Editorial – Think bigger for recreation

South Dundas recently received a donation opportunity thanks to local resident and businessman John Ross. Ross has made an informal offer to help further improve recreation in South Dundas by paying to expand the Iroquois campground by 30 sites.

Ross’s offer is a generous one, and unexpected. Previously, he donated towards improving the Iroquois beach, the airport and most recently a very generous offer to rebuild the campground/airport building. After those generous gifts to the South Dundas community, one could expect that was that. But Ross has offered again. His own estimate for this new round of funding is between $300,000 and $400,000 for the path and campground expansion combined. Ross has said that he loves Iroquois, that Iroquois’ recreation facilities were “the vision of volunteers,” that he wants to improve recreation.

The problem is that expanding the campground is not the vision of the municipality at this time, nor should it be. Outside of the new building generously paid for by Ross – and the Municipality of South Dundas – there are minimal recreation amenities at the campground. It uses publicly-owned recreation amenities like the Iroquois beach. A campground is not recreation, it is tourism. While there are some South Dundas residents who camp at Iroquois, the campground is a tourist location that attracts people from outside the municipality. Other than providing revenue to the municipality, the Iroquois campground is of limited benefit to the citizens of South Dundas.

Recently, South Dundas applied for funding through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program to build a multi-sport (non-hockey) recreational facility. That facility, if approved, is more than likely going to be located in Iroquois on land already owned by the municipality. South Dundas does already have a recreation plan and many facilities in need of work, repair, or replacement. A four-year facilities plan was presented to council in 2019, expanding the campground was not part of that plan.

We know Ross is genuine in his wish to improve recreation in the community, the South Dundas community. He has supported many projects and the company he founded one of the largest employers in South Dundas. This community, the whole community, needs more recreational opportunities to draw people to move here and call South Dundas home, just as John Ross did years ago. An expanded campground, while a generous offer, will not do that. Improving local recreation for residents of South Dundas will.

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