Since the closing of the public boat ramp on Bob Lake, representatives of the various road associations and more recently the Bob Lake Association has been working to restore public boat launch access for the mutual benefit of cottagers, local businesses, and the community at large. Our plight has been well documented in the public record which can be viewed on our News/History page. This web page describes the BLA’s first public boat launch proposal and delegation proceedings – referred to as either our “Claude Brown” solution, or simply just “Plan A”.
Claude Brown Proposal
On November 30, 2017, a delegation of committee members and members of the board of the Bob Lake Association made a presentation to the Minden Hills Council that outlined a proposal for a municipally owned boat ramp to be constructed off Claude Brown Road (see agenda here). The proposal containing all the details including its business case can be viewed through the links below:
Since our delegation we have been monitoring comments written in the local newspapers and posting responses on behalf of the BLA (see News/History page). We have also submitted the following two open letters to the Council:
- January 22, 2018 in response to our Bob Lake public boat launch proposal inclusion in 2018 budget Council discussions
- January 30, 2018 in response to the township staff report that grossly increased the estimated cost of our Bob Lake public boat launch proposal
Claude Brown Proposal Rejected
On February 22 Council was presented with a very detailed second staff report in response to our January 30 open letter. This second report continued to highlight significant concerns around traffic safety among other issues such as encroachment, liability, etc.. The report also remained steadfast on the increased cost estimate. Council’s conclusion was to accept staff’s recommendation and not proceed with the BLA’s Claude Brown proposal, however they remained open to working with the BLA on other viable boat launch options in the future. A resolution to this effect was sent on February 23.
On February 27 the BLA sent the following response to Council:
While we are very disappointed on your resolution to not proceed with our Claude Brown proposal for restoring Bob Lake public boat launch access, we are encouraged with your offer to continue working with the Bob Lake Association on other viable options. We have already begun creating alternative solutions, and look forward to working directly with the municipal planner to collaboratively develop a new proposal to council in the very near future.
The BLA boat launch committee will capitalize on Council’s offer and has already begun working intensely to identify alternative sites and options that will address all concerns cited by the planner with our Claude Brown proposal. We are also taking a much different approach going forward. First we will collaborate closely with the township planner to develop a planner-approved solution. We will then collaborate directly with Council to sort out a funding model for this solution. We will not repeat the previous “us and them” exchange of reports. Early signs from communications with the Mayor and the planner since the resolution have been very encouraging, and Plan B is coming together extremely well…stay tuned!
Plan A Questions and Answers
The following is a list of anticipated questions and answers related to the Claude Brown public boat ramp proposal:
Q#1: What happened to the old boat ramp?
Ans: The previous boat ramp was in operation for well over 50 years (more that 75 years by some accounts). During that period it was assumed to a public facility located on crown land by the entire community – cottage owners, Minden residents, and the municipality alike. Contrary to everyone’s understanding however, the ramp was on private land. The property owner wanted to sell the land and felt the potential liability would be a deterrent to interested buyers.
Q#2: Why can’t we use the old boat ramp – can’t we buy the property or cut a deal?
Ans: While the original public boat launch location was ideal, it turned out to be on private property which was sold to an individual who has decided to build a cottage/home on it, and development is well underway already. The property is simply not for sale any longer. There has been communications with the new owner to try and work out a deal to continue the ramp’s use, but their position has been made very clear that it will never be a public access boat ramp again. A court order for a “prescriptive easement” would allow individuals, who can prove they’ve enjoyed continuous and uninterrupted use of the ramp for 30 years, continued use of it going forward. Our understanding is that the new owner is willing to provide a key to the gate that’s already been installed to any individuals who can prove their case for prescriptive easement in court – but that key would only be for their personal use. A survey of the lake has shown this applies to a few dozen property owners only, however we don’t believe any of them are willing to take on the legal expense. In summary, unless there is a major change, the original boat launch is no longer an option for public use.
Q#3: What about shoreline impacts – particularly fish spawning habitats?
Ans: We have worked with the MNRF who has given its preliminary assessment that this location is not known for fish spawning. This would be formalized as part of the DFO and MNRF permit/assessment process going forward. Related to this, when we met with the Haliburton Highland Outdoor Association to discuss our situation, they were very supportive and offered to work with us on a program to bolster our natural fish spawning should we be successful at restoring a public boat launch.
Q#4: Why was the Claude Brown Road site chosen? This will be disruptive to some of the cottagers on Claude Brown Road. Are there no other locations on the lake that would be less intrusive to cottage owners?
Ans: We have researched all options and this one is simply the most straightforward and cost effective for the township. The steep terrain surrounding much of our lake makes it unsuitable to construct a safe and usable boat ramp (10-15 degree slope recommended). Public use right-of-ways add another complication with many of the roads leading to the lake being privately owned and maintained. Our design utilizes the key advantages of an access road maintained by the municipality and an undeveloped road right-of-way owned by the municipality. Costs are also minimized with the close proximity of the road to the lake (no driveway to construct or maintain). We have endeavoured in this design and its proposed location to minimize both the visual and physical impact of the launch.
Q#5: What about the extra traffic flow on Claude Brown Road – particularly during the peak spring and fall seasons when boats are all being launched or hauled out?
Ans: Our ramp design is integrated into an existing snowplough turnaround on the municipally owned road allowance. The proposed solution also includes an extension of this turnaround to allow vehicles to pass safely while a vehicle/boat is on the ramp (at high-water), with room for two additional vehicle/boats in waiting.
Q#6: What about congestion from unsightly parked vehicles and trailers in the boat ramp area?
Ans: The current design is purposely meant to tolerate no parking. We have proposed that clear signage be posted to stress this.
Q#7: Who will be responsible for the costs of construction and on-going maintenance?
Ans: We propose that the municipality assume the cost of construction and on-going maintenance – this would be owned and treated the same as other public boat launches in the region. The one-time construction cost of approximately $30,000 is easily justified by the financial benefits outlined in the proposal, and the concrete slab construction of the ramp greatly minimizes on-going maintenance costs.
Q#8: The proposal states that Bob Lake property values would decrease by 10-15% without a public boat ramp – how can that be validated?
Ans: The 10-15% resale value impact is an estimate provided by a local Haliburton real estate agent that is an expert in their field. However, the financial case of our proposal is not based on that level of reduction – a mere 5% impact in the collective Bob Lake property assessment value could result in over $30,000 in annual property tax revenue loss for the township – more than the one-time construction cost of the ramp. While the level of resale impact is debatable, the fact that it will drop without a public launch is undeniable. Cottaging and boating related activities are simply inseparable for most interested buyers. Cottage values on Bob Lake have been established on the use and assumption of a public boat ramp – taking that access away can only have a negative impact.
Q#9: Is it true that existing owners will never see their taxes go down, and only when they sell will the new owners be assessed and taxes paid accordingly?
Ans: That’s not true. Based on our discussions with MPAC, a case for reassessment of all properties on Bob Lake could be triggered after only a few impacted cottage resales. Such a case is actually assisted by the existence of a unified lake association representing property owners should this become necessary.
Q#10: The $30,000 price tag is less than $150 per Bob Lake property owner. Why don’t the owners just pay for this themselves instead of using tax payer’s money?
Ans: Bob Lake property owners are local tax payers and make up nearly 5% of the Minden Hills Township municipal tax revenues – $30,000 in one-time construction cost is a small fraction of the municipal taxes collected from Bob Lake property owners annually. More importantly the boat ramp is meant to be for public use – open to all residents or visitors to the Minden area, and should be considered a small investment to restore the value of an amazing community asset – this is what tax dollars are meant for. Also, the logistics of collecting money from each property owner and somehow “gifting” that to the township with assurance it would be used for its intended purpose is a significant challenge. Trying to “collect” the funding for this was viewed as an unnecessary complexity – particularly given the clear benefits outlined in the proposal to property owners, local businesses, the community, and the municipality alike.
Q#11: The proposed boat ramp location requires the use of several hundred feet of private road. Why was this not mentioned in the proposal?
Ans: This issue was raised after our proposal submission deadline to the township of November 15. As members of the Bob Lake Association we do not have the tools or resources to make an official ruling on such matters, so this will certainly need to be studied and addressed as part of the township’s report being prepared by the Director of Community Services. Our own research since our proposal submission has found the following:
A) According to the Haliburton County’s GIS mapping website, which distinguishes between public and private road designations, the distance from the end of the public portion of Claude Brown road to the public road allowance hosting the proposed boat ramp is under 75 feet (not several hundred feet). A map of this with measurement data can be found here.
B) Regardless of the distance, any stretch of road designated as purely private could be problematic for accessing the proposed public boat ramp. However, our understanding is that this small section of road is actually designated as a “trespass” or “forced” road (sometimes also referred to as a “push” road), which by definition is privately owned land but publicly maintained. This stands to reason since we know that section of Claude Brown has been used and maintained by the municipality for many years to reach the snowplough turnaround located on the same road allowance section of property. A legal summary of “Trespass/Forced Roads” can be found in section 2.3 of the “Cottage Country Road and Access Issues” white paper posted here (same content also posted here). The following are excerpts from this publication that we believe supports the public use of this small stretch of Claude Brown:
– “Statute labour means that the municipality completed sufficient work on the road to qualify it as a municipal road. For all intents and purposes, forced roads and trespass road are municipal roads. They are maintained either seasonally or year-round as municipal roads, and may have been constructed to municipal standards. Members of the public that use them assume that they are municipal roads, and for jurisdictional purposes, they are.”
– “For liability purposes, the law is fairly clear that the municipality is liable for any accidents that occur on the road, since they are de facto municipal roads.”
Q#12: Why should the township spend money on a public boat launch for Bob Lake when it is wrestling with significant municipal tax increases as part of its 2018 budget?
Ans: Please read this letter written to the Council on January 22, 2018.
Q#13: The Minden Hills report #18-008 released on January 25, 2008 suggests the costs for the Bob Lake public boat launch is significantly more than what was included in the BLA proposal. How is that possible?
Ans: Please read this letter written to the Council on January 30, 2018 for our response.