MINDEMOYA – While the Manitoulin Nature Club (MNC) has resigned itself to the fact that Wagg’s Wood park ownership will not be transferred from the municipality of Central Manitoulin to the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy (EBC) any time soon, they will continue to bring forward their concerns in the future.
“I wanted to report on the ongoing Wagg’s Wood saga,” stated Marcel Beneteau, chair of the MNC at its regular meeting last Friday evening in Mindemoya. “It seems the idea of the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy taking over the property is dead in the water.”
Mr. Beneteau pointed out Bob Barnett of the EBC was unable to convince Central Manitoulin municipal council to transfer the property over to the EBC. “I had agreed to lead a hike for any councillor who wanted to take a tour of Wagg’s Wood and this took place in August with councillors Al Tribinevicius and Dale Scott. They are both very familiar with Wagg’s Wood. We had a very good discussion and they mentioned to me that it is one member of council who is really opposed to transferring the property over to the EBC.”
After the hike and meeting with the councillors, Mr. Beneteau went home and emailed them both a list of 7-8 points he understood they had talked about, to see if he had misinterpreted any of the discussion. “They both indicated that I had not misinterpreted the discussion and they agreed that the existing trails in Wagg’s Wood need to remain, and that it continue as parkland and a green space. And they said that the park property should not be divided up and said that another entrance to the park from Forest Street might be looked at.” He also pointed out that part of the agreement for the sale of a portion of the property to Manitoulin Chrysler is that they install a buffer zone of trees around this area of property. This still has to be carried out by the Mindemoya business.
“And we talked about trail development and that an annual budget for this should be provided in their municipality’s budget, more than has been provided previously,” continued Mr. Beneteau. “I don’t think this is a lost cause.”
On the issue of the municipality purchasing the Wagg’s Wood property, “we now know the municipality did pay for this with grant money, from a Pride grant (a program that no longer exists),” Mr. Beneteau told the meeting. However, no one can find a paper trail to confirm this.
Jan McQuay noted that in the minutes of a council meeting in 1992, council voted to spend $60,000 from a grant to purchase the property for parkland. “The provincial government had provided the municipality with $60,000 for the Wagg’s Wood Park. The municipality claimed they paid for the property.”
Mr. Beneteau noted that Councillor Tribinevicius said he wants to introduce a motion when Central Manitoulin looks at its budget this year so there will be a yearly amount put aside for Wagg’s Wood.”
“Could we contact our local MPP on our concerns?” asked one person at the meeting.
“Does it really matter at this point?” asked Ms. McQuay. “Obviously the land belongs to the municipality; whether there was anything done untowards in the past we don’t know.”
Mr. Beneteau stated, “I think we should keep pushing our concerns, it will be incremental—one step at a time. This is to be continued.”