This year’s denied budget allocation wasn’t necessarily a death knell for the Beaver Lake welcome centre, with a community group still striving to keep the facility operating.
“I need the city to open it up and accept our plan,” Beaver Lake Fire and Services Committee member Brenda Salo told Sudbury.com, adding that approximately 200 vehicles per day visit the centre during the peak summer months. The facility operates from the May long weekend to Thanksgiving.
“We’re on the Trans-Canada, so we’ve got all east-west, west-east travel going past this welcome centre,” she said, adding that some of these travellers litter. “If it’s up and running and maintained properly, it takes the relief off the entire neighbourhood for garbage.”
The welcome centre is a city-owned facility that includes indoor washrooms, a covered picnic area with a few picnic tables, garbage containers and a few acres of land at the City of Greater Sudbury’s western edge.
Early last year, the city voted to shutter this and another welcome centre in Coniston for a savings of approximately $30,000 per year.
At the time, Beaver Lake community members came together to pledge $15,000 to the city to keep the centre running for another year.
During 2022 budget deliberations in December, Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini brought forward a motion to have the city allocate $18,769.82 for the maintenance of the Beaver Lake welcome centre, but city council voted the proposal down 8-5, effectively closing the centre.
Those to vote no included Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan, Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre, Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer, Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh, Ward 10 Coun. Fern Cormier, Mayor Brian Bigger, Ward 4 Coun. Geoff McCausland and Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo.
The balance of city council voted in favour of the funding, with all members of council present.
At the time, McIntosh pointed out that Jeremy’s Truck Stop at Nairn Centre is only a few kilometres away and includes such amenities as a restaurant and washrooms.
Seconding Vagnini’s motion, Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier argued that the city was squandering the Beaver Lake welcome centre’s potential.
“Yes, there are restaurants along the way and so forth, but this particular welcome centre can cater to large vehicles; large RVs,” he said.
Unlike private businesses, families can pull out a picnic basket and fire up a barbecue at Beaver Lake. By not doing more with the welcome centre, council is “underselling our city,” Montpellier said.
“What a waste of a place where we can advertise what’s coming to the City of Sudbury.”
Salo reiterated this sentiment with Sudbury.com, noting that Jeremy’s Truck Stop is a paved and busy centre where people are expected to spend money, while Beaver Lake offers something very different in a park atmosphere.
“You can’t troop into the bathrooms with your … five children and line up to use the bathrooms and exercise your dogs and let your kids run wild,” she said, adding that this is exactly what people can do at Beaver Lake.
“The welcome centre is a free stop,” she said. “It’s a beautiful stop.”
Salo is currently drafting a plan for the city’s consideration, which would include community partners working at the site to keep it open with the help of some municipal funding.
“We’re hoping it will be a workable situation, because we have no money,” she said. “We want to keep the area clean and beautiful.”
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.