CENTRAL MANITOULIN – Dan and Linda Robillard have owned Idyll Glen RV Park since 2008, but now the couple is concerned that the Municipality of Central Manitoulin’s plans for a new public park in front of their business will have a devastating impact on the 60-year-old operation on which their livelihood depends.
“We started coming to this campground in 1988,” said Mr. Robillard, who noted the business was founded by Bill Taylor in the late 1950s-early 1960s. “He sold it to June Barnes in 1974 who sold it to John and Loraine Leduc in 1976 who sold it to Wally and Menesa Corbiere in 1983 who sold it to us in 2008.”
Mr. Robillard said that for the first decade the couple maintained their full-time jobs, but they retired a couple of years ago with “relatively small pensions. The park income is crucial,” he said, “we cannot afford to live without it.”
Like the owners before them, the couple has constantly maintained and upgraded the shoreline in front of their business. “We mow the grass, keep the shoreline clean and tidy, clean the beach regularly, maintain the boat launch and fill in potholes in the road,” said Ms. Robillard.
While they maintain that they are not totally against the park plans, the couple does have many deep concerns about the announced plans put forward by the municipality.
First and foremost, “the public beach and parking plan may end up costing us in lost income and campers,” explained Mr. Robillard. “It may make it more difficult for us to attract new customers to replace the ones leaving.”
“We were not consulted or asked for our input in this plan,” said Ms. Robillard. “Not one councillor nor the mayor replied to our emails on this subject. We were not told the plan was to be considered at the February property committee meeting. We were not told that the Friday prior was the deadline to ask to participate. We did not get a preview of the plan from the municipality and when we called the municipality last month to ask the status of the plan, we were told they didn’t know.”
“Then, all of a sudden, up pops this motion,” said Mr. Robillard. “How can the municipality implement this plan without input from us? We are the most affected taxpayer by this plan. We understand the shoreline belongs to the municipality, but this is not right and it’s not fair. We deserve better from our elected body that is supposed to represent us.”
The campground is summer home to 65 “permanent” residents, with an additional five transient slots available.
“Campgrounds like ours help with the prosperity of the area,” said Mr. Robillard. “Where else are tourists supposed to stay when they come here with their campers? When they’re here, they spend money which is good for other local businesses. The tourist industry is an important economic driver on the Island. Tourists need a place to stay so we play a crucial part in supporting this industry.”
Among the detailed items in the plan that will impact their business are the loss of their docks, which are currently resting on a section of waterfront earmarked for public parking. Another section, cleared and improved by former Idyll Glen owner Wally Corbiere, is where their campers store their boat trailers.
Mr. Robillard notes that one of their former tenants at the campground plans to open a new small campground up the road. “It might just be a coincidence, but all of this started when we began to hear about those plans,” he said.
The couple had previously requested that ‘no parking’ signs be placed in front of their property due to concerns over safety. “We have young children who are running back and forth to the beach,” said Mr. Robillard. “Just up the road they have put in no parking signs because of concerns about safety, but when we requested they do so in front of our place they turned us down.”
“The thing that bothers us the most is that they are going ahead with these plans without ever talking to us about it,” said Ms. Robillard. “They didn’t show us the plan for the park, we only saw it when the story appeared in The Expositor.”
Mayor Richard Stephens expressed surprise that the owners felt that they had not been given an opportunity to present their concerns. “We had two committee meetings that dealt with this matter and I am pretty sure he spoke at one of them,” said Mayor Stephens. “We certainly will work with him.”
Mayor Stephens noted that Mr. Robillard could not speak at the committee meetings because notice of a delegation has to be provided well before the meeting.
As for the lack of response to the couple’s emails, Mayor Stephens noted that the property committee only meets once a month and that the committee has not yet considered those communications.
Mayor Stephens noted that the issue of the public beach came to the notice of the council when Mr. Robillard had requested no parking signs be placed on the road allowance. “That was something we considered and decided not to do as it was an unopened road allowance,” said Mayor Stephens. “We had reports that people had been asked to leave the beach as it was a private property, which it is not.”
“We then realized that this was a public beach that had flown somewhat under the radar and decided to pay it some attention with park benches and some parking spaces,” he said.
The Robillards admit they are at a loss as to what to do next, but they are seeking advice on any legal recourse they may have going forward. “We are hoping that the town will take our concerns into account,” said Mr. Robillard. “That would only be fair.”