Public weighs in on Greens Mountain Plan
April 8, 2014 · 0 Comments
By Angelica Blenich
An educational facility, a site for astronomy, observing nature or horseback riding.
These are just some of the many ideas people have for what could be done on Greens Mountain, an area of Crown land just south of Gooderham.
These ideas and more are filtering their way to the municipality through a number of meetings being held to get input on the Greens Mountain Recreational Plan, an initiative of Highlands East.
On April 3 a public meeting to gather ideas was held at the McCausland Community Centre, facilitated by David Clark, who was hired by the municipality to help develop the plan.
“The reason we’re here tonight is to hear what you have to say,” said Clark to the more than 40 in attendance. “We want to try and gather as much information as we can and focus on what could be done in the future.”
The meeting wasn’t intended to be a forum for debate, but rather a brainstorming session for stakeholders, residents of the area and those interested in the recreational plan, he said.
The Crown land is managed by the Ministry of Natural Resources, which is supportive of the recreational plan, an initiative of the municipality, which sees opportunities with the site.
“There’s an opportunity to create an experience for the residents here to participate in outdoor experiences, but also an opportunity to develop something there that may have some economic contributions to this community,” he said.
Forty-eight per cent of Highlands East is made up of Crown Land, with the municipality also having the lowest per capita income in the province, said Clark.
In the past Greens Mountain has been heavily used by off-highway vehicles, ATVs, snowmobiles, hunting groups and outdoor enthusiasts.
The hope is by creating a recreational plan, the municipality can preserve the environment while possibly attracting more people, thus creating economic development.
Along with the public meeting, Clark has been facilitating meetings with area businesses, stakeholders and interested organizations.
“The key here is if we’re doing this process, spending time and resources and money on it, it has to have relevance,” said Clark.
When asked what should be done with Greens Mountain the suggestions were many, including skiing, both downhill and cross-country, an educational facility, tubing, mountain biking, an observation tower, snowmobiling, hiking, nature walks, horseback riding and more.
Suggested experiences that would meet the needs of those in attendance included hunting, fishing, driving off-road vehicles, observing nature, geocaching, bird watching, maple syrup tapping and timber harvesting.
These ideas do bring challenges, many of which revolve around finances and funding sustainability.
Other challenges include degradation of trails, compatability of multiple uses and use versus non-use, accessibility (both physical and for equipment), safety, forest fire hazards, private land infringement, noise, wildlife and human protection, vehicle control, facilities, pollution, crime and pressure on municipal infrastructure.
In terms of what role the municipality should play in the recreational plan, some believed Highlands East should educate the public, seek consultation, offer opportunities for public reaction and opinions, and be transparent throughout the entire process.
Others believed the municipality needed to be the owner of the overall management plan and its user groups.
The goal is to create a plan that does not place a financial burden on the residents, said Clark, who will be presenting his final report to council by this July.
“We came into this meeting knowing there is a history with this site,” said Clark. “I think what you did tonight was give us a really good idea of how the residents feel about what could happen there [on Greens Mountain] and what some of the challenges are … lastly it gave us some clues on how not only to manage the site, but manage the way decisions are made with the site.”
There is a public survey regarding the recreational plan available to anyone interested.
For more information on the plan, including upcoming meetings and access to the survey, visit www.highlandseast.ca, or search Greens Mountain Recreational Master Plan on Facebook.