Whitewater Ontario looks for greater partnership
Whitewater Ontario, which operates the Minden Wild Water Preserve, is seeking a greater partnership with the Township of Minden Hills, and the organization would like to be a bigger part of the community.
Township councillors heard a presentation from David Gillespie, president of Whitewater Ontario, during a Jan. 24 meeting.
“We seem to be a site that everybody appreciates ... but we are not very well integrated,” Gillespie said of the preserve, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. “We’d like to move this from being a whitewater spot into more of a community site.”
The preserve is located just outside Minden where Horseshoe Lake meets the Gull River, and hosts numerous whitewater paddling events each summer.
It was the host site of the whitewater events for the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games, and in 2014, Minden Hills township made a $100,000 contribution to the preserve, that money used for the purchase of a wire gate system, trail improvements, the construction of a walkway, relocation of rocks and hosting of the games. The site also includes a campground, public playground and a building with a commercial kitchen and meeting/dining room.
People come to the preserve not only to paddle, but to enjoy its scenic beauty, take photos, do plein air painting, etc.
“In our 40 years, we’ve had to do our best at estimating what the visitors are . . . ” Gillespie told council, explaining that estimate is at least 10,000 visitors per year. “But we’ve never been able to figure out how much money that means to the community.”
Whitewater Ontario is hoping the township will conduct an economic impact study on the preserve, “from which we would like to build a strategic plan for the next 10 years,” Gillespie said.
Whitewater Ontario is also requesting a $5,000 contribution from the township, partially to offset water release charges from Parks Canada, which operate the dam near the site, and partially for legacy signage on the township-owned side of the river.
“It’s an exciting, singularly unique thing that you have in our community, and we’re aware of that,” said Mayor Brent Devolin, explaining the request would be deferred to council’s budget discussions.
“The charges for the water, I’d like to understand a little bit more,” Devolin said, adding that potential reduction of those charges could be something that local politicians could lobby upper levels of governments on.