In October of 2019 the Town of Smiths Falls received a letter from Parks Canada terminating the current lease agreement for the Victoria Park campground and demanding that the town permanently move the campground.
Manager of Economic Development and Tourism Jennifer Miller presented a report outlining three possible new locations for the campground at a virtual meeting of town council on Monday, May 25. Those locations included 85 William St. W., Riverdale Avenue and Donneybrooke golf course on Highway 43.
The property at 85 William St. W. is the current location of the REAL (Rideau Environmental Action League) Deal store and the land is owned by Parks Canada. After the staff report was released, Vice President of REAL Barb Hicks wrote a letter to council stating that the relocation would mean the end of the REAL deal.
REAL has “only increased in value” to the town, and its members have dedicated their lives to introducing progressive ideas to Smiths Falls, said Coun. Wendy Alford. “I cannot understate the importance of REAL in our community.”
Option two on Riverdale Avenue is the chamber of commerce’s preferred location because of the similarities between it and Victoria Park. It is close to the downtown core and is located beside the Rideau Canal.
Option three is privately owned and the owner is supportive of renting the area to the Smiths Falls & District Chamber of Commerce if selected.
“I would not at all be willing to sacrifice REAL to put our campground on that site,” Mayor Shawn Pankow said. “As for Riverdale, that has too much impact on the residents. It’s not a great space; it’s narrow. I can’t imagine putting a number of large RVs and trailers in that space.”
In the end Smiths Falls council voted in favour of holding a public meeting to discuss the future of the Victoria Park campground.
“I’d like to hear what the people think and I know what they think,” Coun. Jay Brennan said. Brennan added that he favours keeping the campground in its current location, or moving it to the Donneybrook site.
Councillor Niki Dwyer was adamant that the town continue to fight Parks Canada’s decision to move the campground.
“I’ve not seen even a glimpse of hope of the park staying (in its current location) from Parks Canada; that question has been asked and answered,” Coun. Alford said.