Property sale ignored future parking needs

The Sorting Gap Marina and La Verendrye Parkway have proved to be a great success for our community and its citizens.
The Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship will celebrate its 24th rendition this year while the seventh-annual International Boundary Water Dragon Boat Festival is set for June 30 at the Sorting Gap.
The final report, “Town of Fort Frances Waterfront Development Plan,” dated October, 1987, made it imperative to develop attractions and events at the waterfront.
The introduction to the Fort Frances Waterfront Development Plan Phase II, approved in by council in 1996, states: “The benefits of waterfront development are seen not only in the large numbers of residents and visitors using the waterfront throughout the year and the obvious pride residents feel in the accomplishments to date.”
Phase 1 approved by council in October, 1987 has the area on Minnie Avenue and Front Street as gravelled parking that could accommodate 100 cars or 30 cars with trailers.
An important consideration in Phase I states: “Adequate parking must be provided close to the waterfront-the typical tourist to the area, especially with regard to the U.S. tourist, uses vehicles as their sole means of transportation while on vacation. Parking needs must be recognized and allowed for.”
The original plan did that.
The International Tug-of-War has attracted several hundred spectators and participants each year that it ran, and this year the Boundary Waters Dragon Boat Club is trying to revive it.
The “Harmony of Nations” music festival attracted many from beyond the reaches of Fort Frances. All of these community festivals used the property at the corner of Minnie and Front Street for parking.
The original planning for the marina designated the property for parking purposes. But now the Town of Fort Frances has declared that property as surplus to the needs of the community.
What has happened to the long-term plan for the marina? Almost every weekend from the long weekend in May through to the Labour Day weekend in September, overflow vehicles with trailers are found on the lot at the corner of Minnie and Front Street.
In the week leading up to the bass tournament each July, fishermen have used the lot to park their trailers and vehicle. Once the tournament is underway, organizers have been able to arrange for the use of the wood lot north of the marina by competitors.
The decision to declare the property surplus was arrived at without ever looking at the historic plans for the marina. An offer was made to the town by a business that would provide almost instant tax revenue from the property.
The advertisement reads “and further that Council has approved disposal of said property to be completed by direct sale.” A condominium developer group is lined up to acquire the property.
It was never made clear to anyone in the community that the property would become available for sale. Instead, all of the decisions were made in-camera with a business making a direct offer to the council.
The sale of the property was never directly covered in an open council meeting.
Fort Frances council is looking at the 23 acres situated immediately north of the Sorting Gap Marina as a potential to use in the future. At some point, the property may be declared surplus by Resolute, but there are no guarantees the community would have first opportunity to acquire it.
In the meantime, people attending major activities at the waterfront will block up Minnie Avenue, Front Street, Butler Avenue, and Nelson Street with cars and boat trailers.
There may be time for council to reconsider the property sale. If not, let’s hope it accelerates the acquisition of the 23 acres north of the marina.