March Break activities will keep kids busy

While it may not feel like it, spring will soon be arriving. But, before that can happen, kids across the province get to enjoy some relief from school and homework in the form of the annual March Break – which will be taking place March 16-20. Parents across the community will be happy to know there are a ton of activities and day camps available to keep their young ones busy. Midland’s Huronia Museum is running a March Break camp for kids. This year’s theme is all about spring, said education co-ordinator Gillian Ross. Each day will include games and crafts designed to take the kids’ minds off the cold. “The kids have something to do all day,” she said, adding activities are also aimed at a variety of age groups. Activities will include a hunt for a pot of gold, origami projects, frog races and a Welcome to Spring celebration on March 20. Children will also have the opportunity to enjoy the last blasts of winter tobogganing on Campbell’s Hill and skating at the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre. Ross noted parents can book their kids for the entire week or just for one or two days. “We’ve been running (our camp) for a long time, (so parents know) their kids are not only safe, but are also having fun.” The Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre will be offering a March Break Day Camp to children ages six to 12. “Actively engaging in exciting exploration and learning is inevitable when your child comes to our March Break Day Camp,” Nicole Saltsman, marketing and communications co-ordinator, said in a news release. “It will provide your child with an increased understanding of and appreciation for the world around them.” Children will get the chance to take part in cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, guided hikes, tree and animal identification, and hands-on crafts. In addition, they will come face-to-face with turtles, snakes and birds of prey. Quest Art School and Gallery, meanwhile, will be offering a variety of hands-on activities for young Picassos, including clay sculpture, decorative painting, beading and print making – all taught by well-known local artists. Fledgling Jamie Olivers or Nigella Lawsons will have the chance to hone their culinary skills during the Real Canadian Superstore’s camp for kids ages six to 11. On March 16 from 9 a.m. to noon, kids can get stuffed full of fun as they learn all about food that is stuffed. On March 20, they’ll get to clown around the kitchen as they have a blast making circus-inspired favourites. Participants will get to take home a clown-face cake and learn simple cooking and baking skills. Staff at the Penetanguishene Centennial Museum will also be busy as they explore the globe with children during the museum’s day camp. “We will be very busy visiting five different countries in five days,” said curator assistant Jan Gadson. Participants will travel from Egypt to Ireland before heading south to Jamaica and Mexico. Kids will be given a different clue each day as to their final destination. “We’re going to have lots of activities both inside and out,” said Gadson. “We’re a small and nurturing group, and the kids will have a fantastic time.” Space is limited in most of these programs, so parents are encouraged to pre-register their children as soon as possible. [email protected]


Twin pad in jeopardy?

Members of city council are quietly pushing to have a twin-pad arena built on a larger property than originally planned, sparking fears that the project could be stalled. “If they do this, it is going to reopen the debate, and every councillor is going to want their pet project there,” Michael Fogarty said. “It is going to delay things further.” Just weeks after council agreed to build an arena on a 25-acre parcel of city-owned land by the fall of 2010, some are campaigning behind the scenes to move the project to a 45-acre property located nearby, Fogarty said. “This is being pushed quite heavily,” he added. The larger property was to be saved for industrial use, but according to Fogarty and others who spoke with Orillia Today, members are increasingly viewing it as the answer to the city’s recreation woes. “Some councillors want to move the whole MURF out there, some councillors want some options so they can expand out there,” he added. To date, these discussions have happened out of the public’s view, and included an informal chat at the conclusion of a closed-door meeting on Monday evening, he said. Fogarty said he felt the discussion was inappropriate and left the room, followed shortly after by Wayne Gardy. “When council starts discussing an item that would lead to a decision of council, it is a meeting,” Gardy told Orillia Today. “The clerk should be present and it should be recorded.” Gardy echoed concerns that the project could be delayed by a change of location. “It shouldn’t even be discussed,” he said. “Council made a decision that we need a twin pad now, as well as keeping the community centre in use until the twin pad is ready.” Ralph Cipolla concurred. “It would delay the construction of the twin pad until at least 2011, and that is not acceptable” he said. Cipolla, who continues to pursue a portion of the Huronia Regional Centre property for the MURF, is urging council to follow its original plan. “People are only asking for a twin pad,” he said. “Let’s build it, and that will give us time to assess what we are going to do about getting a premier recreation facility, rather than piece meal. If we go to the 45 acres, we are going to end up with a barn again, and that is unacceptable.” User groups who were left scrambling to secure ice time following the closure of the community centre were angered to learn of the discussions. “All we asked for was a simple, twin-pad facility – that is all we wanted,” said Bruce Goddard, a member of the Twin Lakes Oldtimers Hockey Club. Goddard spearheaded a petition for the new arena, gathering more than 3,000 names with the help of other groups, including minor hockey and figure skating. “It is a typical Orillia situation,” he added of the recent development. “You start something, then it’s ‘Change this and change that.’ “People should get on the blower and start calling their councillors,” he added. “They can get their numbers on the city’s web site, or call city hall.” Orillia Minor Hockey president Cathy O’Connor is concerned not with the site but the prospect of a delay.  “I’m more concerned about them getting that piece of property and all of sudden they want to put the MURF there, and that is where the delay would come from,” she said. “They’ll fight about the spot, and are they going to want to add the pool? They made a decision, stick with it.” Fogarty, who opposes a change in venue, said “there is a real concerted effort of trying to get this through. “I think councillors are slowly waking up to the fact that (a recreation complex on West Street) is not going to happen,” he said. Joe Fecht tried but failed to convince council to move the majority of the MURF project to the 45-acre site. He would “absolutely support” a proposal to move the twin pad to the larger property. “If we can’t proceed on West Street, we potentially have another opportunity to look at the other aspects of a recreational sports complex,” he said. Coun. Tim Lauer earlier argued in favor of building an arena on the larger property, saying it offered room for additional soccer fields and other outdoor amenities. “As we get closer to the actual design, if there are some compelling arguments to move it, I will certainly be championing them again,” he said. “Right now, the priority for me is that everything moves forward.” Lauer continues to support the West Street property for the MURF, but said that, were the site deemed unworkable, “you would at least have that option” with the 45-acre property. Lauer rejects the notion that building the arena on the larger property would delay the project. “It wouldn’t be a big deal,” he added. “It would just be a discussion about which side of the road you want to be on.” Both Lauer and Fecht downplayed the significance of the impromptu discussion held Monday. “We were just getting an update of information,” Fecht said.


Midland police get three per cent pay hike

After months of contract negotiations, Midland police officers will be receiving a three per cent pay hike. After talks stalled and the two sides were forced to go before a conciliator, the Midland Police Services Board and the Midland Police Association came to an agreement and finalized a new contract on March 24. Board chair Rob McKenzie said the only change in the new contract was a three per cent wage increase for the three-year contract – which is retroactive to 2008 and extends to the end of 2010. “Other than that, there were no dollar increases in any other areas,” he said, adding there were also some language changes that don’t affect the contract, as well as some small changes for clarification. The holdup, he acknowledged, was a proposed change in vacation time. Midland police officers work 12-hour shifts for four days, and had wanted to keep the vacation program currently in place, which is tied to that 48-hour workweek. The board had been trying to change it to a 40-hour week. “(The Midland Police Service has) a different vacation schedule than most other services in the province. We were trying to bring us in line with that,” McKenzie said, adding the board had offered an extensive package of fringe benefits, but they were ultimately withdrawn. “We felt it came out OK as far as the community is concerned. In light of the economic situation, the average is around three per cent increase for police services,” he said. “We have a great police service in town and a very dedicated personnel, and the leadership is excellent.” McKenzie said the board and the rank-and-file officers are satisfied by the deal: “I have no reason to feel anyone was disgruntled about it.” Calls to police association president Sgt. Mike Burrows were not returned. [email protected]


A dozen more properties protected in 2008

The Georgian Bay Land Trust (GBLT) announced last week that it made major strides in 2008 toward its goal of preserving the eastern shore of Georgian Bay as a public trust. “Thanks to successful fundraising efforts, we nearly doubled our holdings by the addition of 12 new properties,” Richard Stark, GBLT’s incoming president, stated in a press release. “This marks our most successful land protection year yet, as we now own more than 1,200 acres, 730 of which were acquired in 2008.” The newly protected properties are scattered throughout the trust’s target area, including Tiny Township, Port Severn, Go Home Bay and a 15-acre parcel on Giant’s Tomb Island. Through these properties, the GBLT has ensured the protection of acres of classic landscapes along the eastern shore of Georgian Bay, and has also protected rare flora and fauna such as the eastern fox snake, eastern massasauga rattlesnake and stiff yellow flax. “This incredible accomplishment shows what can happen when you combine the selfless generosity of donors, the tireless efforts of volunteers, directors and advisers, and the unwavering determination of our highly competent and dedicated staff,” commented Wendy Cooper, executive director of the GBLT.


Community comes to aid of medical mission

Local physicians and health-care providers have proved a slowing economy is no impediment to generosity. Kim Buckley, an intensive-care nurse and nurse educator at the North Simcoe Hospital Alliance’s Huronia District Hospital site, will be heading to the Dominican Republic later this month on a medical mission with Dr. Marty McNamara. The pair wrote to local physicians and approached various hospital departments asking for assistance in collecting medical supplies for the trip. The outpouring, said Buckley, left her in awe. “It’s just been completely outstanding, and I am in awe of the people that work at the hospital,” she said. “There are good things going on (at the hospital) and good things going on in our community. “People are coming up and offering supplies,” she continued. “All I had to do was mention it and people bent over backwards…. Every department in our facility has dug into their pockets.” The pharmacy donated medications; the central dispatch department pulled together a variety of old surgical instruments no longer being used in the hospital; linen supply offered old bed sheets and patient gowns. Local pharmacies and physician offices have also stepped up to provide boxes of materials and medications. “It’s a great community outpouring,” Buckley said. “We’re able to see beyond what’s going on in our own town.” Buckley and McNamara, along with other volunteers, were at Georgian College in Barrie on April 5 packing up donated supplies. They leave for the trip April 28. [email protected]


A healthy show

Lory MacDonald of Nottawa, a painter who runs art classes, at her booth at Clearview Township’s Health and Leisure Showcase on Saturday at the Stayner Community Centre. The event was an opportunity for locals to learn what recreational opportunities are available in the municipality.


Downtown plan has some councillors nervous

If they build it, will they come? Innisfil’s politicians are hoping the answer is a resounding yes when it comes to the ambitious $17 to $20 million downtown Alcona plan. They’re betting the beautification plan, which will create an upscale streetscape, will attract businesses to Innisfil Beach Road between the 20th Sideroad and Lake Simcoe. But some councillors continue to express concerns over the project’s escalating costs. Last week, councillors Paul Wardlaw, Dan Davidson and Peter Kmet, opposed paying an additional $35,000 in consultant’s fees for the second phase of the project. Last December, those councillors were joined by Lynn Dollin when they voted against increasing the budget for the first phase between Jans Boulevard and the 25th Sideroad from $5.6 million to $6.1 million. “The numbers keep changing. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time,” Wardlaw said last week. “We haven’t even put a shovel in the ground yet.” The latest increase relates to the third “precinct” from 25th Sideroad to Lake Simcoe next to Innisfil Beach Park. Planning director Robert McAuley told council “there are some concerns” about how the architectural component will work on that section since it is closer to the lake. The streetscape should also mirror the high standards of the first phase, council has been told. “There is a risk the budget might go over,” McAuley said. “Until we really get into the project, we don’t know.” Much of the costs for the first portion, which will see construction this year, will be paid through development charges. But the section from the 25th Sideroad to the lake will have an impact on taxes, McAuley said. Mayor Brian Jackson, Deputy Mayor Gord Wauchope and Coun. Rod Boynton continued their vigorous defense of the project last week. “If you are going to attract business you have to spend money,” Wauchope said. “You are not going to attract business the way the street is now. It’s an embarrassment.” Council has asked for a report breaking down the projects estimated costs, including how much will be paid through development charges.


Pressure crack poses danger, police warn

Snowmobilers are being warned by Southern Georgian Bay OPP about a large pressure crack in Midland Bay. The detachment’s snowmobile patrol unit ventured out onto the ice on Thursday. Officers have confirmed the crack runs northeast from the Midland water filtration plant for a distance of 6.5 kilometres to Quarry Island. The crack in this area measures close to a metre in height. Police note the overall height could fluctuate significantly if the wind shifts out of the south as expected. The crack also branches northwest from a point midway between Snake and Present islands toward the southern tip of Beausoleil Island. The OPP is warning snowmobilers in this area to exercise extreme caution. With milder weather making a return, ice conditions will continue to change, and may even deteriorate rapidly.