Even with ice on the canal, summer and Victoria Park Campground were on council’s mind Monday at Committee of the Whole in Smiths Falls. The future of the park has been on the collective Town minds for at least the last 24 months.
CAO Malcolm Morris acknowledged the history of Victoria Park goes back to 1800s but wanted it well understood that the land where the park sits is presently owned by the federal government under the stewardship of Parks Canada.
It’s important to remember, he said, that the arrangement the Town has “is valid as long as the Crown pleases to keep doing it. In other words, let’s continue doing this until we tell you otherwise. They’re now telling us otherwise.”
First, he continued, the agreement in place “did not contemplate a campground. It also did not contemplate fuelling facilities.”
Several things have to happen this and next year. The Town must draw up an agreement with Le Boat “for the operation and insurance of the tanks, and all risk components; and second, the Town must acknowledge there is a campground in place but only acknowledge it for the next two years.”
At the end of this year, he said, there has to be an exit strategy to remove the campground, and the following year the campground will cease operation.
The Chamber wants to continue to run the campground over the next 24 months as it has provided a modest income for the organization for the last two decades; in 2018 it brought in $18,600.
The parameter of the campground, according to Parks Canada, is different from the existing operation; in Parks Canada purview, there is a setback “which differs from the existing operation. That’s an important distinction,” Morris said.
He added: “Parks Canada feels it’s important to have public access along a public UNESCO Heritage site. We need to work with the Chamber to work around that limitation.”
At the moment there is no setback.
Morris concluded that the Town needs to make sure people who come here will be able to enjoy Smiths Falls at another location…somehow.”
The next step is to work with the Chamber and identify where to relocate.
Councillor Dwyer asked if there was another location, even a rough ballpark of where one might be. Morris said it’s been looked at on a cursory level but there are challenges. “The biggest issue is the need to be on a waterfront. If the answer is ‘yes’, that complicates the search; if ‘no’, it gives us some flexibility.”
Mayor Pankow asked about the servicing cables. “The public can’t be tripping over electric cables. Whose responsibility is it to have them moved?”
Morris said the issue hasn’t been discussed at that level of detail yet.