It appears maintenance of the popular Hardy Lake Trails in Muskoka Lakes Township will continue, for the time being at least.
The Township and the Province have been in something of a standoff as to who will provide maintenance of the trail system, washrooms and the parking lot going forward.
The Township has maintained Hardy Lake Provincial Park at the Township’s sole cost since 2016 pursuant to an agreement with the Province. In anticipation that this agreement would lapse at the end of December 2021, the Township and Provincial staff entered into discussions to renew the agreement for another five years starting January 1 2022. As per a Township staff report, the Ministry staff refused to consider changes to the proposed agreement terms and conditions which were prejudicial and unacceptable to the Township.
Staff advised that the Township should withdraw its service effective April 30, 2022 if no progress was made. However, during the latest council meeting, Muskoka Lakes staff reported that a subsequent round of talks was “cordial and productive”. They said it now appears there may be a willingness on the part of the Ministry to work with the Township towards a new agreement that the Township would find acceptable. Staff are cautiously optimistic that arriving at a new arrangement is possible.
Ken Becking, Muskoka Lakes director of public works, suggested that in a show of good faith staff be allowed to continue to provide minimal maintenance services to the park pending their discussions and negotiations with the province.
Becking explained to council that under the previous agreement, Muskoka Lakes staff inspected the trails, conducted maintenance on the trails, did grading of the parking lot and the plowing of the snow, provided the porta-potty and cleaned up the garbage.
“The Ministry took no active role in the park,” he said.
Most of council supported continued maintenance as talks carried on, but Coun. Gordon Roberts said he wanted staff out of the park until all of the liability issues are sorted out.
“We need protection on this. There is huge exposure here and I think we should obtain protection before we do any maintenance,” he said. “We must include the fact that under no circumstances will a member of our staff set foot in the park. I won’t vote to support it unless that’s included.”
In a recorded vote, the motion was passed with Coun. Roberts voting against.
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