In our most recent newsletter the ELCA included an information article concerning a public boat launch that Machar Township has planned to construct on municipal property located at 40 Angus Point Road. Subsequent to that, the municipality issued a tender for the project which is subject to approval from the Provincial Government. Since then the issue has become extremely controversial and numerous submissions have been made to Council in support and in opposition to the project.
The chosen site is currently used primarily as a park for people who are attracted by its shallow sandy bottom which is particularly attractive for those who have rocky shorelines and/or small children. It has also been used to launch small boats into the Lake.
There have been many arguments put forward by those concerned with this issue. Those in favour identify the fact that, unlike most other local lakes, Eagle Lake has no properly constructed public boat launch. While there are three available sites at; Mikisew Park, the Narrows, and Rainbow Bay, all of them can be problematic, and the municipality has no direct control of these facilities. In addition, boat owners must pay a fee each time they use these boat launches. While this might be a minor consideration for lakefront property owners who may put their boats in and remove them only once a year, it can become expensive for other Machar residents, as well as those from other local communities, who would like to boat on the lake throughout the summer.
Machar has applied for funding for this project through a program operated by the Federal Government. The grants are restricted to the improvement of existing facilities and are not provided for new infrastructure projects. Because this property has been used to launch boats, the Township is hopeful that much of the project cost will be covered by Federal funding.
This issue has raised many concerns from opponents, particularly those who live in proximity to 40 Angus Bay Point. They argue that the existing launch sites provide adequate access to the lake. In addition, the proposed site is not on, or near, a thoroughfare, and other locations on the lake should be considered before a decision is made by Council. The relative remoteness of the location suggests it will not be widely used, but the construction would permanently alter the nature of this property. If the launch was to attract increased numbers of boaters, this would increase the possibility of the introduction of invasive species.
It should be noted that an invasive vegetation has already established itself at this site and opponents of the project are concerned that the proposed construction would uproot this and further spread it around the Lake. When informed about the project, the ELCA provided the Township with signage warning about the negative impact invasive species have so it can be posted at the site.
A significant amount of time was spent on this issue at our Annual General Meeting in August. Mayor Carleton spoke about Council’s plans and received considerable negative feedback. Subsequent to her presentation, the Almaguin News has carried two articles dealing with the issue and the formal presentations that have been made to Council. At the AGM a number of alternative sites were suggested for a public boat launch.
Currently Council is reviewing the presentations that have been made and a large amount of information that has been provided by proponents and opponents. Nothing can proceed until approval for the project is received from the Province. Representatives from the Ministry of Natural Resources visited the site in late August but have not provided a date for their decision.
The Eagle Lake Conservation Association is not opposed to the construction of a public boat launch on Eagle Lake. This is a public water body and all members of the public have a right to enjoy it, particularly those from our community. At the same time, the proposed site has significant problems that have been thoroughly described to Council. It would be far better to identify a more central location that does not create the same level of environmental concerns and would be more accessible to a greater number of boaters.