Rideau Lakes cottagers fighting potential campground expansion
RIDEAU LAKES TOWNSHIP, ONT. -- Along the sought after shores of Big Rideau Lake sits the Waterways Resort Campground.
The owners of the site are looking to grow, but nearby waterfront and cottage owners are fighting against it.
Hansen Downer is retired and lives on Big Rideau Lake, in the Township of Rideau Lakes, and says earlier this year the campground’s ownership group, Summerhill Resorts, outlined plans to double in size.
"It’s a small resort of 150 campsites," says Downer of Waterways Resort, near Portland, Ont. "They told us on February the 9th in a Zoom meeting with 60 people that they were going to expand it to 300 sites."
Downer, along with his group of 60 lake residents, says an expansion of that size could not be supported within their community and would also disrupt their way of life.
"That’s why a lot of people have bought out here, because of the peace and tranquility," says Downer. "Three-hundred campsites, which would be 900 people, on 80-acres of land will basically destroy that."
Summerhill Resorts bought the Waterways Resort campground back in 2019, which is one of eleven campgrounds owned by the company across Ontario. In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Summerhill Resorts COO Paul Johnson says they believe the motives behind locals fighting the expansion are not as genuine as they may seem.
"We are in essence asking wealthier members of the community to share the natural beauty of Big Rideau Lake with everyday people," writes Johnson. "Not surprisingly, that doesn’t sit well with some of the people that are fortunate enough to own waterfront property."
When asked about the main issue with a possible expansion of the campground, Downer provided two main points.
"We’re very concerned about the impact of that density on the ecology in the area; the underground water supply, the possible pollution in the lake," the long-time lake resident said. "Is that what you think about when you think about relaxing in a country atmosphere, 900 people in 80-square acres? In our view it just isn’t acceptable. It isn’t in keeping with the rural environment that we have in Rideau Lakes Township."
When asked about a potential expansion of Waterways Resort, Johnson said no formal application or proposal has been submitted to the township, with environmental reports and assessments still needing to be completed.
"Realistically, we are several months if not years away from beginning an expansion at waterways even if we are granted the approvals required to increase the number of sites," writes Johnson.