Stop skating around the issue: Is it time to open up Lake Margaret for recreational activities?


My, how words can come back around to bite you.
A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about Lake Margaret attracting skaters of all ages for an afternoon of gliding across the frozen water.
A scene right out of a Tim Hortons’ tribute to life in Canada.
Which led to queries from several readers as to summertime use of the lake for fishing and canoeing.
As the signs lakeside warn and reiterated two weeks ago by Ross Tucker, Director of Parks, Recreation and Property Management, a big negatory to those warm-weather activities.
The decision to prohibit fishing in Lake Margaret was a recommendation of the 2010 Lake Margaret Environmental Plan.
It came up for discussion back in April of 2017 when Coun. Steve Wookey proclaimed, “In my world, there should be fishing and canoeing.”The matter surfaced again in June of that year when some residents the Lake Margaret area reminded then-mayor Heather Jackson in a report to council to “take this opportunity to make it abundantly clear to all council members that the Lake Margaret Environmental Management Plan is the council approved document that must be adhered to when dealing with the lake.”

Lake Margatet water quality studyjpg

Let’s double back to Tucker’s comments of two weeks ago.
“How do you say you can’t skate on Lake Margaret, but come to Pinafore (to skate)?”
Applying that same logic, how do you say you can’t fish or canoe on Lake Margaret, but come to Pinafore to do those?
What you can and can’t do at Lake Margaret will come before council at Monday’s (Feb. 1) meeting in the form of a letter from Jim Copeland, who lives in the vicinity of Lake Margaret.
He strongly believes the lake should be available for non-motorized watercraft, canoes and kayaks.
He believes none of these uses are permitted because of a petition “by certain landowners who don’t want the public in their backyard.”

“Why is there a double standard for Lake Margaret when there is no scientific or environmental reason . . . to restrict activities on this man-made body of water?”

He goes on to note, “Thousands of residents live adjacent to the kilometres of trails in our city with little disruption to their daily routines.
“In fact, having a property adjacent to the current pathway system is a significant benefit to their well-being. In addition, recreational pursuits like canoeing and kayaking have been demonstrated to be a benign activity.”
It is time for St. Thomas, adds Copeland, “to open up Lake Margaret for recreational purposes to benefit the majority of the population.”
Re-visiting the words of Ross Tucker, Copeland wonders “Why is there a double standard for Lake Margaret when there is no scientific or environmental reason . . . to restrict activities on this man-made body of water?”
Copeland closes with the compelling argument, “In the age of COVID-19, there may be no more important time to allow citizen access to Lake Margaret in an effort to mitigate the negative physical and mental aspects of this pandemic.”
Will this Lake Margaret canoe/kayak controversy confine concerns related to the egg oiling of those grass-gobbling geese to the back of the boat?

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Plagued by pandemic uncertainty last summer, the Horton Farmers’ Market may be a more secure spot for vendors and consumers to enjoy in 2021.
Earlier this week, it was announced the market will come under the arm of the St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation.
Horton MarketCEO Sean Dyke explains this move allows for the hiring of a year-round manager who will also serve as a business advisor.
“One of the struggles the markets has always had is that changeover year to year with the market manager. Creating consistency in that position has a lot of value for us and being able to have someone in that spot year-round, at least there is someone there to answer questions or potentially speak with vendors that might be interested in locating there.”
The plan now, notes Dyke, is to move forward with promoting and growing the market through the resources of the EDC, the Elgin/St. Thomas Small Business Enterprise Centre and Railway City Tourism.
Because stresses Dyke, it is important to ensure the market remains “a true signature experience” in the community.
“We’ve committed to keeping it as a producer’s market, meaning 51 per cent producers, maintaining that true farmers’ market identity.
“But, there’s nothing stopping us from activating it further with more entertainment, more opportunities to use that space throughout the year in other ways, on other days of the week.”
Now, if we can just move on from those pandemic restrictions.

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Last week in this corner we documented the city’s roll-out of the compassionate community component of its strategic plan, including the creation of an emergency homeless shelter at 10 Princess Avenue.
Time is money on this project and at Monday’s council meeting, members will be asked to approve a motion to enter into a service manager contribution agreement related to almost $930,000 in provincial funding for the shelter announced last October by MPP Jeff Yurek.
downtown merchants meet with Joe Preston 2 Sept 24-20Days after the announcement, Mayor Joe Preston met with some of the downtown merchants to hear their grievances on the lack of attention paid to the plight of the homeless in the core area.
Preston said at the informal meeting in a back laneway, the time has come to begin solving “the problems of the people causing the problems.”
The money will be used to purchase and renovate the Princess Avenue property for conversion into a year-round shelter.
Once the agreement is signed, the city has just 90 days to begin construction and the project has to be completed by the end of the year.
The city has already advised the goal is to have the shelter – which will include space for a downtown office for the St. Thomas Police Service – in operation by August.

“These businesses have been here for a long time, nobody took into consideration to talk to these businesses before this happened?”

The location of the shelter is not being embraced by all downtown merchants, some of whom conveyed that during a Zoom meeting held this week with Preston and members of the Downtown Development Board.
Patti Mugford advised Preston that downtown merchants dealing with homeless individuals around their properties and the rampant drug use with discarded paraphernalia have not been “a pretty experience for us.”
She sought answers on how this new emergency shelter “will be different than what we’ve gone through?”
She pressured Preston on why downtown merchants have not been consulted on the new shelter.
“These businesses have been here for a long time, nobody took into consideration to talk to these businesses before this happened?”
To which Preston responded, “We had conversation with yourself and others all summer long. We’ve attempted to keep as posted as possible through the great help from Earl (Taylor) of the Downtown Development Board to speak of the whole of the downtown.”
All of this to ensure businesses neighbouring the emergency shelter are “less troubled by what’s going on.”

“I hope it works. You guys have put a lot of effort into it, and I realize that. But I think a little more transparency would have been great.”

Preston continued, “If you think we’re not being transparent enough, we’ll try and be more transparent.”
Mugford continued to challenge Preston on the very matter of transparency on the city’s part.
“I had this conversation with (city manager) Wendell Graves before Christmas about the 423 Talbot building (site of the daytime only drop-in centre for the homeless) and at that point in time there was nothing else, from what he said, on the docket.”
“I guess you know as a businessperson,” responded Preston, “sometimes before real estate deals close, you can’t be telling them on the street . . . some of this has to happen a little behind the scenes.
“It is what it is from a when can you tell somebody what’s happening from a legality point of view.”
Frustrated, Mugford stressed “I hope it works. You guys have put a lot of effort into it, and I realize that. But I think a little more transparency would have been great.”
A critical consideration is the lack of washroom space downtown for the homeless, including in the drop-in centre at 423 Talbot Street.
As noted by Lori Fitzgerald, executive director of Inn Out of the Cold, washrooms will be available at the entrance to the Princess Avenue emergency shelter which should hopefully lead “to a decrease in some of the issues around washroom or restroom use or lack thereof downtown.”
The new shelter will also feature an outside gathering space for those making use of the facility to cut down on disruption to downtown merchants during the day.

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Prepare for major traffic disruption this spring and summer as the city begins reconstruction of Fairview Avenue, from Southdale Line to Elm Street.
The $7.6 million undertakings will address traffic capacity, enhance pedestrian safety, renew ageing underground infrastructure and improve drainage in the area, according to a report to council.
Included will be a bike lane and a multi-use trail on the west side of Fairview Avenue near the Doug Tarry Sports Complex north to Axford Parkway.
Also included in the project are roundabouts at Southdale Line and Bill Martyn Parkway and a traffic signal at Axford Parkway.
Community input will be sought on the best landscaping option for the roundabouts.
The reconstruction is expected to take eight months and will be undertaken in two stages. The substantial completion date is Oct. 1.
More details can be found at A public information centre will be held next Tuesday (Feb. 2) which you can join via Zoom. The details are on the project website above.


Monday’s council meeting will include a presentation by executive director Cynthia St. John and program director Peter Heywood from Southwestern Public Health related to harm reduction and a sharps strategy for the city.
Both the city and the DDB have approached the health unit about the serious problem of discarded sharps throughout the downtown.
You can watch the council meeting via Zoom and details are available on the city hall website

Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope

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And a reminder, I can be heard weekday afternoons as news anchor and reporter on 94.1 myFM in St. Thomas. As always, your comments and input are appreciated.


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