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Letter: What about the Nelson Lake dock?

Lake user highlights the history of a dock on Nelson Lake that may soon vanish after a local mining company no longer wants the responsibility
typewriter pexels-caryn-938165 (From Pexels by Caryn)

One hundred percent of Nelson Lake’s shoreline property was controlled by Inco and Falconbridge as patented mining claims prior to 1948. Provincial legislation passed that year forced mining companies to release some of this property to the public, as was the case on most lakes in the Sudbury basin. 

In the case of Nelson Lake, approximately 22 lots were surveyed and sold to employees of the respective mining companies. To this day, Vale and Glencore own the majority of the lake’s shoreline. Glencore owns the landing and dock used by water access camps and the citizens of Greater Sudbury. 

In 1937, Falconbridge Nickel Mines opened Falcona Camp on the shore of Nelson Lake and operated the camp primarily for children of Falconbridge employees. 

In the late 1990s, the company turned camp operations over to the Sudbury YMCA. Falconbridge remained, however, as a support to the YMCA in terms of building repairs, repairs to the diesel generator and other critical infrastructure. That all changed when Falconbridge was sold to an offshore interest, and the support dried up. The YMCA was on its own.

This dock and landing have served the lake since 1937 as the only access to supply Falcona Camp with essentials and campers. 

To this day, it is used by Sudbury residents to launch their boats for a day of fishing or relaxing on the water with their families and it is used by water access camps to launch their boats and transport people and supplies to their camps. 

The dock is also used by MNR conservation officers and the Greater Sudbury Police Service to conduct boater safety inspections throughout the summer. Prior to the pandemic, lake property owners undertook annual maintenance of the dock. 

Indeed, when Falconbridge was the owner, they would contribute material to assist with this work. But all of that changed.

On December 7, 2017, the northeast YMCA announced that it was ceasing operations at the camp. They returned the property to Glencore and focused their attention on running their main camp, John Island. The Camp Falcona property remained dormant over the winter of 2017/2018 and the following three years. 

Neither Glencore nor the YMCA moved to secure the buildings or the many assets (e.g., canoes, kayaks, kitchen equipment) that were just left on the property. It did not take long for area troublemakers to realize the bonanza of opportunities for thievery and destruction offered to them on a platter. Windows were smashed, plumbing ripped out, canoes and kayaks taken away at will.

Local property owners alerted Glencore to the problem and in response the summer of 2022 saw all buildings removed and the property returned to its original state. Plans are afoot to plant white and red pine on the site this year. But you may ask, what does this have to do with the landing and dock? Unfortunately, a lot.

So where do things stand now?

The Nelson Lake Campers Association met with Glencore officials over the past winter to determine the future of the landing property and the dock. Glencore does not want to continue ownership of the dock and the ongoing liability insurance requirement. They approached the City of Greater Sudbury to accept a transfer of ownership of the property and assume operating responsibility. The city has refused.

The Campers’ Association proposed that we would maintain the dock and provide oversight of the landing if Glencore would continue to maintain the liability coverage that they have held on the property since 1937. Even though there has never been a claim they refuse to do this, always referencing the problem experienced at Camp Falcona.

At our last meeting with Glencore, they offered to transfer ownership of the landing property to the Camper’s Association. If we were to accept this offer, we would be required to secure liability coverage. There are 22 privately-owned camps on this lake. We are not able to pay for insurance to protect us against potential insurance claims by day users of the lake. 

Insurance can be purchased through the Ontario Cottagers Association; with membership fees, our annual cost would exceed $2,000. In addition, we would need to finance annual dock repairs, and as we do now, continue to pick up garbage left by users.

If we do not table an acceptable plan to Glencore by June 30, they will proceed with plans to remove the dock and the old boat house that is on site. If this takes place it will make launching a boat very difficult indeed. The irony is that dock or no dock, Glencore will remain the property owner and will still be liable no matter how many signs they post. 

Glencore cannot block access to this landing, so when they remove the dock, lake residents and day users will continue to use the site and launch boats. 

This will create a real hazard for users all because a lawyer in some tower somewhere has advised the company to tear it out.

Glencore also owns two dilapidated cabins on the lake that present a real hazard to anyone who may approach them. We can only assume that the legal team has not been made aware of these. 

Rick Bertrand, John Caruso, Josh Corbiere

Nelson Lake Campers Association