For over sixty years, the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, and its predecessor, the St. Lawrence River Development Corporation, has controlled the waterfront and much of the land left over from the St. Lawrence-Seaway project. The commission was sold to residents as an entity whose purpose is to protect our heritage and legacy, and keep access public for all. Sixty years later what has happened is communities have been locked out of their own waterfronts by a Toronto-centric ethos that puts tourists before local. It is time for reform.
Communities like Ingleside and Long Sault do not have control over their own waterfront. They don’t own it, the SLPC does. Even now, as South Stormont council wrestles with a waterfront plan for those communities, they face a long process to even just lease land that should be theirs. The land within the village boundaries of Ingleside and Long Sault should be deeded to South Stormont to own and manage.
The Long Sault Parkway, Upper Canada Bird Sanctuary, and many campgrounds in the area are ill-served by current marketing and management plans. Ontario Parks has solid management, great programs, and a top-notch booking system for attracting campers. The SLPC has campgrounds from South Glengarry to Ivy Lea, which will dovetail nicely into the Ontario Parks system. Fort Henry is a national historic site and should be under the mandate of Parks Canada, not the SLPC.
In between the many SLPC locations in South Dundas and South Stormont, there is unused and inaccessible land owned by the SLPC and Ontario Power Generation. Before the Seaway, this land was lived on and it should be again. Unused land that is not a significant wetland should be sold with the intent of private ownership. The proceeds of that land sale should fund an infrastructure renewal fund for the four villages (Iroquois, Morrisburg, Ingleside, and Long Sault). This will pay for infrastructure that was built by the Seaway project in the 1950s that is now at the end of its useful life. Another benefit of selling unused land is the amount of residential property tax that would flow to the municipalities from new property owners. The SLPC pays South Dundas only $5,444 for all the land it owns in South Dundas. A single homeowner on Lakeshore Drive pays more in property tax per year.
The SLPC should be focused only on the core mandate of Upper Canada Village, Crysler Park Marina, Crysler Park, its airport, and the Upper Canada Golf Course. That tourism destination is a gem and the commission’s sole purpose should be ensuring the continued operation of it.