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Kinsmen Park and Hiawatha Highlands Ski Trails: Letter to the City Council

Thu, Jul  27, 2006 - By Ray Boucher

Dear Friends of Cross-Country Skiing,

Attached is a letter Ray Boucher sent to City Council. Mr. Boucher was the Kinsmen Park caretaker for over two years, is an avid skier and has volunteered many hours grooming the trails.

 - The Soo Finnish Nordic Ski Club.

Dear Friends and Councillors,

I was hardly surprised that the Conservation Authority (CA) would be actively seeking a way to ensure that Soo Finnish Nordic Ski Club be unable to take over operations of the now defunct STAR organization.

Skiers in Sault Ste. Marie no longer accept being used as a revenue stream for this organization. The Conservation Authority need to get its financial act together and end its policy of using logging and milking local skiers to meet its budgetary shortfalls.

For the past several years Sault Trails has been bled dry by the excessive monetary amounts demanded by the Conservation Authority as part of the operating agreement. These amounts were nominally for office use, snow plowing, book keeping and administrative assistance.

Other additional charges were paid for groomer maintenance and trail work. My observations have been that these services were provided in a barely adequate manner, if at all. As part of its request for proposals, a similar amount is required by the Conservation Authority with no services being provided. Other non-profit groups, including the Voyageur Trail Association, Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, as well as local hikers, cyclists, and snowshoers pay no fees for the use of the particular portions of property they access, including parking.

Soo Finnish Nordic is responsible for the development of ALL the ski trails in the Hiawatha area with the co-operative efforts of the Kinsmen Club as a service to the citizens of Sault Ste. Marie (including those on CA property). In my experience as caretaker of Kinsmen Park for over two years, the Conservation Authority has been, and continues to be the greatest hindrance to the success of this ski area. Soo Finnish has indicated an intention to continue to maintain ski trails with the co-operation of the Kinsmen Club, yet the Conservation Authority has decided it should resist this effort.

Questions that need to be asked by those who are evaluating the rationale behind CA actions include:

  1. Are there personal reasons for this action by the Conservation Authority, since the personal acrimony the chair of its board holds toward members and past members of Soo Finnish is well known?  
  2. Do any of the other groups using CA property have such a restrictive and detailed list of requirements for land use presented to them each time they renew their agreements? If not why not?
  4. How much is Heyden Adventure Base Camp paying for the use of CA property for their summer program? Was there a request for proposal for this program? If not, why not?
  6. Has the personal and professional relationship between the trails manager at the Conservation Authority and the owners/operators of Heyden Adventure Base Camp been examined carefully to ensure that no conflict of interest exists?

Kinsmen Park and the Hiawatha area has been available for four generations of my family to use. It is uncertain what the agenda of the CA is, but it is obviously not the public interest.

Please speak up and end this charade.

Ray Boucher