by Sharon Hill, Windsor Star
Point Pelee National Park will buy a new long-awaited shuttle system for the ride to the famous tip with some of the $3 million announced Friday by Chatham-Kent-Essex MP Dave Van Kesteren.
The money from the federal Infrastructure Stimulus Fund will go toward the shuttle, resurfacing sections of the 10-kilometre park road, adding a new sewage treatment system at the Visitor’s Centre and new exhibits and signs.
“That ride to Point Pelee is an important part of the experience,” Van Kesteren said of the 200,000 visitors a year who come to see the southernmost tip of mainland Canada.
The yellow and green shuttles date back almost 30 years. The Ford Bronco that pulls the remaining two shuttles of the original six dates back to 1982 and is still running. It will have to keep going this spring and summer since the new system likely won’t be purchased and at the park until the fall. Seventy-six per cent of visitors use the shuttle.
It’s not clear how many jobs could be created by the funding since the park hasn’t issued bids for the work.
Acting superintendent Jennifer Duquette said enhancing the experience for visitors is an investment in tourism and should benefit the whole area.
“We’re excited, ecstatic.”
After Van Kesteren’s announcement at the Visitor’s Centre Friday morning, Susan Ross, of the Friends of Point Pelee which operates the shuttle system, asked what the MP was doing to protect the park from a proposal to put offshore wind turbines in Pigeon Bay west of the point.
The turbines are part of SouthPoint Wind’s proposal to put 15 turbines south of Kingsville and Leamington and then seek approval to build 700 turbines in Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair.
“Here’s a carrot for you, bunny. We’re going to have you for dinner tomorrow,” Ross said of the funding when she sees the park being threatened by offshore turbines.
Ross said she’s concerned about impacts on water quality, fish, noise and migrating birds and butterflies that use the point as a stopover.
Van Kesteren said the turbines are a provincial decision but the federal Ministry of Environment and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans could look at legislation to see if any part of it is being contravened. Van Kesteren said he will be talking to both ministers since he represents a riding which includes Wheatley, the largest freshwater fishery port in the world.
“It is a concern of mine,” he said of the impact on fish.
If the Department of Fisheries and Oceans can stop work in a drainage ditch over habitat issues, Van Kesteren said if the DFO has a concern, it could reject an environmental assessment.
SouthPoint Wind is holding six meetings today.