Reporter’s Notebook — Proposed Arena Budget Doubles;
Cabot Head Road Improvements Cancelled

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Possible expansion of Lion’s Head Arena/Community Centre (from April 25 Council Agenda — online)
By John Francis, Bruce Peninsula Press

On April 25, MNBP Council held a Special Meeting on Parks and Recreation planning and the renovation of the community centre/arena in Lion’s Head. The meeting began with a presentation by McQueen Galloway Associates/GSP Group, the consulting firm hired to study the Parks and Recreation Master Plan and the municipality’s waterfronts. (See possible floor plan, page 30.)

McQueen Galloway began with the Lion’s Head Waterfront Revitalization Conceptual Plans. Their guiding principles began with: “Design the waterfront for broad public access, use and enjoyment by the community and visitors”. They offered two visions for Lion’s Head Beach Park — one in which the campground is turned into a public park, the other with the campsites shifted back from the shoreline and a public walkway along the shore. Both proposals would increase public shoreline on Lion’s Head harbour by about 50%.

Deputy Mayor Debbie Myles and Mayor Milt McIver noted that the areas proposed for enlarged parking lots are both tile beds. 

Councillor Megan Myles applauded the idea of putting a shoreline walkway in front of the campsites; she suggested more benches be incorporated into the design to accommodate the large senior population in MNBP. She also suggested a canoe/kayak launch should be included.

Mayor McIver and Councillor Myles wondered about increasing parking capacity. They would like to understand the park’s capacity before working to attract more people.

Another survey/questionnaire will be done and the plan will come back to Council on June 27.

Arena/Community Centre

The renovation of Lion’s Head arena received approval for federal and provincial support at a budget of somewhat under $5 million. Consideration of community requirements has increased the scope of the proposal and doubled its budget.

The original plan called for new change rooms — at rink level and properly accessible. But the municipality realized it could solve three other problems at the same time. The current library facility on Main Street is much too small. It would make sense to include a larger library in the community centre. Similarly, the Friendship Club (seniors recreation) building, which is adjacent to the arena on Tackabury Street, needs extensive renovations. It would be cheaper in the long run to add it to the new building and demolish the existing structure. Finally, there is the need for indoor recreation space — pickleball courts with basketball nets and a climbing wall — somewhere in the village. Why not put them right beside the library?

Councillor Myles expressed concern that building dedicated space for an individual group (Friendship Club) “is a dangerous precedent to set”. Councillor Golden felt that a gym/fitness facility is fine but it was important that the facility not offer training equipment, “otherwise you’re in a whole different ballgame with staffing and such”.

CAO Peggy Van Mierlo West summarized the proposal for Council. The original plan had a small fitness room but no room for pickleball. The larger facility would probably be better described as a “multi-use space”. The library had to be increased in size to meet Ontario best practices. It will allow parents to use the library while their kids are on the ice. The Friendship Club space would be available for community events like baby showers.

In summary, she said that the facility is not a short-term investment; it will be in place for “50 – 75 – 100 years”. The extra $5 million could be amortized over 30 years and would have a budgetary impact of approximately $300,000 per year. (It should be noted that Bruce County would pay rent on the library space at $8.09 per square foot, which would defray some of that expense.)

Councillor Golden argued for care in allotting the money. “This is going to take a big chunk of our reserves,” and it will still leave us without a water system in Tobermory. Mayor McIver agreed, noting that the same is true about sewers in Lion’s Head. “This is affecting both our communities and not in a positive way…”

The plans go back to public consultation now and the CAO hopes to hire an architect in May.

Cabot Head Road Delayed or Cancelled

CAO Van Mierlo West announced that the initiative to improve Cabot Head Road in 2022 will not go forward this year.

Councillor Golden, whose proposal had formed the basis for the tentative agreement to proceed, was quite disappointed. She expressed hope that other ways of reopening the road can be explored. Councillor Myles noted that MNBP has done some minor maintenance work fairly recently. She pointed out that if nothing is done, erosion will get worse and repairs will be even more expensive in the future; is there some level of maintenance that keeps it from deteriorating further?

In an interview, Councillor Golden stated her position clearly: “We have a legal right and obligation to repair the road back to the original wheel track. Period.” That said, she notes that she doesn’t agree with opening the road fully during the busy season.