will be opportunities for the public to be involved and have their say about the future of Bruce Peninsula National Park and Driftwood Cove. Parks Canada is currently updating Bruce Peninsula National Park’s management plan and public consultations, open houses and workshops, including discussions with Indigenous partners, will be an important part of this process. Once completed, this new plan will guide Parks Canada’s decisions and actions in protecting, presenting and operating Bruce Peninsula National Park for the next 10-15 years.”