Shale Beach – Now a Dead Issue.


Sharp edges

I received the following answers from Liane Fisher from the MOT to my earlier questions regarding the Shale Beach closure. Judging from this I would say this is now a dead issue. Cars will never be allowed on this beach again. If I hear anything else on this I will post it on this blog site.
My last comments on this are as follows:

In response to question 4. Leane states – “The beach is owned by MTO” I suggest that as residents of Ontario it is owned by us.
When government departments get involved with things, any kind of freedom you have will disappear. I do not agree with her statement about overcrowding I have never had a problem finding a parking spot by the water on any day of the week or weekend. But you will never get around the washroom facilities bullshit and also the fossils bullshit.
Here is what I think happened – This treasure has existed under the radar of government control for many years. A bureaucrat has driven past one weekend seen all the cars parked next to the water and thought ‘this cant be right’ and that my dear readers was the end of it.
Welcome to the ‘Nanny State’.

Nanny State

Hi Mr. Nobody,

Here are the answers to your questions from earlier this week.

1. In your email you state “inappropriate use of the area, including overnight camping, alcohol consumption, and excessive noise during the summer months”. Are you aware of any efforts by the local detachment of the OPP to address these concerns? If so, what measures were taken by the OPP to alleviate these concerns and on what dates? It would seem appropriate to try and fix the problems rather than arbitrarily close the beach down to the public.
Please check with the OPP, as they can best respond to this question.

We consulted with both the Ministry of Natural Resources and the OPP’s Thornbury detachment before proceeding with a temporary closure of the entrance from Highway 26 to Fish Barrel Beach, locally known as the shale beach. They shared the concerns we have described relating to uncontrolled use of the beach and are supportive of the temporary entrance closure.
2. How many local residents complained and on what dates.
While the vehicle entrance from Highway 26 has been closed, the beach is not closed to the public. Visitors can still access the beach either through Craigleith Provincial Park or on foot as long as they find a safe and legal place to park.

While we have heard from some local residents over the last few months, MTO’s decision to temporarily close the beach entrance is based on ongoing consultation with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the OPP, as well as our own concerns about public safety, liability and environmental damage.

3. What are the environmental concerns mentioned in your letter?

The beach is not equipped for the number of people using it on summer weekends. Without washroom facilities, overcrowding leads to unsanitary conditions and build-up of garbage. Overcrowding on the beach also disrupts nesting shorebirds in the area. The shale beach is also a significant fossil resource. Driving and parking on the beach has an impact on the fossils in the shale.

4. Why was this decision not made more available to the public rather than a sign put up sometime in May and a statement sent to the local municipality. They made no efforts to let the public know other than a notice on its website. A statement to some local media outlets seems more appropriate.
Before temporarily closing the Highway 26 entrance to the shale beach, MTO consulted with MNR and the OPP and notified the Town of The Blue Mountains. MTO also posted signs on May 17, 2013 at the entrance to the area advising beach users that the Highway 26 entrance point to the beach would be closed in June.

The beach is owned by MTO and is part of the highway right-of-way. Because of concerns about public safety, liability, and environmental damage, the ministry made the decision to proceed with a temporary closure of the entrance before beginning public consultation as part of the Highway 26 rehabilitation project. We are committed to consulting with the public as we develop a long-term strategy for the beach as part of the Environmental Assessment for Highway 26 rehabilitation work between Thornbury and Collingwood. We encourage the public to participate in that process.

5. Where and who do I contact to get freedom of information requests regarding this situation?

You may contact MTO’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Office at 416-212-1894.

6. Are you aware that this beach is the only place in southern Ontario where handicapped people are able get access to a large lake to cool in the summer or fish a large lake?
We encourage all nearby members of the public, including those who use the beach and are concerned about accessibility, to participate in the Environmental Assessment process for Highway 26 rehabilitation work between Thornbury and Collingwood and share their input as MTO works on a long-term strategy.

Ontario Parks is also examining strategies to improve access to the shale beach from the Craigleith Provincial Park day-use area.

In addition, there will soon be other accessible beach options on Georgian Bay. The Town of Wasaga Beach and Wasaga Beach Provincial Park have partnered on accessibility improvements at Wasaga Beach this summer. You can find more information about these improvements on the Town of Wasaga Beach’s website.

7. Why were no other measures tried before closing this beach, in terms of posting no overnight camping signs and maybe regular police patrols?
MTO is not equipped to supervise or enforce safe and appropriate use of the beach. As MTO works on a long-term strategy for the beach, we will continue to look at whether other agencies, such as the Town of The Blue Mountains or MNR might be willing to take on this kind of management. In the meantime, concerns about public safety, liability and environmental damage, were factors in MTO’s decision to proceed with a temporary closure of the vehicle entrance from Highway 26.

8. Is there going to be an opportunity for a public meeting on this issue? Which I suggest should have happened prior to this extreme measure.

Yes.A Public Information Centre will be held as part of the design and Environmental Assessment for the rehabilitation of Highway 26 between Thornbury and Collingwood. That project includes developing a long-term strategy for the beach area. We encourage members of the public to participate in the Environmental Assessment process, by attending the Public Information Centre and by providing their comments to the ministry.

9. Are you aware of a local petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-the-closure-of-shale-beach which has over 450 signers at today’s date?

We are aware of the petition. One of its key requests is for the public to have input into the beach’s future. We are committed to consulting with the public as we develop a long-term strategy for the beach as part of the Environmental Assessment for Highway 26 rehabilitation work between Thornbury and Collingwood. We encourage the public to participate in the Environmental Assessment process and to voice their input about plans for the beach. However, because of concerns about public safety, liability, and environmental damage, MTO made the decision to proceed with a temporary closure of the entrance before beginning public consultation as part of the Highway 26 rehabilitation project.

Thanks,
Liane

Liane Fisher
Communications Coordinator
Ministry of Transportation – West Region
519-873-4186 liane.fisher@ontario.ca

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