CENTRAL MANITOULIN—Blue Goose Pure Foods has approached the Township of Central Manitoulin with a proposal to have the municipality assume temporary ownership of the Carter Bay Road and the beach at Carter Bay over the summer months to provide the public with access to the popular beach while protecting the corporation from legal liability arising from that use.
Blue Goose, which recently announced its decision to shut down its organic beef operations on Manitoulin and focus here on expanding the aquaculture operations it has acquired, also purchased the large Carter Bay holding on Manitoulin’s south shore last year.
“As an organization, we are responsible for the protection of this land and the people who legally access it. Our insurers, however, have suggested that additional measures must be taken to ensure no one illegally accesses the property and the beach going forward,” wrote Jean Lepine, executive vice president, Risk Management and Communications, in an application to the municipal council. The Carter Bay property falls within Central Manitoulin township. “We believe there may be another way to handle this and would like to work with the Municipality of Central Manitoulin on an arrangement that would allow for public access while protecting the land with its inherent environmental sensitivities, and the people who might legally access it.”
A number of plants on the endangered species list are known to call the famous dunes at Carter Bay home, complicating the use of the property and the popular and scenic white sand dunes. The dunes, and accompanying beach, have long been a popular picnic and gathering spot for both local residents and seasonal visitors. The previous owners of the property had closed access to the property over concerns about fires, theft of wood and aggregate and dumping at the site. A long running zoning and plan of subdivision battle between a series of developers and the municipality and the Manitoulin Planning Board has generated controversy about the site for several decades. Purchasers of lots within the greater Carter Bay property were restricted in what and how they could build or develop those lands due to a lack of an approved plan of subdivision.
However, the Blue Goose Pure Foods proposal points out that “local residents and Island visitors want access to the beach at Carter Bay; that Blue Goose purchased the land in March, 2013 and is responsible for the safety and protection of the land and the people who legally access it; that local residents and Island visitors who access the beach are doing so without approval and, unfortunately, create a legal liability for Blue Goose; that Blue Goose insurers want Blue Goose to take additional measures to ensure no one accesses the property illegally; and that Blue Goose would like to work with the municipality of Central Manitoulin find a better solution that protects the land, the environment and the people who want to enjoy the beauty of Carter Bay Beach.
Under the proposal put forward by Blue Goose Pure Foods, Blue Goose would sign over Carter Bay’s private road and beach access to the municipality for a defined period (summer season) and Blue Goose would inform its social media followers and other interested parties of its public-private partnership with Central Manitoulin in order to allow public access to Carter Bay beach.
The proposal has some economic offshoot possibilities for the community, notes the proposal.
[pullquote]“Central Manitoulin can partner with other levels of government to fund Carter Bay summer jobs in security, parking, environmental protection, operations and maintenance, lifeguarding and other concessions at the beach,” suggests the proposal. In return, Central Manitoulin would “indemnify Blue Goose for any claims related to the public use of the property and beach.”[/pullquote]
“Central Manitoulin can partner with other levels of government to fund Carter Bay summer jobs in security, parking, environmental protection, operations and maintenance, lifeguarding and other concessions at the beach,” suggests the proposal. In return, Central Manitoulin would “indemnify Blue Goose for any claims related to the public use of the property and beach.”
The proposal suggests that proceeds (over municipal costs) from concessions, etc could be donated to local charities.
Councillors at the April 10 public works committee did not reject the Blue Goose proposal out of hand. “We are looking at the proposal,” said Councillor Adam McDonald. “We have to have it looked at by our legal counsel and make sure that it is a good proposal for the municipality.”
Among concerns for the councillors is the current condition of Carter Bay Road and the requirements and responsibilities of each party contained within previous agreements with the owners of the property.
“There were some questions about what previous agreements with the former owners of the property entailed and where those agreements stand,” said clerk treasurer Ruth Frawley.
Councillors privately expressed concerns that the proposal could be a way to shift blame for closing off access to Carter Bay Road and the beach from Blue Goose to the municipality, but that the council was keeping an open mind on the issue.
“We have invited the folks at Blue Goose to come and meet with us so we can work out exactly what we are being asked to provide and what it will mean for the community and for the company,” said Mr. McDonald.
“We are not closing the door,” stressed Mayor Gerry Strong. “We have to ensure that we conduct due diligence on behalf of the people we represent.”
A date for a meeting between the corporation and the municipality has not yet been set.