Eganville – A sign at the Fourth Chute is setting the record straight with the perspective from the property owners on why a popular local landmark is now closed off.
“Closed due to liability issues because BVT declined a $1 land lease,” the sign stated, offering one explanation of why the property, located across the river from the Bonnechere Caves is now fenced off.
It was one of the most popular natural beauty spots along the Bonnechere River with the rocks leading down to the Fourth Chute, however, this year the access to that property was shut off and those seeking to frolic were denied access.
Bonnechere Valley Councillor Jack Roesner, who is a partner in the company which now owns the property, has been criticized publicly for the closure of the land, both in the Leader and in the community. When approached by the Leader, he said while he did not put the sign up, it was put up by the other partners in the company, Multi-Stream. The company owns land by the river and also the generation station in Douglas, he explained.
Coun. Roesner explained the issue of the land was brought up at council last fall but he recused himself from the meeting due to a Conflict of Interest since he is one of the property owners. He said the Multi-Stream plant manager from Douglas offered several options to the municipality about the land in question and one was to have the property leased to the municipality for $1 and then the municipality would assume the liability.
“The reply from BV was to leave it Status Quo,” he said. “They did not want to entertain a lease agreement.”
The township had been approached because there was a liability concern by the new owners of the company, Coun. Rosner said. He noted there are beer bottles, mattresses and other garbage on the property which shows people are partying at all hours. If someone was hurt, the company could be liable.
He said the company owners were concerned about the liability factor and having someone injured who would go after the company, so the land was fenced off since they did not want to assume the liability. He pointed out the land across the river is also fenced off by another property owner.
Having the township assume the liability would have been a workable option to keep the property accessible to the public, but this was rejected, he said. Coun. Roesner said the previous owner had not fenced off the property and to his knowledge was not investigating the issue of his liability if someone was harmed on the property. However, this was always a private property and there could have been a liability case if someone was hurt there, he stressed.
“Bonnechere Valley never owned the property,” he clarified.
While there has been some discussion this summer at council about cutting the guardrails on the newly constructed bridge across the Fourth Chute to allow some access to the waterfront there, this has not occurred to date and there are a lot of people who are frustrated they cannot use what was once a popular – and scenic – spot. Although the land is privately owned, the township owns the 66-foot road allowance at the property at the waterfront and if the guardrail was cut, it would allow access to this, similar to another township park.
Coun. Roesner said he and Mayor Jennifer Murphy met with representatives from the County of Renfrew, which owns the bridge, about the guardrail issue and cutting the guardrail to allow access. While discussions are ongoing, Coun. Roesner wonders about wheelchair accessibility and just how that will work, including the issue of a crosswalk on that very busy road.
“Where will they park?” he asked.
As far as access to the land owned by Multi-Stream, “the hands of the corporation were tied when they (BV) did not sign a lease agreement,” he said.
Coun Rosner said the issue was raised recently in the Leader by mayoral candidate Jackie Agnew and targetted him as closing off the access. He said while he did not put up the sign, he was willing to speak on behalf of the company. The other members of the company do not wish to make their identities known officially, he said.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader