City asking province to re-open Greenwater for tenting

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No overnight camping in Cochrane Park since 2013

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Deborah Morin Greenwater Provincial Park, 34 kilometers northwest of Cochrane, has been closed to overnight camping since 2013. Cochrane City Council hopes to convince the province to change this. Postmedia file photo SunMedia

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Cochrane City Council would like to review options for the reopening of Greenwater Provincial Park.

The park has been closed to overnight use since 2013 when nine other provincial parks across Ontario were closed.

When submitting the application, Coun. Dan Belisle said the pandemic forced people to stay indoors for extended periods of time, fueling demand for outdoor recreational activities like camping. For residents of Cochrane, Kettle Lakes in Timmins and René Brunelle in Moonbeam are the closest provincial parks to overnight camping.

Belisle proposed that the city form an ad hoc committee to petition the province to ask both the Ontario Prime Minister and the Department of Natural Resources and Forestry to reopen Greenwater Provincial Park. He said the city should also seek support from MP Charlie Angus, MPP John Vanthof, and the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities.

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Coun. Desmond O’Connor said, “I’m everything for RVs, especially since the province went its way without camping on Crownland. However, I have concerns about the shape Greenwater is in. I know people can snowshoe, bike, or hike there, but I’m not sure about the facility itself. “

He went on to discuss the quality of the campsites in the polar bear habitat.

“We have a garbage disposal station with campsites. I’m not a camper, but I don’t call those patches of grass with a stake with numbers a campsite, ”said O’Connor.

“Hopefully we can get both of them up and running at great levels and provide some great services. Greenwater is a long way from Cochrane. Who would use it? When I was a kid we had Drury Park. It’s no longer such a park, but if we want to get it back like this, people can support the polar bear habitat as well. “

Coun. Rodney Hoogenhoud expressed his appreciation for bringing this matter back to the council table.

“This is an issue that affected economic development before we had our transition period and the EDO (Economic Development Officer) left. We were told that this would never come to light again. I think it’s an important part of our community. Camping is a way of life for Northern Ontario and it is also very popular and profitable.

“I know Greenwater is in a mess,” added Hoogenhoud. “But it would be a great opportunity to take a look – having an outside organization run it would be a great business benefit for our community. I think, given the regulations for camping on Crown land, we should look seriously at this to see if we can get back to the table and get the ministry going. “

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Coun. Belisle suggested getting support from the cities of Iroquois Falls and Smooth Rock Falls to influence the government and advance this idea.

He also urged the city to have a stronger voice on this issue.

“I find the people at Cochrane to be very complacent … we just seem to be sitting on our hands and getting very complacent about things that are given to us,” Belisle said. “When they decided to close Fushimi Lake Provincial Park in Hearst, they didn’t sit on their hands and say, ‘OK, that’s fine. ‘The same was true for René Brunelle Provincial Park.

“But the people in Cochrane say, ‘Well. I’ll take my $ 100,000 trailer I just bought with my $ 80,000 pickup and park it in my back yard and I’ll enjoy my back yard. This is not the Northern Ontario route. “

“Let’s stop sitting on our hands and find these politicians to take care of the people of Northern Ontario.”

Mayor Denis Clement disagreed with Belisle’s characterization of complacency within the city.

“When Greenwater Park originally closed, the community struggled,” said Clement. “They took it over for ‘X’ years, but for various reasons it went back to the province and was closed. To say the community is on their hands, I disagree, but I am more than glad you brought this up, and if the council approves this motion, we look forward to some conversations with Ontario Parks. “

Coun. Belisle added in response, “The people who took over the park had so many restrictions – they could only have so many campers booked for the season.”

He told the council that the majority of the websites must remain for temporary bookings to prevent long-term stays.

“This park should mostly be kept for the locals and have a few daytime spots, but we have to take care of our own,” Belisle said.

The council agreed to the request to contact the various agencies regarding the future of Greenwater Park.

– Deborah Morin writes for the Cochrane Times Post.

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