Plympton-Wyoming wants to run Highland Glen

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Debris blocked the boat ramp at Highland Glen but erosion control measures are also a big problem.

Plympton-Wyoming wants to take over Highland Glen.

Council has directed its representative on the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority board, Councillor Tim Wilkins, to ask the authority to begin negotiations to turn over the park allowing the municipality to get the boat ramp open.

The ramp – the only one between Sarnia and Grand Bend for public use – has been closed for two years.

In late 2019, the original groyne wall on the west side of the boat launch ramp was damaged due to wave action and is now missing. Water levels on Lake Huron have been high, contributing to erosion on both the east and west sides of the ramp protection structure. The erosion has exposed the steel sheet pile wall of the boat ramp and has eroded the banks further along the beach.

The banks have continued to erode, putting the parking lot in jeopardy. The conservation authority closed the boat ramp in 2019, and received dozens of complaints.

Aecom, in a report to the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority in the summer, says the boat ramp could be temporarily fixed for about $85,500.

But the report also lays out what will be needed in the long term with $709,000 in repairs needed in the next three years, another $710,000 in the next five years and the $550,000 replacement of the ramp.

The engineering firm also suggests replacing the erosion control at a cost of $1.29 million.

Recently, the board of directors decided not to put any money into a temporary fix and formed a committee to decide what to do next.

Councillor Netty McEwen, at a Plympton-Wyoming council meeting Nov. 17, wonders “how long it is going to take.

“I want to have Highland Glen open again next year,” says McEwen.

The councillor says if the town would take over the park it “would relieve them a lot of expenses and duties.

“It will cost $85,500 to get the boat ramp operational – yes, it is going to cost much more to do the erosion control but that doesn’t have to be done immediately.

“If we let this go,” added McEwen, “it is not going to happen at all.”

Council agreed to give Wilkins the backing to say the municipality is interested, but some were concerned about what the town is getting into.

“What cost is this?” asked Mayor Lonny Napper.

“Is it an open cheque book?”

Napper suggested the town should be looking closely at its park investments. It recently invested hundreds of thousands into Lamrecton Park and will now complete erosion control work worth nearly a half million dollars. “We have to look at where were going.”

Councillor Bob Woolvett also admitted to being “nervous” about the prospect of taking over the park.

“The economy is in trouble a bit,” he said noting inflation is rising and other municipalities are talking about tightening their belts.

“It is a beautiful piece of land, there is no doubt. I think any municipality would love to have it. But I can’t see them giving it to us… you’re looking at probably a million or two million dollars to deal with this erosion problem.

“We just don’t have an endless pot of money to deal with this.”

Deputy Mayor Muriel Wright was also concerned about the plan.
“This is too big of a dollar amount for me to say ‘yes’ to it… were going have to pay for it in the end,” says Wright.

But other councillors, like Mike Vasey, felt Wilkins needed the backing of council to at least put the idea of Plympton-Wyoming taking over the park on the table at the special committee formed to look its future.

Council agreed the talks would be preliminary and nothing would move ahead without council’s approval.