Beach regulation in Tiny remains a contentious issue, but the public’s voices were heard by council during a recent virtual town hall.
Representing a group of concerned Tiny residents, Sean Miskimins spoke to Tiny council and staff on behalf of Beach Rights which he recently co-founded. The Facebook group now has more than 4,200 members, with a mission statement vowing to represent backlot owners and Tiny taxpayers.
Miskimins says five percent of township residents now control the beachfront, in opposition to the voices of the rest of Tiny’s residents.
“What about the other 95% of your constituents that are being locked out of their traditional use of these beaches?” Miskimins asked.
“Where’s your concern for your constituents and neighbours? And how can you help us establish, with either provincial or federal government where we know it’s deemed Crown land, and yet the public’s being misled by these beachfront owners that are claiming rights and private property to the water’s edge?”
Not only armed with concerns, Miskimins came with a proposed solution for council to consider.
"What if Tiny township could do a registration of beaches? This would be a chance for beachfront owners to bring all of their documents and show that they have ownership to the water’s edge.”
Miskimins referenced the lawyers and surveyors that Tiny employs adding, “If they could verify, and compare against, the entirety of the title of change for these properties, then they can validate whether any of these beachfront owners have absolute title to the beachfronts.
"This would allow for an expansion of the delineation program that you’re already doing which is establishing the boundaries of the assets of Tiny that you already have.”
Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma showed interest in Miskimins’ proposal.
“It’s an interesting idea, the beach registration aspect," he said. "I’d never considered something like that before.”
Mayor George Cornell urged Miskimins to reach out to Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop and MP Bruce Stanton regarding federally- or provincially-owned land located along the beaches, as Tiny has not been focused on properties outside of their own municipally-owned lands.
“They are for our residents; they’re certainly for our visitors as well,” Cornell said of the public beaches.
Coun. Tony Mintoff noted the beach access remains a contentious issue, and asked if a mayor’s task force could be created to address residents’ concerns and create some relief. Cornell showed interest in the idea.
The topic of overbuilding by property owners to the waterline was also brought up by Miskimins, who presented a hypothetical scenario of an incident requiring emergency services along the beachfront that would be unable to act accordingly due to intentional obstructions along the beach.
Miskimins asked what bylaw enforcement would do in that instance.
Steve Harvey, chief municipal law enforcement officer for Tiny, welcomed the question, but lamented that such a scenario involving water directly would be covered by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).
Cornell added, “While we aren’t directly involved or responsible, when situations are brought to our attention, we’ve made the call to DFO or MNRF (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) to make them aware of that, to encourage them to respond.”
Planning and development director Shawn Persaud also said, “It’s a jurisdiction issue. When you get into in-water works and shoreline works, the township has no jurisdiction. That’s where (MNRF and DFO) get involved.”
To better educate Tiny residents on which beaches the municipality owns, a wayfinding master plan is expected to be enacted this summer with signs installed at various beach park locations.
“It’s not going to change overnight,” conceded Miskinims, “but we’d ask if you would reconsider what other aspects of your long-term, three- to five-year plan on your B.E.S.T. (Beach Enjoyment Strategy) could help delineate these areas.
“And if you want examples to help get you started, we’re more than happy to provide that.”
In a conversation with MidlandToday, Miskimins said he felt that the concerns of the group were heard at the meeting.
“I think there’s a lot more to come,” said Miskimins, expressing concern that none of the three levels of government were taking responsibility for the matter. “Especially the shorelines.”
The next town hall meeting for Tiny township is scheduled for Sept. 17. Information on town hall meetings and other public events are available on the Tiny Township website.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca