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Coun. Art Stirling’s motion to investigate designating Rondeau Park cottages for heritage purposes should, if nothing else, force the province to address local concerns about the future of the provincial park.

Council has requested staff prepare information on the designation that could in theory stop the planned demolition of more nearly 300 cottages by the end of 2017 when leases for them expire.

LEADWAVE Technologies from Chatham Voice on Vimeo.

Such a designation on provincially owned land is unheard of but it does turn a spotlight on the fast-approaching lease expiration.

The cottage community at Rondeau has more than 100 years of history. Elimination of that community could cost the local economy millions of dollars in goods, services, fees and taxes.

It’s unclear what Chatham-Kent or the park would gain by the move.

The cottages occupy a small fraction of the park’s 8,000 plus acres. Rondeau offers some of the finest birding in North America, more than 250 campsites, as well as trails and beaches.

Those attributes exist now, with the cottages in place.

As the second-oldest provincial park in Ontario, (it celebrates 120 years next month), Rondeau’s eco-system has achieved balance.

That’s more than can be said about the provincial ministry of natural resources (MNR).

Relying on a 30-year-old statement of Integrated Resource Management and a 25-year-old management plan, the MNR is determined to remove the cottages.

If there’s been an in-depth study showing how Rondeau will improve with the cottages gone, it hasn’t seen the light of day.

Neither has reaction to a consultant’s report commissioned by cottage owners asking provincial ministries to consider the cottages (many a nearly a century old) part of a provincially significant cultural heritage landscape.

The relationship between the MNR and cottagers has often been acrimonious. Is this simply payback for the residents who dared to stand up to authority? Is it related to our provincial riding electing an opposition member?

It’s time for the province to at least have the courtesy to demonstrate specifically how destroying the Rondeau community will benefit the park in any meaningful way.

“Just because we can” doesn’t cut it.

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