Editorial: Infrastructure solutions for the SLPC

Infrastructure woes that have fallen on the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, as reported by this paper, are nothing new to this agency and to this region. Upper Canada Village, the Long Sault Parkway, and many of the campgrounds running from Morrisburg east to the Quebec border were all built at the same time that many of our communities were built/re-built. All these are the direct result of the St. Lawrence-Seaway Project, and all the underlying infrastructure have approximately the same shelf life. Much of that is past its best-before date. Municipal infrastructure in Morrisburg, Iroquois, Long Sault, and Ingleside share this same problem.

Upper Canada Village has the highest infrastructure deficit in the SLPC. The village has been on generator power since February 2022 and needs $8 million to replace the grid. A water system for feeding the three mills at the village needs $5 million, and the train that went off the rails more than a year ago needs almost $500,000. More is needed for facility replacements at campgrounds along Long Sault Parkway.

According to its own business plan, the SLPC continues to lose money. Revenues from tourist visits to attractions and from campers barely cover the cost of wages and benefits. An annual $7.1 million top-up from the provincial government balances the books, but there is little room for any capital. Every major project needs government funding. The SLPC is starving for cash to fix things.

Some solutions are being planned, like studying connecting Upper Canada Village to South Dundas’ water and sewer system, and Long Sault Parkway’s SLPC sites to South Stormont’s system. There are loosely-based funding commitments for the electrical grid replacement from the province, and the Riverside-Cedar Campground redevelopment is being planned. Still, it is a dire situation for the SLPC assets. But out of dire need, is a solution that can solve three problems.

South Stormont is seeking land from the SLPC in exchange for access to its municipal services; South Dundas is not. In our opinion, that is an error that should be rectified. South Dundas has a land issue and needs more space to address housing development. Additionally, land owned by South Dundas that dates to the Seaway project has land restrictions in place. Trading access to South Dundas municipal water/sewer services for unused SLPC land, and removing land restrictions would right a wrong suffered 60-plus years ago – allowing this area to finally have control over its own destiny. It also will provide land for needed low-income and market-value housing development.

SLPC has 7,000 acres of land that it owns, much of which is unused and undeveloped. Additional land sales of its own small portions of unused property could pay for all the capital infrastructure deficiencies the agency has for now, and years to come. Finding solutions to infrastructure woes at the SLPC requires looking past historic barriers between the two levels of government and cooperating. All sides benefit when a creative and beneficial solution can be found.

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