Whitewater Region -- Recreational users of the whitewater portion of the Ottawa River adjacent to the Township of Whitewater Region will have to wait until at least October 31 this year for a decision on how to preserve public access to the river.
At its July 7 meeting, council responded to a June 16 presentation by Whitewater Ontario, a provincially-recognized sport-governing body, proposing a partnership with the municipality to establish a land use agreement and develop public access on McCoy Road, a municipal right-of-way, to create public recreational access for paddlers, swimmers, anglers, hikers and mountain bikers. At that meeting Mayor Mike Moore told the group council would review the idea.
At its July 7 meeting, council passed a recommendation to direct township staff to continue to pursue long-term public access to the whitewater section of the river; to further examine opportunities for partnership with Whitewater Ontario with regards to access and programs; and to investigate with property owners if access can be provided using existing put-in and take-out locations on private property to guarantee affordable public access, and that this be done before resorting to opening a now-unopened road allowance as recommended by Whitewater Ontario.
Councillor Chris Olmstead said he is getting inundated with texts and emails.
“There’s a lot of feedback from within and outside the area,” he said. “But we should really take our time. We need to sit back and get all the information we can to make the right decision. It may take us a year to get there.”
Councillor Neil Nicholson said he is very much in favour of public access to the river.
“Nature is one of the biggest assets this township has, and now we have very limited public access, or have spent very little tax money on it,” he said. “It is part of our strategic plan.”
He also urged taking enough time to capture any possible unintended consequences.
“To be successful we have to get it right the first time,” he said.
He added that public access is not necessarily free access, and a number of options must be considered.
“We also need to consider capital investment, the lifecycle of investments, and who pays those costs. Someone has to pay, whether volunteers, grants, or paid employees do the work generated by public access.”
Mr. Tremblay said he will report to council October 31.
“But that doesn’t mean we will have it all sorted out,” he said.
Marie Zettler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader