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Boots and Hearts a great success: Mayor Hughes

The concerts are over, but the controversy lives on as Oro-Medonte Township waits for an Ontario Municipal Board hearing dealing with Burl's Creek Event Centre to resume in October
Keith Doxsee, Grand Chief of the Montagnais Metis First Nation made a presentation to Oro-Medonte Township council in July.

The perfect weather and a few "tweaks to procedures" contributed to the success of the Boots and Hearts concert in Oro-Medonte township on the weekend.

"I was on site, and everyone I talked to said they were having a terrific time," said Oro-Medonte mayor Harry Hughes.

Included in the fun, there were 90 calls to OPP for medical assistance, and drug-related offences, mischief and minor theft calls.

Hughes says he was impressed with the professionalism and organization of the event and improvements put in place to address concerns from residents.

He would not comment on the use of land for camping and vendors. The large camping area was not zoned for the use and was not approved for the event.

"We had hoped those issues would be resolved by the (Ontario Municipal Board) OMB," he said, adding that the Oro-Medonte council does not have jurisdiction over issues currently before the OMB.

The hearing is expected to resume in October.

"There are varying opinions," Hughes said. "Some say the land was farmed for 100 years and had been plowed . . . would camping and parking do any damage?"

Council had some idea the festival was going to use all the property, as similar issues happened last year on the site resulting in fines of $200,000. ‎

“The possibility of them using the land again was a possibility that could well occur,” said Hughes.

Bylaw officers were taking notes to file a report to council for consideration of laying fines for allegedly breaking the permit.

Hughes said there were fewer complaints from residents this year.

"There were definite improvements that lessened the impact on the community and improved safety during the concerts," Hughes said on Monday. "We really made significant gains."

The mayor says a new ban on off-site parking, as well as reduced desible levels for music and earlier end times for concerts addressed concerns from local residents. As a result, the telephone hotline was quieter this year, with fewer than half the number of complaints.

"One of the main improvements was the ban on off-site parking," Hughes explained. "What that meant is that everyone leaving the concert had to go through a police check. Nobody was walking off site to get to their cars."

Also, there was improved safety because crowds of people were not walking along concession roads.

For offsite parking to work, concert organizers had to make improvements that would entice people to remain on site throughout the weekend. That included a new "human car wash" for cooling down, air conditioned tents and coffee.

"They found that coffee was what was people who were leaving were looking for," Hughes said. Also, providing ways to cool down at the concert prevented people from walking to the lake in the heat.

Hughes attended concerts on Saturday and Sunday evenings and he said he noticed fewer line ups this year and less litter.

"It's quite an efficient system," he said. "I looked at one of the fields across from the township office this morning and you wouldn't even know there was a concert there."

With Boots and Hearts and Wayhome concerts over, residents are anxious to have a few issues sorted out by the OMB, in time for next year's events.

An archaeologist hired by Burl’s Creek found potential for sacred Indigenous sites on the property, and recommended further tests of the soil, known as a Stage 2 archaeology assessment, throughout portions of the property in a March 2 report.

That report found there are two confirmed pre-contact Indigenous archaeology sites within one kilometre of the Burl’s Creek property.

At those sites, pottery fragments, stone axes and a human skull were found.

‎Based on this, the province couldn’t support the full permit according to a letter sent to Burl’s Creeks’ archaeologist Jamie Lemon of Golder Associates on May 18 from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport.

Keith Doxsee, Grand Chief of the Montagnais Metis First Nation made a presentation to Oro-Medonte Township council in July, raising concern about "evidence has shown there is an ancient Huron-Wendat village on or near the property and that's led the archeologist . . . to conclude that there is potential for archeological remains on the site.

"We think they may be destroyed or damaged by the event activity," Doxsee said.A report from an archeologist and available on the Oro-Medonte township website identifies about two-thirds of the Burl's Creek property or 400 acres that could include remains.

He was seeking a cease-work order from the town to prevent people or vehicles from entering the area identified in the architect's report and deny permits needed for the two concerts.

While his attempt to shut down the events was not successful, Doxsee called the issue "a key provincial matter" that is of great concern to indiginous people and could help shape the culture and history of Oro-Medonte and urged the township to develop a "post event plan" to protect the land.

"Because this has been going on for almost two years now . . . we think its more important for us to be directly involved."


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Robin MacLennan

About the Author: Robin MacLennan

Robin MacLennan has been a reporter, photographer and editor for the daily media in Barrie, across Simcoe County and Toronto for many years. She is a proud member of the Barrie community.
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