Beach Access Mediation: “Save The Beaches”
Tries to Hijack the Process

On April 8, 2004, Paul Torrie and James McKenzie of Global Resolutions Inc., the provincially-appointed mediators, sent the following short message to stakeholders in the Tiny beach access mediation:

“Recent events have brought the mediation process to a critical point. We have determined that it is in the best interest of the process to adjourn the mediation and have so advised the Attorney General. During the adjournment, we will be preparing a report on the progress made to date and addressing the challenges that remain. We expect to deliver our report to the Attorney General by May 7, 2004.”

While this communication was disappointing to those who had hoped to see the mediation process brought to a resolution sooner, Mr. Torrie and Mr. McKenzie have made it clear that the mediation process has only been adjourned for purposes of their report, and not ended.

Here is a brief review of events leading up to the adjournment of the mediation.

In their interim reports last year, Mr. Torrie and Mr. McKenzie outlined a “link beach” or “legal ceasefire” proposal, a mechanism whereby private beach property owners would have the option to grant a licence for pedestrian passage along a designated portion of their beach, in return for certain assurances from the Province and the Township that such a licence would not be deemed to be a dedication to public use or otherwise negatively impact upon the owner’s title or interest.

At a meeting of stakeholders held in July 2003, the majority of participants expressed support for continuation of the mediation process and for further development and discussion of the “link beach / legal ceasefire” proposal.
A “legal sub-committee” of lawyers participating in the mediation process was formed, to work on a pro bono basis to prepare draft documentation to reflect the mediators’ “link beach / legal ceasefire” proposal. The members of the legal sub-committee worked on the draft documentation — consisting of a draft licence agreement and accompanying explanatory material — during the fall, on the understanding that nothing would be released until approved by the sub-committee for distribution by the mediators to all stakeholders at the same time.

Shortly after the last set of working draft documents was circulated within the legal sub-committee, copies were obtained by the “Save the Beaches” organization. It is not clear how.

At this point, “Save the Beaches”, which had previously insisted that it wished to be part of the mediation process, with a representative on the legal sub-committee — commenced a media campaign outside the mediation process, attacking the process, the “link beach / legal ceasefire” proposal, and the draft working documents produced by the legal sub-committee.

The mediators then provided the working drafts to all stakeholders, to put others on an even footing with “Save the Beaches”, which was already circulating copies of the drafts and attempting to place its own, unfavourable, interpretation upon them.

“Save The Beaches” has long argued (with no firm legal basis) that “traditional rights” imply unrestricted public use of all the beaches in Tiny, and it wants the Township to assume management of all the beaches in Tiny regardless of ownership and Township resources. In the alternative to that, to quote the president of that organization, there is to be “War on the beaches”.

“Save the beaches”, indeed.

In fact, the status of access to beaches in Tiny varies considerably between one neighbourhood and the next. Some properties are privately held, some are public, many beaches have customary arrangements between front lot and back lot owners, and Township involvement (e.g. in parking, Bylaw enforcement and cleanup) varies too. Looking at the two different approaches offered: of continued dialogue, mutual consideration and a focus on a neighbourhood by neighbourhood approach — in which the “link beach / legal ceasefire” proposal is clearly intended as only a first step — versus pronouncements of “war on the beaches”, the choice is very clear.

We commend the members of Tiny Council, who voted to confirm their support of the mediation process following the mediators’ April 8 adjournment communication.

We urge the Attorney General, the Honourable Michael Bryant, to confirm his continued support of the mediation process, as well.

We commend the mediators, Mr. Torrie and Mr. McKenzie, for the patience, professionalism and diligence with which they have carried out their duties, and wish them continued progress towards a successful resolution after the end of the current adjournment.

Courtesy, mutual respect and simple neighbourliness are the true traditional values which have made Tiny’s beaches a cherished and peaceful retreat for the members of our community for generations. These are the same values, supporting and supported by the mediation process, which offer the best prospect for making a day at the beach a continued pleasure for all in our Tiny community for generations to come.