Once more, defining Tiny’s beaches has become a point of interest to residents.
Two recent deputations to Tiny council from cottagers have spurred the township to look into public beach access at the end of Sawlog Bay Point, after first requesting staff define where the beach starts and ends.
At the northern extent of Sawlog Point Road is a 20-metre path of forest zoned as open source (OS), which continues onto a roughly 160-metre length of public beach used by area residents and cottagers throughout the year.
Cottager Sebastian Basualto learned of the sale this summer of the beachfront, advertised as 10 acres with 657 feet of shoreline, which compelled him to dive into personal research and community involvement to prepare for his deputation with a presentation entitled 'Sawlog Bay Beach Initiative' for council at a recent meeting.
“In talking with the community, it seems that there has been opposition to this sale, or at least a recognition that the community would like to have this space as a community hub,” said Basualto.
With the help of his family, Basualto handed out flyers to the community while informing engaging residents about the property for sale, and discovered several historic factors along the way.
“In the 1970s, it seems it was a hub for the largely German population,” Basualto spoke. “There’s an old picnic shelter on the property as well, so it seems that in the past it has also been thought of as a community hub.”
Basualto also talked about: his interactions with the Friends of Awenda Park regarding the Eastern Fox Snake as a species at risk in the area; the township’s beach delineation initiative; the transfer of private beachfront to Tiny as a public area at Wahnekewening Beach in 2001; and to Indigenous land rights concerns within Tiny recently.
“I just wanted to make sure that I covered those pieces, because I think there’s a bigger story here than just wanting the community to have this for themselves,” Basualto concluded.
“I think because of the biodiversity, because Tiny Township has done similar initiatives in the past for the community and because there is an Indigenous component, that the council works with the community to try and find creative ways to keep access to the beach for the public, and for the families and residents that use it on a yearly seasonal basis, and year-long as well.”
Also speaking to council was Kaslyn Cardoso, whose family recently purchased a cottage within a ten-minute walk of the beach.
According to Cardoso, should the beach be sold, only a maximum of three families would be able to use the beachfront, which isn’t enough to support the public demand on the weekends, stating that most cottages are not beachfront properties. The cascade effect would mean cottagers like Cardoso would have to travel to reach water.
“I believe if we start going to those beaches, that it’s definitely further away, which means driving, parking on the street, creating more people coming into those areas,” said Cardoso. “And the few times that I’ve bike rode to those areas, the residents that occupy those beaches didn’t seem very happy with our presence.
“That being said, we’re not asking you guys to spend ten million dollars to buy all of the land that is currently on sale; we understand that it is at a budget.
“What we would like to see is the city look into purchasing access to the shoreline so we can all have a beach to go to on the weekends. And if that means raising taxes in order to make that happen, I think that’s something that we would be open to looking into,” Cardoso finished.
Council thanked the deputants and brought their questions to staff.
Coun. Cindy Hastings asked for clarification on the exact boundaries and ownership of the lands that are up for sale.
“I’d like to understand exactly what is being sold just so everyone understands,” stated Hastings. “There is open space at the end of Sawlog Point -- that’s the 66-foot road allowance, but then there’s the big chunk of land that is zoned future development (FD), and beside that is open space 1 (OS1), so that means private park land.”
Coun. Tony Mintoff asked if it was certain that the property for sale extended to the water’s edge.
Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma wondered if having the beachfront maintained could fall into the scope of the community improvement plan.
Mayor George Cornell addressed concerns of isolating the beachfront from the property on sale by providing a hypothetical rundown of the process which would be involved.
“Speaking offhand, I’m not sure the municipality is interested in all of the property, but in order to access the property that’s of interest to the community, we would purchase it and sever it off -- potentially -- but that depends on a number of factors.”
CAO Robert Lamb noted that staff hadn’t looked at the property as per previous council’s direction, but stressed that the sale of private property and municipal lands is a matter left out of the public eye.
“Most of the discussion that we would want to have with council, I hope the public can understand, would want to be in closed session,” said Lamb, “because we don’t negotiate or do strategy development in a public format as to how potentially proceed on this, or how we would finance this, or any of those other aspects of that.”
Council approved the motion for staff to look into the property and bring information back to an upcoming meeting.
Archives of council meetings are available to view on Tiny Township’s YouTube channel.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca