'A lot of work' needed for better access to Lake Superior marine park
Aug 21, 2018 07:16AM
● By Editor
By Matt Prokopchuk · CBC News - August 21, 2018
A meeting in Nipigon, Ont., last week involving Parks Canada staff, consultants and stakeholders in the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area focused on planning to improve access to the relatively new water park.
The conservation area was created in 2015 and proponents are now turning their attention to improving the locations where people can launch watercraft from the north shore into Lake Superior.
"There are some very obvious places that access will take place but we also have to recognize that there are areas along the coastline where access is going to be more difficult, yet we need to have access," said Richard Harvey, the mayor of Nipigon, who also attended the Aug. 14 meeting.
One of those points, Harvey said, is the old dock at Silver Islet, east of Thunder Bay. It's been closed since 2013 when Fisheries and Oceans Canada — who owns it — deemed it structurally unsafe.
The meeting in Nipigon was a chance for the new president of the Silver Islet Campers Association to pitch for that to change.
"Some 50,000 some-odd visitors to the provincial park, they frequently drive down the road here to Silver Islet and basically they have no way to get out onto the lake, short of a fairly run-down boat launch and a condemned dock," Scott Cheadle said.
"I think there's a broad consensus that Silver Islet is a key access point — we're one of the few points that has a provincial highway terminating at the dock," he continued. "And we have a huge captive audience of visitors to the provincial park."
Cheadle also pointed to his community's proximity to Thunder Bay as another plus.
More launch sites needed
Despite several north shore communities having marinas or boat launches, Harvey said there isn't an abundance of proper access points from land into the marine conservation area.
"People think of there being a lot of marinas, a lot of docks, things like that, but at the same time, there really aren't," he said, adding that there's essentially nothing, for instance, between Nipigon and Rossport.
Adding to the need for better access, Harvey and Cheadle said, is the large number of recreational and other opportunities in that part of Lake Superior, including trips to refurbished lighthouses and dive tourism.
A strategydone by Parks Canada that consulted area tourism stakeholders on the conservation area found that limited development of water access points and the need for better infrastructure at existing facilities were two weaknesses of the water park.
"There is a lot of work that has to be done," Harvey said. "There's a lot of engagement that has to take place."
Also in need of improvement, parks officials were told, was signage to direct people where to go — something Harvey said was evident at the stakeholders meeting.
"There [were] consultants who came in because they went to visit the places [the various existing and proposed access points] and ... wayfinding signage became one of the things that kept coming up, even for all the existing facilities," he said.
"They actually had a lot of difficulty in some cases, finding boat launches, finding these various things."
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