THE WASAGA SAGA - COULD IT REPEAT?

You've heard it said:

"They are going to the bathroom in the bushes in front of my cottage. "

"Washrooms are needed, but Tiny Township shouldn't spend our tax dollars to build washrooms for daytrippers.

"Tiny Township should ask the Province for financial assistance so that public washrooms can be built."

Wasaga Beach Provincial Park came about because there was complete co-operation between the local Municipal Councils and the Government of Ontario (Government)and because private property owners were not aware of their property rights. The first step at Wasaga was the Government's financial help to build "sanitation facilities".

Wasaga Beach Provincial Park - Its History

Would you favour another Wasaga Beach type Provincial Park along the shores of Tiny Township? If we know Wasaga's history, perhaps we can be prepared and not let history repeat itself.

In the 1950's the Village of Wasaga Beach and the Township of Sunnidale held "Licenses of Occupation" from the Government, believing the Government (Crown) owned the beaches. The Licenses of Occupation allowed those municipalities to occupy the "Crown beaches" in their municipalities. The Government did nothing to discourage the belief that the Crown owned the beaches. The cottagers were not aware of their property rights. Internal government memos of that time show that the Government itself questioned the legal status of the "Crown ownership" of the "Crown beaches", but did nothing to determine the legal ownership. In 1958, the Village of Wasaga Beach asked the Government not to renew its "License of Occupation" because maintenance of the beaches was beyond the Village's financial capability. (These "Licenses of Occupation" and "Beach Management Agreements" have similar goals.)

In 1959, the Government declared all land in front of the Village of Wasaga Beach between the High Water Mark and the Water's Edge to be a Provincial Park - the dedicated park was 5 1/4 miles long by 100 feet to 300 feet in depth. [The reader should appreciate that, legally, on the Great Lakes, "High Water Mark" no longer exists and did not then exist.] In 1960, the beaches of Sunnidale were added to the Park.

By 1959, holding the same belief about ownership of the beaches, the Townships of Flos and TINY had applied for Provincial "Licenses of Occupation" to occupy "Crown beaches" in their municipalities. A 1959 memo from the Law Department to the Minister of Lands and Forests, reads: "The Reeve of Flos stated that an application by his municipality for a license of occupation had been refused by the Department on the grounds that the Crown grants in that area went to the water's edge and that the Crown had no jurisdiction over these beach areas." A July 10th, 1959, memo from the Assistant Deputy Minister to the Minister of Lands and Forests re Tiny's application for a License of Occupation, states: "The Tiny Township situation in our opinion is that most of the land grants run to the water's edge and that the Crown has no real interest in these lands. However, to admit this position would throw the whole issue into prominence along, Lake Huron."

When news got out that the Government was taking over the Wasaga beachfront for a Provincial Park, cottagers made inquiries. In a letter to a cottager, dated April 20, 1959 from the Chief of Parks, Department of Lands and Forests [now Ministry of Natural Resources], it was stated: "The Department proposes only to supervise the beach this summer from a sanitation, lifeguard and policing angle. Any plans for the enlargement or organized development of a provincial park out of the beach are certainly only in the formative stage and until such time as approval may be given by the Ontario Parks Integration Board, nothing in the way of substantial improvement will be undertaken. There are no plans for the acquisition of private property and certainly any proposed development would not affect your property, in the location where it is, for some years to come."

Yet, within a year, the Government was buying up land. Having gained a toehold on the shore, the Government began to move inland, purchasing cottage properties for washrooms and parking. Government purchases checkerboarded the cottage communities. This in turn led to a flood of letters to the Government from the remaining cottagers offering to sell their properties, they wanted out before land values plummeted. A checklist was maintained by the Government and each acquisition was noted. When it couldn't buy, the Government expropriated.

With the large acquisition of cottage properties for park purposes by the Government (Crown), the assessment base of the municipalities was reduced by millions of dollars leaving the municipalities unable to fund needed works. [A municipality cannot collect taxes on Crown land. The Government MAY or MAY NOT choose to make a gift of money in lieu of taxes.

In 1963 the beaches of Nottawasaga Township, which abut Wasaga on the west, were added to the Park. Government memos of that era stated:

1. With time, management of the beaches changed from being of "local interest" to one of "provincial interest", and later to being of "international significance":

2. The fact that the municipalities had requested the Government to assume management of the beaches indicated that use of the resource had outgrown local interest and a provincial interest was now being served.

In 1969, the Premier of Ontario spoke of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park being developed for the one-half of Ontario's population who lived within a 90 mile radius of Wasaga Beach. The Government also planned to attract tourists to Wasaga from northern areas of the USA.

In 1972, the Council of the Township of Flos requested that the beaches in that Township be added to Wasaga Beach Provincial Park. An internal government memo states: "cooperation between the Councils and the Province will get the job accomplished". With the addition of the beaches of Flos, Wasaga advanced northerly to the southern boundary of Tiny. Today, Wasaga Beach Provincial Park is 9 miles long and, in places, still only 300 feet wide.


Plans to Move into Tiny In the Archives of Ontario files (Crown Land Records - Surveys of Beaches) there are documents which show that in 1970 the provincial government had plans to develop 17 miles of TINY TOWNSHIP'S shore over a 10 year period, at a cost of $7.7 million?

* Parking was planned for 1890 cars per mile, for a total of 32,130 cars * $72,000 was projected to be spent for washroom installations per mile for a total of $1.2 million * 900 garbage cans per mile were to be installed, for a total of 15,300 * 1330 picnic tables would be needed per mile, for a total of 22,610 * 133 acres per mile were to be landscaped.

The plans stated that the popular beaches should be the first to be developed.

Beach Management Agreements - a Plot to Take Over Tiny? An internal Government memo of some years ago states that Beach Management Agreements are a way to control land until a decision is made to develop a Provincial Park.

In 1981, Tiny Township Council gave first and second reading to a by-law authorizing it to sign a "Beach Management Agreement" whereby Tiny Township would agree to manage the "Crown Beaches" in Tiny. In 1982, prior to the third reading, The Rowntree Beach Association (RBA) challenged the Government's claim of ownership of the western shores of Tiny Township. Within a short time, negotiations between Tiny Township's Municipal Council and the Government ceased.

Tiny Township Council passed a resolution in September 1983 stating: "It is unanimously agreed and felt that the Municipality was mis-informed by the Ministry of Natural Resources two years ago when discussion was being carried out on the matter of a Beach Management Agreement, and the Administrator is directed to advise the Ministry of Natural Resources, that the Township of Tiny will not be at any time interested in executing the Beach Management Agreement until they have better and more concrete evidence that the Ministry of Natural Resources does in fact have jurisdiction over the lands previously discussed"

In 1989, an unsuccessful attempt was made by the Government to resurrect the Beach Management Agreement.

And then, on September 8, 1993, the District Manager of MNR Midhurst appeared before Council at its afternoon Committee of the Whole meeting to: (i) discuss the lawsuit AG v. RBA and (ii) present MNR's "game plan" for beach management. The District Manager of MNR is not a lawyer and he was never present at the trial AG v. RBA. However, he claimed that he "was explaining" Rowntree's defence at the trial and the implications of RBA's defence.

At the moment, MNR owns nothing on the western shore, yet "beach management" was discussed. While the decision in AG v. RBA is still pending, MNR asked for, AND RECEIVED, Council's promise of cooperation for the Province and the Township to begin working together NOW to plan for management of the beaches. What is Tiny Township Council doing? Doesn't it realize that MNR is claiming waterfront property to which Tiny Township holds registered deeds (about 3 miles on the western shore) and properties of some 2000 of its taxpayers? Why would this Council, without having its lawyer present, sit down with MNR ("the other side") and discuss management of Tiny's beaches on the western shore while the decision of the Court on ownership is yet unknown?

Remember the Government memo: "cooperation between the Councils and the Province will get the job accomplished". Remember the other Government memo: Beach Management Agreements are a way to control land until a decision is made to develop a Provincial Park.

Signposts of an Attempt to Have History Repeat Itself * In 1989, the former Tiny Township Council commissioned the Recreation Master Plan Study for the purpose of determining the best future use of Township owned land. The study was discontinued by the former Tiny Township Council because of the financial uncertainty due to Restructuring and because of the uncertainty cast upon the title to the Township owned shorelands by the AG's lawsuit brought against Rowntree.

In 1992, with these two matters still undetermined, the present Tiny Council approved the completion of the Recreation Master Plan. In August, 1993, in his Final Report, the consultant (Rick Moore), made several changes to the draft recommendations. However,

(a) The Final Report continues to plan for public use of private property as well as public use of public (Township) property.

(b) The Final Report continues to recommend: (i) the same number of public wash rooms (as had been recommended in the draft report) be installed; and (ii) that the Township should request financial assistance from the Government for that purpose.

(c) The Final report continues to identify eleven (11) major beach areas for future development.

There is presently a concerted effort to promote Tourism in Huronia; the beaches of Tiny are named as one of the attractions. Last year, Tiny Township Council contributed funds to a Midland Chamber of Commerce project to make a film to promote, worldwide, tourism of the Huronia area. Loss of assessment through restructuring recently prompted Councillor Gail Barrie to comment on the effort to publicize tourism in Tiny: "How else are we to keep the taxes down?" [Surely Councillor Barrie knows that daytrippers don't pay taxes to Tiny and spend minimal amounts in the Township.]

Four of the five members of the present Tiny Council want the Province to become the owner of the western shore. How do you know? Reeve Ross Hastings said so in the January 21,1992 issue of the Penetanguishene Journal. In a quote (never denied or retracted), he stated: "I sure hope the MNR wins it (AG v. RBA) or there's going to be some fun". 4 out of 5 councillors voted in the spring of 1992 and again in the spring of 1993 to support the AG in its test case lawsuit, AG v. RBA. Only Councillor Doug Taylor was opposed. Why do Reeve Ross Hastings, Deputy Reeve Peter Stubbins and Councillors Gail Barrie and Fern Maurice want to see Tiny Township and some 2000 shoreline property owners lose their land? If the Government wins, the loss of assessment and the loss of taxes from the shoreline properties would be very substantial. In comparison, the losses from restructuring would seem like a blip on the screen. There would be a devastating impact on all the beach communities and on the whole Township.

Every once in a while there has been talk of a Beach Management Agreement. As mentioned earlier, on September 8, 1993, MNR met with Council and proposed a "game plan" for management of the beaches of Tiny. Council promised to cooperate with the Province and begin to plan for management of the beaches. Why would this Tiny Council discuss management of beaches while the decision of the court is pending? Would it be because 4 of the 5 members of this Council are hoping for an MNR "win" and are anxious to prove their allegiance to MNR?

Red Alert for Tiny's Shoreline Communities The Court's decision in the test case of AG v. RBA will settle the question of shoreline ownership along the western shore of Tiny Township. If the Government's case fails and is dismissed, the Crown will have failed in its attempt to invalidate registered property deeds. Provincial ownership on the shore of Tiny would remain as it now stands Awenda Provincial Park and one lot on the north shore.

However, even if the Crown fails to have the land between the 'line of the wood' and the water's edge declared unpatented Crown land, and the existing property deeds continue to be valid, you should know and be alert and alive to your property rights. Protect your deeds and the deeds of your beach community from municipal government and provincial government assaults. Be active and work for a strong Association. Remember to monitor Tiny Township Council's actions. Always Remember Wasaga!

If Tiny's shoreline owners allow the Township of Tiny or the Government to "clean up" beaches that neither government owns, or if they allow any government to install washrooms to service the public's use of "private beaches", they would be falling into the "washroom trap", the same thing that "fuelled" the impetus for Wasaga Beach Provincial Park.