Toronto Sun - Sun, April 15, 200
By Christina Blizzard
beaches not just in Malibu
Lakes shoreline in danger of becoming playground for rich
summer beach days may be just a tantalizing memory right now.
me, though, summer is just around the corner. The May two-four weekend
is only five weeks away. And we all know what that means don't we?
the battle for paradise will be on once again. On Georgian Bay particularly,
there is an ongoing battle of private vs public ownership of some of
the most beautiful beachfront property in our province.
once gorgeous beaches such as Balm Beach were considered public treasures,
increasingly, signs are going up as beachfront cottagers claim them
as private. Incredibly, one beachfront cottager on Balm has built a
substantial fence across the beach -- blocking access to the public.
was once a localized issue is rapidly growing. Niagara Falls MPP Kim
Craitor introduced a private member's bill in the Legislature last week
that would ensure public access to Great Lakes beaches. What prompted
the proposed new bill, Craitor says, was a trip to Crystal Beach in
number of people had decided there that they were taking ownership of
the beaches and have put up fences right to the water and had put up
signs saying you couldn't walk along the beach," he said in a recent
I did a little more research I realized it was happening all across
the province," he said.
certainly respect people who live along there and have property and
want to have a sense of security and enjoyment, but on the other hand,
people should be able to walk along the beach," Craitor said.
person who has led the fight for the beaches is Kathy Spears. Her year-round
home in Perkinsfield is just a short walk to a glorious Georgian Bay
beach. Yet over the past decade she has watched in dismay as the public's
long held right to access to that beach has been gradually eroded --
ironically by cottagers from Toronto. Spears was propelled to become
a beach access activist in 1999, when she was asked by police to pick
up her towel and move on from her place on the sand.
is encouraged by Craitor's bill -- although the new law would permit
"walk along," access only. It wouldn't permit beachgoers to
sunbathe, picnic or play volleyball on the beach. And it wouldn't allow
any kind of motorized vehicle on the beach.
this right of passage bill, what we are hoping is that it will stop
fences from obstructing the access onto the beaches and we are hoping
it is a first step toward the government actually recognizing public
rights and hopefully they will step forward and assist us in keeping
up our fight to use the beaches," Spears said. (Check out her web
site at savethebeaches.ca)
hold your breath. A provincial mediator appointed by the previous Tory
government failed to come up with a solution that was acceptable to
both sides -- despite spending more than $400,000.
people who are losing their right to beach access are year-round residents
of Tiny Township whose families have been using the beaches for decades.
They balked at a suggestion by the mediator that they should give up
what they've been doing for decades -- playing and picnicking on the
beach, in favour of walk-through access only.
is frustrated that Attorney General Michael Bryant has dismissed her
appeal for help saying the issue should be dealt with at the municipal
a cop-out. Development of a precious natural resource such as our Great
Lakes beaches should not be decided by a patchwork of municipalities.
We need legislation to secure public access to what should be a national
treasure. Sadly, private member's bills rarely become law -- and Craitor's
is unlikely to make it through the Legislature before the House rises
for the fall election.
the world, beaches are treated as public assets for everyone to enjoy.
Many U.S. states put this province to shame in the way they promote
public enjoyment of the coastline. In Massachusetts, the great legacy
of the Kennedy family is Cape Cod's National Seashore, where strict
housing controls limit private development to protect the fragile dunes.
And everyone is free to enjoy their beauty -- not just the privileged
few who can afford a seaside cottage.
course, homeowners have property rights. But this province's water belongs
to all of us. And our beaches and all their natural beauty are not something
to be enclosed for the private use of an elite few. They should be preserved
and protected for all of us.
- The Toronyo Sun