Reporter’s Notebook — HMCS York Dive Team at Tobermory; Final Meeting of 2018-22 Council; Tobermory Harbour Reno

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Despite the tour boats being cancelled due to wind, Oct 12 was a busy day at Tobermory Harbour. The cruise liner Le Bellot spent the morning nearby, sending her passengers in to town in the ship’s tenders. The Zodiacs of HMCS York’s dive team buzzed around all day (all week, actually) conducting training exercises.
By John Francis, Bruce Peninsula Press

The middle of October was a very busy time in Northern Bruce Peninsula. On Monday the 11th, MNBP Council held the final Meeting of the 2018-22 Council term. After the Oct 25 Election, the new council will have its inaugural meeting on Nov 15.

HMCS York Conducts Exercises

HMCS York was around all week, conducting training exercises. The York is a Reserve Division within the Royal Canadian Navy, specializing in diving. A media release describes the scope of the team’s responsibilities as:

 “…various tasks such as augmenting clearance diving teams on operations local and abroad, engaging in underwater engineering, rescue swimming, rigging, lifting, explosives ordnance identification (EOI), and diving emergencies. 

“Divers may be tasked to support Operation LENTUS in natural disaster situations such as floods, forest fires, ice storms, or hurricanes. The objectives of Operation LENTUS are to assist provincial and territorial authorities, respond quickly and effectively to the crisis, and to stabilize the natural disaster situation.”

The team visited many local sites, conducting simulations and practicing coordination and teamwork.

Final Cruise Ship Visit of 2022

Cruise liner Le Bellot moored off Tobermory on Oct 12. Local boat tours were cancelled due to wind but some cruise ship passengers came into town anyway.

Busy Shoulder Seasons

Also on Oct 12, Tobermory Chamber of Commerce (soon to become Tobermory and Northern Bruce Peninsula Chamber of Commerce) held its Annual General Meeting.

Coordinator Doris Jaehrling told the members that, based on the input from the visitors her staff had spoken to, it had been a good summer, with very few angry situations. Overall, compared to previous years, visitor numbers seemed to have been up quite a bit in June (20%) and September (32%) and down slightly in July and August.

Acting Superintendent Ethan Meleg gave a brief report from Parks Canada. The reservation system that Parks put in place at Head of Trails/The Grotto is working very well, as is the new reservation system at Halfway Log Dump parking lot. He said that turnaways were down 25% year over year, with “a lot fewer angry altercations”. He feels this indicates an increasing awareness that reservations are needed. 

Chamber President Griffin Salen noted that the Chamber will be pressing MNBP to shorten the paid parking season in Tobermory.

Tobermory Harbour Reno

The head of Little Tub Harbour in Tobermory, including the boat launch, is blocked off and fenced in.

In an email response, Transport Canada (Small Craft Harbours) informs us that:

“Fisheries and Oceans Canada is making improvements to the Small Craft Harbour in Tobermory. This project will rehabilitate the North and West walls. This work is necessary to maintain the integrity of this infrastructure. Rehabilitation will involve encapsulating the existing walls with a new sheet pile wall, as well as, new ladders, fenders, and decking surface. The existing launch ramp will remain.

“The project has an anticipated completion date of April 2023. The boat launch will return to service at the conclusion of this project.”

The harbour’s north wall was rebuilt in 2009 but apparently “…there are issues with the timber crib substructure of the North Wall that need to be fixed”.

“The outside face of the new sheet pile will be offset ±0.7 m (west wall) and ±0.9 m (north wall) from the existing wall face.” That is, the renovation will reduce the width of the harbour by 0.9m (3 feet) and the length by 0.7m (2 feet).

EV Fast Chargers at Tobermory

Regular users of the community centre in Tobermory were curious as to why the south end of the facility’s parking lot is torn up. There is an easy answer: as per an agreement with the municipality, Charger Quest is installing six Level Three EV charging stations.

Level Three chargers can bring an electric vehicle to full charge in a matter of minutes rather than hours.

Under the agreement, the municipality pays nothing for the chargers themselves and receives 10% of the revenue Charger Quest gets from the stations. 

Chi-Cheemaun Ferry Traffic Up

The Manitoulin Island Ferry MS Chi-Cheemaun made its final run of the year on Oct 16 and departed for its winter berth in Owen Sound the next morning. In a media release, its operator, Owen Sound Transportation Company summarized the sailing season: “As of October 13th, Chi-Cheemaun has carried 21% more vehicles and 31% more passengers over the 2021 sailing season, for a total of 57,320 vehicles and 154,312 passengers.”

The ferry service had an unusually high number of cancellations in 2022. 28 trips were missed, 10 because of weather and 18 because of mechanical problems, primarily issues with the docking structure at South Baymouth.

Despite this, the ferry’s reliability — a point of pride for management and staff — was still 97% for the year.

MNBP Council Final Meeting

Northern Bruce Peninsula’s Municipal Council held the final Meeting of its 2018-22 term on Oct 11. The day began with an STA Licence Revocation Appeal, in which Council voted to uphold the revocation.

Next was a Committee of Adjustment Meeting at which Council considered two Minor Variance applications. One, an application to construct a two-storey building behind the Blue Bay Motel in Tobermory, was approved. The other was an application to construct an 8.5m tall boathouse on an exposed Lake Huron shoreline location, where the height limit is 5m. Bruce County Planning Department recommended rejecting the application; Council deferred its decision.

The Council Meeting itself had a relatively light Agenda, of only 168 pages.

The first issue was to evaluate and approve a Streetlight Request Policy drafted by Public Works Manager Troy Cameron. The second issue was the CAO’s 60-page 3rd quarter report, which provided information about a myriad of ongoing issues and processes — bylaw enforcement call-outs, waste diversion tonnages, Fire and Emergency Service call-outs, Building Permit applications and many more. This is excellent reading for anyone with an interest in municipal governance; it can be found online, in the Meeting Agenda for Oct 11.

The CAO also presented reports on a Source Protection Agreement and a Memorandum of Understanding for Economic Development Services between the County of Bruce and the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula.

Under Other Business, Deputy Mayor Debbie Myles passed on a question that had come up at one of the all-candidates meetings — what’s going on with respect to parking on the Tamarac Island Causeway?

Public Works Manager Troy Cameron explained that parking was not allowed on the causeway and that a gravel parking area had been created nearby on Walter Charman Drive at the suggestion of a local resident.

The Deputy Mayor asked if there were signs on the causeway directing people to the parking on Walter Charman Drive. Bylaw Enforcement Officer Carol Hopkins informed her that signs were installed but they had disappeared. More have been ordered.

I went out to Tamarac Island on Oct 22 get a sense of things. Several longtime cottagers were out for a walk and explained the situation for me. Yes, there are people fishing off the causeway pretty much every day, all summer. Yes they often bring their families and yes, the combination of kids, parked cars and traffic would be dangerous. 

They had noticed the area of gravel on the side of Walter Charman Drive but had no idea why it was there. Once they got over their surprise, they admitted it wasn’t a bad idea at all — only a short walk to the causeway. They suggested it would make sense to have a “CAUSEWAY PARKING” sign diverting traffic directly onto Walter Charman Drive, otherwise people would have to drive across the causeway to find they weren’t allowed to park there, then turn around and drive back across the causeway to get to Walter Charman.

None of them remembered seeing more than about three cars at the causeway at any time, so the parking lot on Walter Charman — now that they realized that’s what it is — would be quite adequate.

The next Council Meeting in Northern Bruce Peninsula will be the inaugural Meeting of the new Council on Nov 15.