Ontario Shore Walkers Help Create Shoreline Walking Trail System

Help Create a Great Lakes Shoreline Walking Trail System!

by Garry Skerrett, Ontario Shorewalk Association

Garry took these photos along public beaches on Lake Erie.
Garry took these photos along public beaches on Lake Erie.

The Ontario Shorewalk Association joins the call for a “Right of Passage”, or public walking rights, on our Great Lakes Shoreline. This echoes similar efforts emerging elsewhere in the Lakes bio-region and is congruent with our understanding of these waters as a commons: owned by no one, cared for by all.

Ontario Shorewalk Association is a provincial organization whose main objective is to persuade the Ontario government to pass legislation that would guarantee the public a “Right of Passage” - walking rights - on our Great Lakes shoreline. We have members throughout the province, alliances with like minded organizations on Lakes Ontario, Erie and Huron, and endorsements from municipalities and from international groups including the Chicago based Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative and Great Lakes United.

From the start our long term objective has been and remains: to develop an Ontario Great Lakes shoreline walking trail system.

Along Lake Erie
Along Lake Erie

Some history: In the mid 1900's pressure to make our Great Lakes more accessible to the public was mounting. Professor John Jackson, the Geography chair at Brock University, was commissioned to study public access to Lakes Erie and Ontario and found the need for more public access was urgent and should be addressed by government. Some 50 years later public lake access is worse. Governments at all levels have failed to address the problem in a meaningful way and seem to have abandoned all hope of alleviating this shameful situation.

For instance, in Tiny Township on Georgian Bay beaches that were once used by the public are now fenced off and visitors are ejected by the Ontario Provincial Police or uniformed private security guards. The Boundaries Act is being used to, in essence, allow the apparently legal mass expropriation of public beachfront property by extending beachfront property lines to the water's edge. This may be legal under the act but it's a gross social injustice to the Ontario public.

While no precise figures exist, we believe that the public in Ontario is excluded from more than 90% of our Great Lakes shores!

The birth of the Ontario Shorewalk Association

In July, 2005 the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the public had walking rights along all 5,000 km. of their state's shoreline on Lakes Erie, Huron, Superior and Michigan. Within weeks we formed the Ontario Shorewalk Association with a goal of duplicating Michigan's success via the legislative route. Despite repeated but failed attempts we continue to press for a legislative solution for our Right of Passage goal. It is a “modest proposal” to at least allow the public to walk along Great Lakes shore lines between the water's edge and the high water mark. It does not challenge any property rights but asserts the public's right of passage (walking rights). There are limitations: Access to the lake shore can only be via public land such as road allowances and municipal, provincial or federal parks. There will be obvious exceptions to right of passage such a harbour facilities, power stations and industrial sites.

The Petition: The Ontatio Shorewalk Association is petitioning Premier Wynne to introduce and pass legislation that would guarantee the same right of public access (walking rights) enjoyed by the public in Michigan. You can help us to make history in Ontario! Locate us at www.shorewalk.ca and follow the links to our Shorewalk facebook page and to the petition at Change.org. Have even more impact by urging your family and friends to sign the petition. Lastly, why not join Shorewalk via our website? It's free.

Betty VanOsch, President

bvanosch@cogeco.ca 905 894 1407

Garry Skerrett, founder

skerrett@vaxxine.com 905 894 3580