Rideau Lakes Township tries to tackle fishing tournament parking

Fishing tournaments in Rideau Lakes are under scrutiny when it comes to congestion from parking. Photo credit: Pexels.
Posted on: May 21, 2024

The Township of Rideau Lakes will leave anglers alone when it comes to licensing fees – but parking will be studied for future events. 

Shellee Fournier, the township’s chief administrative officer, brought to council’s committee of municipal services on May 13, the legal opinion of their lawyer. 

In her report, Fournier stated that while the Municipal Act permits the township to use its broad powers to regulate all matters of importance and the legal jurisdiction to regulate fishing tournaments, to take advantage of this jurisdiction the matter must be a municipal issue — protecting bass populations. 

“What the township can’t do is apply boating regulations, as this is federal jurisdiction,” she stated. “If the township wishes to regulate noise, boat congestion and nuisance behaviour, that is outside the township’s jurisdiction.”

The legal opinion of Cunningham Swan also cautions that the township would have difficulty justifying not allowing live wells and weigh-ins, or limiting the number of tournaments per year.

“Recognizing that the 2024 season is upon us, staff are just recommending that we receive the legal opinion at this time,” Fournier said. 

Coun. Jeff Banks said he spoke with the manager of the Rideau Canal who said they’re “open to have some sort of wording around the licensing to say they have to be 150 feet away from a dock … but that is something that needs to happen with our CAO, a couple councillors and the people who are involved with the fishing (tournaments).”

He said they should try and find some common ground. 

Mayor Arie Hoogenboom said it’s a question of whether council wants to entertain licensing in the first place. “Then the question becomes enforcement. Who is going to enforce it? We know that Parks Canada doesn’t do a super job, nor do the OPP do a super job of enforcing all the rules and regulations that are on the water now.”

Hoogenboom said there are two stipulations they can control if they decide to do so.

“One is parking, and the other is access to our boat launches.”

He cautioned that there are private and public launches in other municipalities which would mean the tournaments could go elsewhere.

“There is the economic development side of this argument as well,” Hoogenboom said, “in terms of pre-fishing and these teams coming in for several days in some cases, and the money they spend in the local community for our businesses in some of our hamlets.”

The mayor said they don’t want to discount that either.

He asked council to think about what is doable and perhaps have a further discussion at another time. 

“I know at one of the bass tournaments they paid us some money – to the CEC actually – to park at the soccer pitch in Newboro,” Hoogenboom said. “That was a good arrangement.”

The mayor added, on the other hand, if you have two days of rain beforehand you wouldn’t want them on the soccer fields. Kids sports – like soccer and baseball – would come first. 

“I don’t think the people who run these tournaments want to create havoc,” he said. “But they also don’t want a rigorous licensing scheme that will drive them away,” or to another municipality.

Coun. Paula Banks said Parks Canada employees who reached out to her said they would be hiring an enforcement officer and they do look after the licensing for tournaments. “I think we should leave (the licensing aspect) alone,” she said. “They also said they’d be interested in working with the township in enlarging the Newboro parking if we would be willing to look after the butternut trees.”

The butternut tree is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, and P. Banks said in a follow up interview that if the township were to look after replanting these trees, then Parks Canada would help create larger areas for boat parking. 

Dep. Mayor Linda Carr said how can they distinguish between tournament and pleasure anglers. 

“How can you possibly make rules for these guys here in a fishing derby and I can go out there as a person and do what these guys can’t do? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. This is not our territory.”

Hoogenboom said he’d have a problem banning tournament anglers from launching from their facilities, which are free to users. 

“I think the only place where we can tighten things up a little bit would be on the parking … and if staff have some ideas on that, a report might come forward for that,” he said. “It would be difficult for us as elected officials, to justify buying additional property that is close to our boat launches for parking for three or four tournaments a year. So, it’s a great inconvenience when the tournaments are on, and we know that. For the most part, I think people in Newboro and Portland are semi-accepting of that. Part of it is us not knowing when the tournaments are on.”

Coun. Deborah Anne Hutchings said nearby farmers may have an open field for parking, and perhaps a shuttle could be organized. 

Council decided to ask staff to look at parking issues and to let tournament organizers know where it’s legal for them to park. The recommendation to accept the report was approved by the committee.

Hometown News
Author: Hometown News