Park funding shortfall covered by reserves

·3 min read

Whitewater Region -- The shortfall in funding to complete the Boyer-Laderoute Park in Westmeath will be covered from Whitewater Region’s reserves. Council made that decision at its regular meeting July 7.

Council found itself looking for $24,000 of the $85,734 plus HST and consultant services budgeted for the “parkette” when it bowed to pressure from ratepayers to leave the community’s cenotaph in its present location rather than moving it to the new parkette. The move would have qualified the project for a $25,000 grant from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The project included an already completed concrete pad to serve as the base for the relocated monument. The actual relocation would have cost approximately $1,000, reducing the amount of the shortfall resulting from the relinquished grant to $24,000.

At the same time, council has been working on plans to improve the boat launch at Westmeath, which has been rendered almost unusable by silt deposits. Minor improvements at the LaPasse boat launch were also included in that project. Council had authorized the withdrawal of $40,000 from its reserves, to be matched by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), with the resulting $80,000 to be used mainly for dredging at the Westmeath location to return that facility to functionality.

However, the DFO has indicated that it will not support that initiative because of the extent of the work required and because the source of the problem, flowing into the river at that location, continues to deposit fresh silt every spring.

Jordan Durocher, Parks and Recreation Manager, said the current low water levels in the river have the Westmeath docks almost sitting on the ground.

“The conditions are such that the dredging would have to be done almost every year,” said Mr. Durocher. “In the past, the dredging was done by volunteers using Hyhoes (excavators) on rafts. But now that would require a lot of permits and jumping through hoops with the ministry. It wouldn’t be viable for them (DFO) or for the township.”

He added that investigation of options continues.

“We will have to utilize the Recreation Task Force for this,” he said. “It will take some time.”

“We don’t want to close the boat launch or cease using it,” added Councillor Neil Nicholson. “It’s an important aspect of our community. It’s a popular spot, but it may not suit pontoon boats (any longer) unless the water is high.”

Mayor Mike Moore said the township would have to rent or buy equipment to do the dredging work on its own.

“We’re not in that kind of business,” he said.

He added that shifting the boat launch’s location north of its present location has been considered.

“But the locals say that side is rocky,” he said. “And there are not many locals left that have that type of knowledge.”

CAO Rob Tremblay noted the DFO will not cost-share on establishing new facilities, only on maintaining existing ones.

“A long-term solution will take some time and a significant amount of money,” he said.

Re-directing $25,000 of the reserve funds earmarked for the boat launches to the Boyer-Laderoute Park leaves $15,000 for minor improvements to the Westmeath and LaPasse boat launch sites.

“We will be able to improve the user experience with things like picnic tables, benches, porta potties, waste receptacles, and roadside brushing,” Mr. Tremblay said.

Also included in the motion to reallocate the reserve funds was approval to enter into a five-year agreement with Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Small Craft Harbours Branch for the renewed lease of both the LaPasse and Westmeath boat launches at a cost of $500 plus HST.

Mare Zettler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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