April 13, 2023 at 5:00 am
Saugeen Shores Council has passed a motion supporting in principle the proposal to include the historic Port Elgin and North Shore Railway in the park’s new design.
Another round of public feedback will be sought as plans for the North Shore Park design are finalized. After severe storm damage in September 2021 and December 2022, the Port Elgin Waterfront Park is working to restore the park.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the council heard Updated Proposal from Scott Pearson, who owned the original North Shore Railway engine that operated from 1973-78. Pearson’s proposal would bring a working railroad back to the park, along with other tourist attractions like miniature golf, a gift shop and artisan deli and wine garden, to support his business plan and help offset the cost of running the steam train.
During the discussion, some board members expressed reservations about moving forward with Pearson’s proposal. They were reminded that the vote was not for final approval of the project, but merely to move it to a stage where more feedback would be sought.
“I’ve heard for a long time how much people want that train,” Mayor Luke Charbonneau said. “So I feel obligated to put this proposal in front of them and say, here comes the train, tell me, do you want this or don’t you want it … I think it’s important to remember that any support expressed by council tonight is Conditional final vote on lease agreement. No project until we vote in favor of lease agreement.”
The motion passed in a five-to-three vote, with Deputy Mayor Diane Huber and councilors Dave Meyette and Bud Halpin voting against. Myette said he wouldn’t support trains if they weren’t electric; Huber was reluctant to dedicate so much public space to private gain; Halpin questioned whether the proposal had that much support as only 31 comments were in favor First round of consultation.
“The idea of having trains is great, but we’re going to have the trains, the train station, all the buildings, the miniature golf course, and we’ve got to move the playground. There’s going to be very little room for reflection areas,” Halpin said. “Right now, if the good people in Port Elgin want a train, I’ll support it. But I really need to hear the people in Port Elgin say that’s what they want. I’m really glad we had a second consultation on this , I just encourage the public to give their voices to Parliament so that whatever we end up here we do right.”
The next step for town staff is to hire a landscape architect to help consider options for park redesign and facilitate consultation. The town will also undergo another round of public consultation this summer.
A vote on the potential lease agreement should take place in the fall. If approved, the Port Elgin and North Shore Railway is expected to reopen in summer 2025.