Bracebridge Council opposed to developing the new octagonal platform on Woodchester property
Bracebridge Council voted against the request for an alternative third option for the development of the octagonal viewing platform site on Woodchester property, in the March 8, 2023, meeting.
Last fall this option to build the platform on the Woodchester property rather than on Bird Grove was presented as a viable location for the development. This would protect the covenance put in place by the Bird family to leave Bird Grove, the first option, undeveloped and in it's natural state.
In the meeting, resident, Peter Bird, expressed opposition to the first option recommended by Town staff, and was in favour of option three. He indicated that developing on Woodchester property didn't "violate the restrictions of the covenance." He emphasized the importance of maintaining this condition put in place by the Bird family who originally owned the property. He said, "The covenance is to provide the Grove is left in it's natural state. The trees grow, they die...without management or grooming."
Bird advised that the area is to be left as a conservation area, and to "preclude construction, management, regrading or creating pathways, cutting and trimming trees... Let them die and fall down on their own." He added, "Regrading and paving would grossly violate the intended covenance and restricted covenance." He also felt that option three was the best choice because the ground is already level, close to existing concrete sidewalks, parking, and would cost less.
"Let the forest be a forest and leave it alone," expressed Bird.
Resident Mark Henry, also supported the wishes of the Bird family, to keep the platform out of Bird Grove.
Henry expressed concerns about ongoing neglect at Woodchester resulting from development last year. He showed pictures of "stormwater discharge...[and] silt deposits into the Muskoka River."
His pictures also showed a picture of a concrete slab above a culvert that he deemed a safety issue that "coud have taken lives of residents." Trees were also damaged as a result of Town trimming, broken glass was on the ground from window repairs, metal spikes in the path, screws still in trees, concrete pieces scattered from previous construction, sprinkler lines not buried under ground but are exposed and driven over, and damage done to trees from signs and exposed roots.
According to Henry, area residents have also expressed concerns about the Woodchester development encouraging camping and potential fires posing a risk to them, given that two other nearby spots are being regularly used overnight.
Councillor Don Smith, expressed concerns with the first option regarding accessibility, and concurred with Bird about the third location being level "from an existing sidewalk that goes around Woodchester." He indicated that it is already consistent with the recommendations, and added that with this option, "we're respecting the intent of the Bird family." He also clariefied that Bird Grove is a seperate property than Woodchester for those that were unsure.
Council members expressed concern about the glass and debri from last year's development at Woodchester, and about having a 60-day timeframe to work with regarding the funding from the Ontario Heritage Trust they already asked for an extension for.
Smith indicated that Council could approach the government with the potential development changes, feeling "it should be okay." He added, "Mr. Bird explained that we do not want a site within the Grove." He advised the proposed option three would be beneficial given that it would be easily seen from the four way stop and across from the river, that it is "sorely under used," especially given the approximate $2 million dollars already invested in the area."
Councillor Archie Buie said, "I want a viewing station that's fully accessible. Number one won't happen. A lot of construction needs to be done to make it happen. We need accessibility for people less fortunate than ourselves. Number one will be more costly... It's further away, needs more construction, more walkway, more leveling, trees outside of the Grove." He added, "In the Grove, trees are fallen and allowed to rot. That's what they want."
"I see so many wins with option three. I don't want option one. I see it as going against the community and the intent of the covenance," added Buie.
Council members concurred about the importance of accessibility of the platform for the community as a key issue.
Mayor Rick Maloney, expressed the first option as an ideal choice, indicating that while visiting the area, his father in law "relieved some memories he had." He said, "we're not limited to one over the other. We have a funding option. The less solid the plan and the more changes often clouds judgement of decision makers that give you the money."
Maloney added, "I see option one as that opportunity for a lot more people to take advantage...of the jewel of the community."
Council opposed the request for the third alternative, and will go ahead with the first option.