BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected]. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to a story titled 'Boaters visiting Orillia could soon face new trailer parking fees,' published April 1.
Public access to our navigable waters is a right, isn’t it?
Surely, the City of Barrie, City of Orillia and Town of Innisfil are aware of this. However, each has, or soon will be, enacting bylaws that effectively shut out access to non-resident boaters by way of outlandish fees for boat launching and parking.
As a lifelong Simcoe County resident and passionate boater/angler, I have witnessed the gradual but consistent erosion of “reasonable” public access to our waterways over the years by way of these punishing fees for boat launching and parking — the most recent being the City of Orillia, who, until this spring, will be the last major municipality on Lake Simcoe to offer free non-resident access to the lake.
Just pay the money, you say? Maybe if these new fees were reasonable, then this would not be as much of an issue. Going from $0 to the ‘new’ minimum going rate of $50 is not reasonable. This is especially true for the large demographic of anglers who flock northward to Simcoe County to launch their boats and go fishing on a regular basis throughout the spring, summer, and fall.
Just go to the nearest local marina to launch and park, you say? These facilities will not be able to accommodate the inundation of boaters coming their way due to Barrie, Orillia, and Innisfil’s actions.
We saw this recently when the COVID restrictions were in place. The reality is that Lake Simcoe is vastly underserved by local marinas that offer public access and boat launches, perhaps because up until recent times, the municipal boat launches and parking have been free and/or reasonably priced.
Why are they (Barrie, Orillia, Innisfil) charging these high fees? They are concerned about parking issues and congestion in and around their waterfront amenities, and accessibility for their local residents.
These are selfish reasons that do not consider the broader impact to local businesses, and the boating and angling communities.
These municipalities should embrace the tourism and develop the parking and launching facilities that are clearly being demanded of them. Embracing non-resident traffic is a win-win for any local economy, especially those located on world-class fisheries such as Lake Simcoe.
Opening up to the angling and boating community seems to be the norm everywhere else in other areas of the province and throughout the United States, where big lakes typically have much bigger and better facilities to accommodate everyone — which are either free or very reasonably priced for non-residents.
Sadly, this is not the case anywhere in and around Lake Simcoe, which is considered a world-class fishery for many species.
Unless the City of Barrie, City of Orillia, and Town of Innisfil come together to reverse the trend of shuttering access to our beloved lake, I surmise that Lake Simcoe must now hold some sort of a record for being the most popular lake in the province that has the most restricted access.