CENTRAL MANITOULIN – After taking into consideration the need for unfettered access to the property known as Wagg’s Wood, the Municipality of Central Manitoulin has decided to not transfer title to the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy (EBC) – but the EBC remains puzzled over the cited reason as they have offered an unrestricted covenant permitting the municipality access to the waterway causing concern.
“That was the decision of council,” confirmed Central Manitoulin Mayor Richard Stephens. “The big concern was control of the water. Those concerns were the issue that led to the municipality acquiring the property in the first place. There was a bit of reservation that we would be able to access the waterway should we need to clear it to prevent flooding.”
According to Mayor Stephens, council was concerned that the EBC was a quasi-provincial agency. “It would be a provincial property, tax-free in essence,” he said.
Mayor Stephens recalled a tongue in cheek commentary from the late former owner of Jake’s. “He placed a canoe at the front of the store for folks to cross over the road to get to his store,” said Mayor Stephens. “But there really was quite a problem with flooding in the downtown area. The water coming down from the area we call locally Ghost Lake was running through town.”
Bob Barnett, executive director of the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy, said that he found himself at a bit of a loss when it comes to the expressed reasoning.
“We offered the town a covenant that gave them perfect access to suit their needs,” said Mr. Barnett. “We will have to set up a meeting to clear up any misunderstandings.”
The concept of turning the Wagg’s Wood property over to the EBC had been broached by the previous municipal council, but a number of new councillors were elected in the October municipal election. As for this council’s decision to retain ownership of the property, Mayor Stephens said “new bodies bring new ideas. We are always open to new ideas.”
“I had not heard about this decision,” admitted Manitoulin Nature Club president Marcel Beneteau, “but I can say that I find the news disappointing. Too bad, it sounded like an ideal solution as to keeping the property in the public domain and ensuring that it remains intact and accessible to the public.”
“I don’t understand why the municipality would be concerned about access to the waterway,” said Mr. Beneteau, “that was the first concern that came up and the EBC immediately agreed to put in a covenant to deal with that issue.”
The municipality had also offered the EBC a 99-year lease on the property, but that stipulation would not fit the mandate and policies of the EBC.
In any event, the Manitoulin Nature Club isn’t giving up the ghost any time soon.
“We will continue to work toward ensuring that Wagg’s Wood is an asset for the community and remains accessible to the public,” said Mr. Beneteau. “It is too important to lose.”