Closing off beach to traffic

It has been 10 years since Judge Gordan Killeen ruled the property owners at West Ipperwash did in fact own their 32 hectare beach front property but they would have to work with the Kettle-Stoney Point band to come up with usage solutions.

New band chief Elizabeth Cloud has done just that, but there seem be hurdles.

Chief Elizabeth Cloud wants to work with some of the members of the Ipperwash Beach Owner’s Association to join in a committee to discuss beach use and management, an issue that has been at the forefront for years. In a courtesy letter to the West Ipperwash Beach Owner’s Association (WIBOA) , the band had hopes to block off the West Ipperwash beach by Labour day weekend.

Lambton Shores mayor Gord Minielly has met with Chief Cloud and expressed concerns about the proposed toll booth and discussed other opportunities where Lambton Shores and Kettle and Stony Point First Nations might work together, such as economic development, sanitary sewage treatment and management of the beach areas. In fact he had begun those discussions with Chief Bressette prior to the change in Chiefs. The mayor says there is no way anything will be placed on municipal property.

In a conversation Friday with Lambton Shores CAO John Byrne and Chief Cloud, she indicated there would not likely be any toll this year but they would like to pursue something along those lines next year. Their primary concern is the negative environmental impacts of the cars on the beach and the opportunity to raise funds for local charities and sports clubs. The chief told Byrne there is no intention of charging area residents, only out-of-town visitors.

For many years the WIPOA have tried to block this road to traffic but the KP band under the direction of Tom Bressette, said that could not happen.

In a letter last week to beach owners from WIPOA president Chuck Hoch, says it is his understanding this proposed group the band would like to initiate will be a small group perhaps two members of the association, the chief and one member of the band, and they hoped to have representation from the municipality. The letter said Chief Cloud and the new band council agree with the WIPOA that at some point the beach needs to be closed to traffic. She has proposed that the Band establish off-beach parking lots with toilet and other facilities on the municipal property. Beach visitors would park there for a fee, and walk to the beach where motor vehicles would be prohibited.

The municipality said this idea has not been presented to them.

In September 1999 this association received a letter from Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault stating that he could not see any reason why they should not approach the municipality to close the west beach to vehicular traffic as the Town had done for the centre and east beaches every year between May and Thanksgiving. Due to all the traffic problems and lack of washrooms, garbage pick up, no hours of use of the beach and no speed limits, the residents just could not tolerate the disruptive environment. They asked many times to have the beach open only to pedestrian traffic, but because of the land claim the town would not do this. WIBOA members Ralph Dailey and Mary-Lou LaPratt spoke to the town council and asked them to approve their request. It was accepted and referred to the Ipperwash Beaches Committee and the Public Works Committee. Everything was in place to be done in Sept. 2000. At the last minute the Works Committee asked for a legal opinion from the Town’s lawyer David Nash. Nash at first suggested the ends of the roads going onto the beach could be declared as parkland since the Town owns this and signs put up that vehicles are not permitted. He then wrote another letter stating that ‘No’ the Town was not to close the beach to vehicular traffic. LaPratt said they never found out why.

As a first step toward this ultimate goal, Chief Cloud has discussed with her Council plans to charge an admission fee to all motor vehicle operators to drive on the beach. This will be on weekends only, from 9 am to 5 pm. The funds thus raised will go to volunteer groups on the First Nation such as youth sports teams. She suggested that similar groups in the Ipperwash community could use the same means to raise funds for their own programs if they would provide volunteers to “man the barricades” on some weekends. An off-duty police officer would be present each weekend, backed up by the Anishnabek Police Service, if the volunteers’ safety is threatened. Portable toilets and trash cans will be provided and will be serviced by the volunteers and removed by 5 pm (the trash cans) each day or at 5 pm on the last day of the weekend (portable toilets). Weekdays will remain as they are at present. She planned on doing this Labour Day weekend.

Some do not agree

“By what authority does Chief Cloud have to close the beach and charge fees to gain access,” asked one member of WIPOA. She said at this point many of the majority of the Property Owners have not been made aware of this and should be in the loop on decisions that effect their property.

“No further action should be taken until all the property have an opportunity to participate in decisions that impact their property. The Chief’s grand plan to close the beach with off-beach parking, while sounding good, will probably be a long time coming,” said the member.

Ipperwash beach is made up of three main access points – off West Ipperwash Road, Ipperwash Road and Army Camp Road, Ipperwash.

Many are calling these “closed door meetings” the root of the problem. One business person said his prediction is that come Labour Day weekend, there are going to be a lot of out-of-town motorists very unhappy with being met by barricades manned by natives (shades of Ipperwash and Caledonia imagine the negative image this will leave with some, who may decide not to visit Ipperwash again — say goodbye to more tourism dollars pouring into this area. He goes on to say and much confusion as to why some cars are allowed to proceed without paying, while they must hand over their $5 or whatever it is. I predict many will choose not to pay and will turn around, on matter of principle, because of how this is being handled. When that happens, it is going to cause a huge back-up along West Ipperwash road. Some businesses feel their lots will be used for free parking when people realize they can no longer park on the beach. Many wonder why they are not being consulted on this.

LYNDA HILLMAN RAPLEY Lakeshore Advance staff
via Lakeshore Advance