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Ontario Park Halting Service for Transients

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February 19, 2013 by   - () Leave a Comment

Map shows the city of Amhertsburg in southwest Ontario.

There won't be overnight or weekend camping at Holiday Beach Conservation Area in Amherstburg, Ontario, this summer.

The conservation area in Amherstburg will still be open during the day and will have seasonal camping but while a beach washroom is built to replace portable toilets, the transient camping has been halted. The overnight camping has been declining and there were complaints, the Windsor Star reported.

"We basically said you know what, we've got to slow this down and put a stop to transient camping at least for this year until we can fix up some of the infrastructure," Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) General Manager Richard Wyma said on Feb. 15.

"It doesn't help anyone if people come and have a negative experience," Wyma said.

Also cut in the authority's draft $7.6 million budget are three positions. One was a full-time senior administrative job that was cut in January after restructuring, he said.

Two managers left and their positions are not being refilled. Wyma said the two managers left ERCA – one to another job and the other to a different city – before the restructuring was announced and their jobs were not cut.

It looks like the authority has budgeted about $177,000 less for staff and benefits this year.

Wyma said it is difficult to put a number on the money saved by the three positions because some of those managers received funding from grants. The conservation authority has about 30 full-time or long-term contract staff members.

The conservation authority is asking for $44,000 more than last year in the proposed budget which was presented to the ERCA board Thursday night. About $2.7 million comes from Windsor and Essex County municipalities through a levy. Board members will vote on the budget in April.

A new washroom at Holiday Beach shows a theme in the draft 2013 budget, Wyma said. For the next several years the authority is going to spend less on acquiring land and more on fixing up the sites and trails it already runs, he said.

Fix up what you own is something ERCA heard during strategic planning sessions, he said.

A report on the draft budget said despite having more than $3 million in capital assets there are no reserves set aside for capital, operational or emergency expenses. The draft budget includes $709,500 in total reserve funds for 2013. Included in reserves would be $425,000 set aside for infrastructure replacement such as buildings and trails.

Amherstburg councillor and ERCA board member Robert Pillon said he didn't have concerns with cutting overnight camping at Holiday Beach because there is another campground in the municipality and this way the conservation authority can focus on the seasonal campers.

Wyma said ERCA will look to bring back overnight camping at Holiday Beach once upgrades have been made. Improvements are also needed to some low-lying campsites, he said. The pause on overnight camping will save about $43,500 in wages including enforcement and staff at the gates.

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