The Story of Deanlea Beach
By Pat Armstrong
The community of Deanlea Beach nestles behind the sand dunes just south of Bluewater Beach, at the end of Tiny Concession 4 (Lot 25 on the official map). Visitors entering by Deanlea Blvd. will first travel on a paved road and see newer residences. Beyond that is a network of narrow gravel lanes with older cottages.
The first developer and the man who shaped Deanlea was George Richardson along with his partner Mary Madill. Mary was the daughter of John Dean, a local farmer who owned the property and after whom Deanlea was named. Initially George Richardson and his wife Jenny and Mary with her husband Al Madill planned to develop Deanlea. Before long, Jenny Richardson and Al Madill folded their tents and left. George Richardson and Mary Madill formed a new partnership in more ways than one.
Early years were lean years for George and Mary. It is reported that one winter they only had $100 to see them through.
In 1933 Richardson hired a Mr. Eagleson to survey the property. Being depression years and because Mr. Richardson seemed to believe in a cashless society, Eagleson was paid with room and board and bartered a few lots from Richardson. Mr. Richardson also took an active part in the surveying. He used any old piece of suitable metal he could find for the lot markers from bed springs to parts from old farm machinery. It was his decision that the roads follow, as much as possible, the old lumber trails. When the time came to grade the roads, he tended to follow the old trails rather than stick to the true survey and if a tree stood in the way he curved the lane around the tree. As a result lot lines may be in the middle of the road or 10 from it!
Mr. Richardson kept a buffer of land (except at the north end) between the dunes and cottage property. It is now designated as Parkland. With volunteer help, he planted a row of pines just behind the dunes. This windbreak has proved invaluable in stabilizing the dunes which otherwise could have blown and crept inland.
He also made sure that every cottager had access to the beach, if not by a roadway, then by a footpath. His plan and foresight created a community beach which is enjoyed equally by all cottagers, back lot and front lot together. The result created a fairly cohesive community families meeting on the beach children and adults making lasting friendships.
In 1959/60 Mr. Richardson sold the parcel the undeveloped part, vacant lots, roads, pathways and parkland to Mr. John Kerk. Concern about development of the remaining part of Lot 25 rallied the cottagers to form an association. After much work it was finally incorporated in 1974.
Mr. Kerk did indeed have plans to develop the unopened part of Deanlea. It took many years, plan changes and negotiations with Tiny Township and the Association to get the go-ahead in 1977/78 for sub-division.
Mr. Kerk also had a vision for Deanlea Beach. He was against the building of monster cottages. He wished to keep new building as in keeping with the natural habitat as possible. Lot buyers had to sign an agreement to limit the size of cottages. The exterior was to be finished with natural materials wood or stone and no more trees than necessary were to be cut down. When the original owners re-sold, the agreement was no longer valid.
The high water of the 80s destroyed the front half of Deanleas protective row of dunes. At one point some of the trees were uprooted which left a gap where a large dune has indeed found an opportunity to build up behind the tree line. In the 90s there was a project to plant beach grass in an effort to stabilize the remainder of the dunes and encourage their regrowth.
Then low water came to the rescue, and the dunes began to regrow themselves. We are now trying to protect them from the deprivations of too much foot traffic and ATVs.
Like many other beach communities, the highlight of the summer, at least for the kiddies, is Fun Day. It starts with a costume parade and some weird and wildly imaginative costumes. This is followed by races and games and culminates in the evening with a corn and wiener roast.
This years (2001) fun day spawned a week of beach and water games called Survival which in turn spawned a week of boot camp games and this has led to the formation of a social committee to plan a range of games, sports and crafts for children of all ages.
So just as the face of our dunes shift and alter, the social network of Deanlea is in constant flux.
And, as is universal and inevitable there is a changing demography. Permanent residences are slowly replacing the humble summer cottage as more and more people are retiring to cottage country. Faces are changing. We have a more diverse culture. Families with working mothers are coming for only two weeks instead of all summer. There are more renters.
Nonetheless, we hope that we will maintain our strong sense of community and will continue to follow in the steps of Mr. Richardson and Mr. Kerk with respect for our trees and the beautiful natural habitat which surrounds us.