Island Princess gets council go-ahead to drop anchor

·4 min read

The Island Princess' co-owner is excited about the win-win venture that's coming to Midland this spring.

"We're as pumped as we can be," said Jerry Hogenhout, a Toronto-based accountant, who is co-owner of the boat with Midland's David Scoffield and Dave Plewes, who run Georgian Shores Catering. "It's incredible what's happened since we made the commitment. It's a huge opportunity for us."

Hogenhout was talking to MidlandToday a day after council approved the changes to be made at the town dock to accommodate the boat. The changes would be the construction of a 40m x 40m roadway to be used as an access road from the parking lot to the edge of the pier, where the Island Princess will dock beginning this spring. The cost for this is estimated at $25,000, along with electrical servicing for an estimated $7,000.

All costs associated with the servicing and access requirements will be paid by Georgian Shores Boat Tours Inc., the company the three partners formed when they bought the boat.

Overall, council was supportive of the move and welcomed the business to town.

"I was very supportive of the applicants when they came before us," said Coun. Bill Gordon. "I think the staff have done a great job negotiating and to find a nice compromise that helps a new business start in our community that isn't in direct competition with the existing boating business."

Coun. Jon Main asked staff if the changes could be temporary, in case the town dock is revitalized years from now.

"(Can we) go slow, put some stuff in temporarily, save costs and leave room for future rejigging?" he said.

Andy Campbell, executive director of environment & infrastructure, said that would not be possible.

"The purpose of the road is to get fuel to the boat and sewage off it and all their food supplies on it, so it can't be too temporary to handle the weight of the vehicles," he explained.

Gordon asked of the impact of the bigger cruise ships anticipated to come to the area.

"I've been watching the Midland Bay Landing Development Corporation (MBLDC) meeting and there was discussion of cruise ships coming and berthing along the Midland Bay Landing property," he said. "Is that going to impact at all what we're planning to do at the town dock? Can we tie the two in if it's possible?"

Campbell said the two were distinctly different projects with separate requirements.

"For the larger cruise ships at the coal dock, all we have to do is improve the parking lot areas so the buses can get in," he said. "There is no power being put there. The larger ships won't fuel or receive any goods or services. It's just the money we will have to spend on cleaning up the parking lot and making a safe walkway from where the gangways area on the ships to the buses."

And what did Hogenhout think of the competition coming in the form of 600-foot cruise ships?

"It's kind of interesting to be in the middle of it all," he said, adding there's enough room in the market for everybody. "Our model is different. It's more event driven with the guys doing the catering. We will be doing a lot of weddings and private functions. We're (also) going to have regular tours."

Because of COVID-19, said Hogenhout, people have a new found appreciation for the beauty that exists in their backyard in Ontario.

"And I don't think that's going to change," he said.

The Island Princess is currently sitting in Orillia and will be moved to Midland once the locks open up in May.

"It's a ten-day venture," said Hogenhout, adding they'd initially toyed with the idea of a name-change, but decided to stick with Island Princess. "They have to take it through the locks into Lake Ontario and bring it in to Lake Huron."

The intent, he said, is to move it to Midland and then do some cosmetic sprucing.

"In a perfect world, we will be in business on July 1," Hogenhout said. "I'm not ignorant to the fact that there might be a surprise or two."

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com