Billings council desides to rethink proposed boat launching ramp

KAGAWONG—A proposed public boat launch off Billings Concession Road 10 on Lake Kagawong (as part of the Billings Waterfront Improvement Project) is being taken off the table for consideration by township council after a group of residents raised concerns with the project at a meeting Monday.

Bob Clifford of Lake Kagawong Family Cabins acted as spokesperson for a group of about 15 residents who attended the Billings council meeting on Monday. “We are here to express our concerns, specifically with the boat launch ramp being proposed in the waterfront improvement project for Lake Kagawong.”

“We understand the waterfront committee is ready to recommend applying for funds for this boat launch ramp, but we are not clear how council can apply for funding with no clear support from members of the public with their support,” said Mr. Clifford. He noted a public meeting was held in the fall and concerns were raised then, and it was understood there would be a second meeting prior to council applying for funding.

Mayor Austin Hunt stressed to the meeting, “This (boat launch) will not happen this year. It wouldn’t happen this year, this is part of the next phase in the project. But we definitely want to hear your concerns and suggestions.”

Mr. Clifford told council, “We think this proposed boat launch should be removed from the list, in that location. We are concerned with the affects that location would have on tourism with increased traffic and vehicles in the area and how it would negatively affect our business and the Sunset Bay Resort, owned by Rob Seifried and Tanya Connell.”

“It is not a viable location for a boat launch ramp,” said Mr. Clifford. “The water in this area is far too shallow for a boat launch ramp, and the environment will be affected if a boat launch is put in.”

“Previous attempts to have a boat launch at this site have failed,” stated Mr. Clifford, who explained this is due to continual maintenance problems. “And the water is even shallower than it was in the early 1990s. It is simply too shallow to support a boat launch.”

There are sites that can be looked at that would be far less destructive to the area, and economy, said Mr. Clifford, suggesting Norm’s Resort, which would be open to working with the township on improving its boat launch for public use, as well as a site at Pleasant Valley, and property owned by the township which abuts the Kagawong River.

“I think this type of input is what we have been looking for,” said Mr. Hunt.

Mr. Clifford acknowledged Councillor Sandy Hurcomb having visited the proposed boat launch ramp site. “We are requesting the project be slowed down and plans for this boat launch ramp for this area be taken out at this location.”

Councillor Brian Parker, who also lives on Lakeshore Road, understands the concerns with the water being too shallow to launch a boat in, having tried twice to get his 15 foot boat into the water last fall and over the past two years but because it is so shallow, was not able to launch his craft.

“We truly believe if the intent of the waterfront project is to improve tourism and the economy, the boat ramp there will impact the existing tourism negatively,” said Mr. Clifford. “We have been getting letters of concern from some of our customers.”

“The only thing I would like to add to what the mayor has said is that we appreciate your input, it’s the best input we’ve had since we asked for public response,” said Councillor Tom Imrie. He told the meetings, “the boat launch would be part of the next phase of the project and our current application for funding is not part of this.”

Mr. Imrie said the original idea of the boat launch ramp came after a local resident said they couldn’t launch their boat at the dam site in Kagawong. A second spot was looked at on Hawk Road and also at Beach Road, but it would require work on a wetland and would be virtually impossible to get a provincial permit to carry work on.

A site evaluation was carried out and it was found the site at Concession 10 on Lakeshore Road was the most logical and least expensive, the meeting was told. “If the community doesn’t want the boat launch in this location, it won’t go there. We are trying to serve the requests of the community,” he said, noting this process has been ongoing since 2011.

“We have information in front of us that says the launch failed in this location previously,” said Mr. Parker. “And I have personal experience that you can’t launch a boat there now.”

“Is there the chance for Billings to work with private enterprise such as Norm’s Resort on the boat launch?” asked Mr. Clifford. “It could be as simple as permits being required and some dredging being done.”

“This is an option that can be looked at,” said Mayor Hunt.

“Why is council still considering this location, why Concession 10, despite the concerns of two businesses and their owners? The previous launch was destroyed in 1989 by wind and ice. There are other locations that would have no negative impacts you could be looking at,” said Ms. Connell.

Mr. Hunt pointed out the project will happen under the future council’s jurisdiction. “Nothing is written in stone at this point,” he said.

“But the proposal is still on the table,” said one person at the meeting. “We are hoping council will remove the idea of having the boat launch ramp there, not wait two years and bring it back again. It’s not a good site because of constant maintenance issues.”

“Clearly a problem has been identified, and this is not a feasible location. We should say yes or no,” said Mr. Parker. “The next council would not have the input of the people here tonight. Right now we can say the location is off the books.”

Ms. Hurcomb said the process that must be followed is that the information provided by the public will go back to the committee, with the recommendation that the proposed site be taken off the table. She also stressed, “We can’t decide what future councils are going to say.”

“If the public’s opinion is that this site is not feasible, we can make a recommendation to the committee to have this taken off the table. But after October (municipal elections) none of us know what the future council will do,” said Mr. Imrie.

Tom Sasvari