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Canadian Publications Agreement No. 40727545

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Kawartha Tubing out of business

 

July 28, 2017

 

BY TERRY GILLIS

 

In the March 17, 2017 issue of the Lakefield Herald, start-up company Kawartha Tubing was introduced to the community. Derek Robertson and Kim Lanigan’s budding enterprise was brought to the attention of the public via a letter to the editor from an unhappy Buckhorn cottager who was upset about having to share their pristine and “secret” Mississauga River with the rest of the world.

The gentle current of the river takes tubers (or canoers/kayakers) to the end of the river where they encounter a small waterfall. River riders then go ashore and can walk back up the river (approximately 600 m).

In 2015 a new 1.5 km hiking trail was opened in Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park just outside Buckhorn which provides visitors with access to the lazy Mississauga River by foot.

Derek and Kim had travelled the river a number of times and realized it would be a perfect place for families to experience nature and get kids outside.

The friends approached the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry about offering visitors tubes and equipment. Kawartha Tubing was a result of those discussions with the MNRF and the pair’s enthusiasm and appreciation for the outdoors.

The Park gave Robertson permission to provide tubes and equipment and monitored the company’s activity. No business was conducted within the Park. All ticket sales were made either at the Buckhorn Information Centre or online prior to entry into Kawartha Highlands.

In June, Derek Robertson launched the Mississauga River tubing business. The business became an overnight hit with tourists with up to 200 bookings daily for the forty-five minute float down the river.

In July, just after a month in business, Robertson was asked by park officials to reduce the number of tubes on the river from 24 to 12 every half hour. Although Derek said, “the numbers don’t make any sense and they’re going to force us out of business,” he agreed with Kawartha Highland Park’s request.

Then on Friday, July 14, Derek received a letter from park Superintendent Paul Smith further demanding that the number of tubes be restricted to six citing traffic, public safety and “possible harm to the park’s natural features” as an additional concern. “We’re committed to balancing the recreational experiences with the protection of the park’s natural environment in a safe way and in a safe manner,” said Smith.

Robertson said that Kawartha Tubing could not meet the park’s other new demands that were to be in place that day (by July 14). Most notably, that he must have at least two more staff at the exit and entry points on the river and also offer alternate parking or off-site transportation. The park also asked that all users wear a life-jacket. Prior, only users under 12 were required to wear one.

Late Monday (July 17) night Robertson posted on Facebook “Effective immediately we can no longer rent tubes.”

Robertson said he “put a lot of work and effort into this … it’s pretty sad.” But it’s not just his personal bottom line that’s going to suffer, the local economy will also take a hit as well. He has to refund more than $30,000 in bookings for August alone and eight employees are out of jobs. The Buckhorn Tourist Association will lose there $1.50 per ticket sale and the additional boost to the area from park visitors will also decline.

Robertson said he has been met with skepticism from park officials and some area residents since he started the business. One resident launched an online petition calling for an end to the business.

Regan Doughty of Lakefield started a petition online to stop the promotion of the Mississauga River and the rental of tubes to Park visitor. Doughty planned to send the petition (with approximately 170 signatures) to Councillor for Harvey Ward, Peter Raymond, park Superintendent Paul Smith and Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Hon. Kathryn McGarry.

According to Doughty’s online letter, her reason for the petition is that “years ago this location was a hidden gem known to the locals and their families. A place where people would go for a quiet outing, and walk their dogs.” Additionally she states that, “as of late, it has been advertised by a business person via social media. Increasing the amount of foot traffic and the more concerning part is vehicular traffic. A vast number of people have expressed there concerns on a social media post, and through this petition, in regards to parking on both sides of the road.” As well as concerns for “patron safety, Doughty says she’s worried about the safety of the park, “due to the increase in popularity the park is being desecrated.”

Councillor Raymond said that as of this writing he had not received the petition. As for the closing of Kawartha Tubing, Raymond said that, “the Municipality has had no involvement other than being advised Kawartha Tubing would be at the Kawartha Highland Park, as it was strictly an arrangement between Ontario Park’s and the business owner.”

Harvey Ward Councillor said that “while it is always regretful when a business decides to stop operation, it is hoped that a solution can be reached in the near future that is mutually agreeable to the parties.”

With Kawartha Tubing closing it’s doors, so to speak, it is unclear as to what Doughty will do with the petition.