Tourism minister tours Beach 0
Tourism minister Michael Chan (centre) with Wasaga Beach mayor Cal Patterson (left and Wasaga Beach Chamber of Commerce president Glen Cunningham.
WASAGA BEACH -- The man in charge of the province's tourism paid a surprise visit to one of Ontario's hottest tourist destinations.
Minister of Tourism and Culture Michael Chan was in the area, Friday, with his son Alex. After accepting an invitation from Simcoe County warden and Wasaga Beach mayor Cal Patterson, the Minister spent two-and-a-half hours discussing some local concerns and touring Beach Areas 1 and 5, and Allenwood Beach.
According to Patterson, number one on the priority list was to give the minister a firsthand look at the invasive grass species called 'phragmites' that is taking over the beach.
In recent years this grass has quickly spread along the shoreline, claiming sand dunes and beaches that were once tourism draws. After showing him a comparison of Beach Area 1 and Beach Area 5, Patterson says the minister "understood" his concern.
"I invited the Minister of Tourism to the area three years ago and was pleased when he was finally able come here on Friday," said Patterson. "The whole point was to let him know what we are dealing with here--10 years ago there was no grass on the beach areas.
"What will the beach look like in 10 years time if nothing is done? We want it back to sand," said Patterson.
"No one knew the minister was coming and I was pleased that he brought his son Alex, who is familiar with Wasaga and was totally supportive of what I was saying," said the mayor.
Some of the council members also met with the minister for a few minutes before the tour to ask questions and talk about what they would like to see.
Patterson believes it will take a strong team effort to the beat the phragmite problem, and a solution that will need the involvement of both the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Natural Resources.
He says when it comes to dealing with the invasive species, Wasaga Beach is willing to form a partnership to help get rid of the grass and get the beach back to the way it was.
Patterson was confident the Minister got a feel for the problem after seeing the phragmite first hand through a comparison of the main Beach Area 1-- where there is none -- and Beach Area 5, which is overrun with the tall invasive grass.
After seeing the problem, Patterson hopes the minister will realize the urgency of the situation.
Wasaga Beach Chief Administrative Officer George Vadeboncoeur and Chamber of Commerce president Glen Cunningham were also on-hand for the tour.
O n the tourism front, the CAO said
the theme of the conversation was "getting the beach back," and working with the MNR to deal with the lack of amenities on the beach for visitors, and the need for the Ministry of Tourism to work closely with the Ministry of Natural Resources to maintain Wasaga Beach as a tourist attraction.
"Right now the MNR priority is protection of natural resources, including exotic vegetation," said Vadeboncoeur. "As well, the MNR is spending less and less on maintenance of the beach, which is causing the vegetation to take over Beaches 4, 5 and 6 and Allenwood Beach."
During his short stay, Chan visited the Welcome Centre at Nancy Island and spoke with Patterson about the War of 1812 bicentennial events slated to start next year, which will include an event marking the sinking of the Nancy in 1814.
Another topic discussed was the need for new, name-brand accommodation in Wasaga Beach. Patterson is leading a delegation of staff and a local developer to visit Huntsville and Gravenhurst today to look at the new accommodation there, and see what would be a good fit in Wasaga Beach.