Restoring the public boat launch on Bob Lake

To the Editor,

The Bob Lake Association (BLA) would like to address some of the comments made by members of Minden council regarding the restoration of our public boat launch, and reported in the Sept. 9 issue of the Minden Times. We appreciate council’s financial support towards the professional design cost for the launch and would like to thank Councillor Pam Sayne for not losing sight of the actual facts that brought us to where we are today.
The public boat launch (near Deep Bay Road) was advertised and maintained by our municipality for more than 60 years. The launch served over 70 per cent of property owners with boats, and provided quick access for island properties, emergency services and local residents, as well as for the delivery of docks and other items. As Councillor Sayne pointed out, “it was assumed by all including the township,” that the launch was on municipal land.

In the summer of 2016, the boat launch was abruptly closed without any public warning while almost 150 boats were still on the lake. The township offered to help with boat removal but not until after Thanksgiving. By then, all but eight owners had managed to remove their boats by other means.
Waterfront property owners comprise the majority of voters in Minden Hills. On Bob Lake alone, there are over 230 waterfront properties representing almost 500 voters. The public launch did not just serve the people who lived there. Residents from the local community and their families were also able to enjoy one of the area’s most beautiful lakes for fishing, boating, swimming and other recreational pursuits. Restoration of their public launch would serve more than “only a few boaters” as suggested by Councillor Neville.

When the BLA formed in 2017, a survey showed that 97 per cent of its members wanted to see the public launch restored. After an extensive and time-consuming search, the association identified a site on Claude Brown Road as the only viable location.

Earlier this year, the BLA hired EcoVue Consulting Services to prepare a feasibility study of the Claude Brown location. The potential that some private land might be required for the launch was raised by both township staff and EcoVue. The BLA believes there is already enough room within the road allowance for the safe operation of a launch, and it was determined the matter would be resolved through a professional design.
The EcoVue report includes cost estimates for several reports to satisfy municipal, provincial and federal requirements for the launch. The BLA obtained estimates from local contractors for the actual construction. With the addition of a significant contingency fund, the total cost of the launch is expected to be under $100,000. This amount, based on professional quotes, is significantly less than the $300,000 claimed by one of the councillors.

Councillor Bob Carter said he was a “bit concerned” the BLA does not represent the majority of people on Bob Lake. However, a 2018 survey, which was submitted to members of council, shows 97 per cent of 140 property owners strongly supported restoration of the launch. The following year, a petition obtained 147 signatures from those in favour of the launch. Twelve  local businesses and two local associations also wrote to endorse the project. Councillor Carter also added that we (the BLA) “certainly do not have agreement from the neighbours.” Deputy Mayor Schell said council has to “consider people living on Claude Brown Road who will be affected to appease the people on Bob Lake.” The people on Claude Brown are also Bob Lake cottagers and the majority will be appeased by and benefit from a public launch. Both councillors will be pleased to hear that a door-to-door survey was conducted earlier this month where we spoke with 60 per cent of the property owners who live on Claude Brown Road. All of them were in full support of the proposed launch, and we look forward to connecting with the remaining 40 per cent as the survey continues.

The public boat launch issue should be of concern to all taxpayers and property owners. If a public launch is not restored, a proliferation of private launches will negatively impact the ecology of Bob Lake, impacting the lake’s health for future generations. This is in stark contrast to the county’s push for a shoreline protection bylaw, and Mayor Devolin was quoted as saying, “water quality and natural habitat is the underpinning of the economy, full stop.”
 
The loss of the public launch, which was in operation when most of the cottages on the lake were built, has negatively impacted property values. Many owners who appealed their property assessments, as a result of the launch closure, saw their municipal taxes reduced by 10 per cent — and the burden for paying those taxes shifted to others in the township who were not located on Bob Lake.

In conclusion, we are not asking for special treatment with regard to a public boat launch. We are planning for the restoration of a municipal asset that was removed without replacement.

Robert Roszell
Bob Lake Association – Vice chair