Group Protests at Beach Gate

By Scott Dunn, July 2, 2012, Owen Sound Suntimes

SAUBLE BEACH - A group at Sauble Beach spent part of the long weekend protesting a recently built locked gate at a beachfront property just south of the 6th St. N. washrooms, as well as rumours of possible development of the site. Leading the campaign is John Strachan, a retired woodworking and automotive teacher from Toronto and long-time Sauble cottager.

John Strachan of Sauble Beach waves to passers-by Saturday at a gate installed along Lakeshore Blvd. N. Strachan is leading a protest by approximately 40 Pine Grove lot owners against rumoured plans for beachfront development between 5th and 6th streets north.

He hoped to raise awareness of 80-plus-year-old covenants on the original deeds granting members of a nearby subdivision authority to direct what may happen on a section beach and on what used to be a park to the east of it. The section of the beach in question is within that old subdivision boundary.

"We're getting a lot of support," he said Saturday. He helped hand out 200 flyers that morning. TA rally that night attracted about 85 people and another rally was held Sunday night. The protesters banged pots and pans and collected pages of signatures on a petition.

By Sunday the group had a Facebook page called Pine Grove Park.

In April, the cottagers exercised their deeded covenant authority that Strachan says is contained on all the deeds in the old Pine Grove Park subdivision, namely "to advise and establish rules and regulations of the Beach front for the protection of the property owners and Beach welfare in general."

They formed a committee of three and received at least two-thirds support of some 40 subdivision lot owners for the directives, as required by the covenant terms. The directives say "it is not in the best interests of the lot owners in Pine Grove Park (Sauble Beach) and the beach welfare in general to allow any vehicular traffic or parking on the beachfront . . ." between 5th and 6th streets, and bounded from Lakeshore Blvd. to the lake.

The directives also do not allow "changes to the landscape . . . including the addition of structures, roads and private entranceways." They say "the beach is to remain fully accessible to the public without cost . . . in perpetuity." They presented them to Joe Szewczyk, who lives at 327 Lakeshore Blvd. at Sauble Beach. Strachan said Szewczyk and Sauble Beach Development Corp are listed owners of this section of the beach, from 5th to 6th streets and roughly 316 feet west of Lakeshore Blvd.

The new gate is between 5th and 6th streets, on the road side of the dunes. It didn't stop people from walking around it as they went to and from the water Saturday. Szewczyk has said in earlier interviews he wants to be able to drive his ailing wife onto the beach, something he did for "30 or 40 years" before the bylaw was passed in 2004. But Strachan said he and his fellow Pine Grove Park members aren't sure if a parking lot or something like a hotel could be planned for the site.

Szewczyk declined an interview request Saturday.

Strachan said the Pine Grove Park members have the covenant on their side, as well as the town's 2004 Dynamic Beach Bylaw, which forbids driving on the beach with a couple of exceptions. They used the covenant to stop, at least for now, the placement of a sewage pumping station within the old subdivision, Strachan said. Strachan lives at 511 2nd Ave. N on original lot 16. He chairs the committee which set the directives. His grandfather, Rev. John Taylor Strachan, the first minister of Owen Sound's St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, bought the family cottage at Sauble in 1930. He was one of the first chairmen of the subdivision lot owners' association, Strachan said.

The subdivision didn't initially have homes along 1st Ave. N., what is now Lakeshore Blvd. And so there was a park, a "boulevard or play ground" as the covenant reads, west of 2nd Ave. N. to the sandy beachfront.

Strachan has panoramic picture of the former park that shows there used top be tennis courts in two locations, playground equipment and other park features there. The subdivision members had control of it and the beach to make it an attractive reason to buy into the subdivision, Strachan said.