Council votes to close Belleville St. boat launch in Wellington

(Gazette file photo)

 

OLIVIA TIMM

FOR THE GAZETTE

The Belleville Street boat launch in Wellington will be permanently closed for the 2021 season.

In an 11 to 3 recorded vote by council Tuesday night, it was decided to close the boat launch due to health and safety concerns.

The report stated although there is a risk that an affordable appropriate property will not be found to replace the current boat launch site, it does not justify keeping the existing launch open. 

The Community Services, Programs and Initiatives report, submitted by Director Todd Davis, provided council with additional context to confirm the closure of the boat launch.

Municipal staff recommended the action be taken for the 2021 tourism season and that a more permanent option be brought forward to council prior to the 2022 season.

The report states staff made the recommendation to close the boat launch due to “issues that have been compounding year over year, reaching a boiling point in summer 2020.”

“This has been raised in several discussions at Council’s Committee of the Whole in recent months as decisions have been made on a Tourism Management Plan for the 2021 tourism season,” the report stated.

The report went on to say the Belleville Street boat launch does not meet user’s needs or expectations and has gotten “progressively more problematic in the last several years.”

“In summer 2020, staff were asked to diffuse frequent disagreements over parking between boaters and staff at neighbouring properties,” the report noted. “Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and staff were frequently called on to assist, tying up valuable resources needed elsewhere. In addition, the frequent disagreements between users and staff at neighbouring properties created additional burdens on efficiency, overall staff time, and resulted in potentially unsafe working conditions for staff.”

Prince Edward County OPP Staff Sergeant John Hatch provided a letter to council with feedback and support for the closure of the boat launch for the 2021 tourism season.

“With the influx of visitors, seasonally and annually, this brings a host of safety concerns. There are three areas of concern for traffic safety and congestion in the Village of Wellington, specifically; the downtown core, the entrance to the Wellington Beach, and the entrance to the Belleville Street Boat Launch,” the letter stated.

Recognizing that simply closing the Belleville Street launch with no long-term alternative is not an ideal solution, the CSPI report stated staff are working on developing alternative options and council has already tasked the Community and Economic Development Commission (CEDC) with working toward a plan for the Wellington waterfront that is medium to long term. 

The report also stated while some residents will be unhappy in the near term, there are alternative private and public options throughout the community. 

While there was no debate around the virtual horseshoe on the matter, a recorded vote was requested by Councillor Nieman. Councillors Nieman, Prinzen and Forrester opposed the closure while Councillors Roberts, St. Jean, Bailey, Bolik, Harper, Hirsch, MacNaughton, Margetson, McMahon, Maynard and Mayor Ferguson voted in favour of closing the launch.

Through the CEDC’s Wellington Waterfront task team, opportunities for a longer-term Wellington boat launching will be reviewed and recommended to council by fall 2021.