Council adopts strategy for dealing with 2021 tourism challenges

The famed Providence Bay beach saw a massive uptick in visitors in 2020. Expositor file photo

CENTRAL MANITOULIN—CAO/Clerk Ruth Frawley provided Central Manitoulin’s finance and economic development committee with a number of recommendations and expenditures for the upcoming tourist season that the committee recommended council authorize.

Councillor Al Tribinevicius moved the motion, seconded by Councillor Steve Shaffer, “that the CAO/clerk be authorized to proceed with the expenditures regarding the 2021 tourist season and COVID-19 as outlined in her memo.”

The memo from Ms. Frawley noted that she had met with seven key members of municipal staff at the beginning of March. “The meeting was a round table discussion about what went right last year during the summer tourist season and the COVID-19 pandemic, what worked, what did not work and what the municipality might need to do for the upcoming season,” Ms. Frawley explained. “We all agreed that the amount of tourists in the area (about three times what we normally see) was not going away this year.”

Among the highlights of the meeting provided in the memo were: “there was non-stop cleaning that had to be done, even though some of the buildings were not open. Because we had extra porta-potties that needed cleaning twice daily, this was all some maintenance staff were assigned to do; Providence Bay beach was the hot spot for tourism in this municipality. Other areas that saw significant increase in use were the Mindemoya dock/beach area, Sandfield dock and Stanley Park beach.”

Ms. Frawley noted that bylaw enforcement as it related to public camping at beaches was an issue, going on to point out that it was usually maintenance staff that would happen upon individuals and groups camping at various sites—staff also fielded “many telephone calls.”

Among other issues were dogs running at large on the beaches, especially in Providence Bay, garbage left on the beach, once again, mostly in Providence Bay, and a lack of sufficient change rooms relative to the number of people seeking to utilize them was also an issue at the Providence Bay beach.

A general increase in garbage overall was noted, with “many more bags left outside of the gates at the Providence Bay dump.”

Staff discussed solutions to some of the noted issues, and Ms. Frawley suggested that those costs be allocated to the COVID funding of $54,154 the municipality will receive from the province for 2021 and the $45,000 issued by the province for the fourth quarter of 2020.

Among the CAO/clerk’s suggestions were three additional porta-potties to be rented: two near the change rooms at the beach and one further down the beach by the road where the old public bathrooms were.

“This may help with the change room problems, as they are larger,” noted Ms. Frawley. “We will also open up the Harbour Centre washrooms this year.”

These items came at an approximate cost of $5,000.

Ms. Frawley also noted that the municipality has already hired an individual to carry out at least 40 extra hours per month of bylaw enforcement.

“Maintenance staff will be given his cell phone number to call when they encounter people camping at the beach/area,” she said. “I did explore the idea with maintenance staff to deputize some of them as bylaw enforcement officers if things really get out of hand. This is yet to be determined and will be further explored if necessary.”

As for the running dogs issue, Ms. Frawley said that she had already contacted the municipality’s animal control officer late last spring to request he make frequent trips to Providence Bay beach to monitor dogs at large. “This was done and seemed to be somewhat effective,” she said, adding “we will continue with it for 2021.”

When it came to garbage on the Providence Bay beach, Ms. Frawley proposed the municipality hire one student (funding applied for) to patrol this beach and pick up garbage, clean the porta-potties and empty the blue garbage containers more frequently. This person would also clean the Harbour Centre bathrooms at least twice daily.

“Further to the above thought, I would like to see the municipality purchase three sets of three additional blue garbage containers for the Providence Bay beach,” she wrote. “The estimated cost of this would be approximately $ 3,800.”

The addition of a bin outside the Providence Bay dump gate for the random garbage being left there would be in place as a three-month test, for an approximate cost of $2,000.

Total expenditures for all of the suggestions came in at approximately $10,800.

When it came to advertising in lure magazines, such as ‘This is Manitoulin,’ a lively discussion ensued in which Councillor Derek Stephens found himself as the lone defender of advertising.

Each other councillor in turn suggested that the Island will continue to see a significant increase in tourism traffic this summer and that advertising dollars could be better spent elsewhere within the municipality.

Councillor Rose Diebolt spoke at length in opposition to the advertising spending, suggesting improvements to Wagg’s Wood would be a better use for the funds. “I don’t get it,” she said. “This money should be spent in our community.”

Councillor Stephens responded that it was “all well and good” that tourism is up, but said that “advertising is how people know we are here” and noted the wide distribution of the publications being cited. He pointed out that the advertising was aimed at helping support businesses in the community.

Councillor Dale Scott disagreed, suggesting the advertising was “very expensive for what we get.”

Councillor Angela Johnston also suggested there were better ways to spend the advertising dollars.

Councillors Scott, Diebolt, Johnston and Shaffer voted against advertising the community in tourism lure magazines, defeating the motion.