United Counties Council rejects Summerstown Trails commercial canteen proposal

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By Nick Seebruch
United Counties Council rejects Summerstown Trails commercial canteen proposal
Les raquetteurs se rendent sur les sentiers de Summerstown.

SUMMERSTOWN, Ontario – The United Counties of SD&G has rejected a proposed commercial canteen for the Summerstown Trails.

At their meeting on Jan. 22, Lucy Shaver presented her idea to the United Counties Council to setup a canteen at the trails that would sell hot beverages, snacks, and other amenities.

“Basically, what I’d like to do is setup a little venue at the Summerstown Forest. Offering snacks, drinks for the people who come in. I was there the other day and I noticed there’s a lot of people who bring their dogs so I would offer dog treats and some water there,” she said, adding that she would also maintain garbage bins, clean-up, and a fire pit.

At the time, South Glengarry Council members, Mayor Lyle Warden, and Deputy Mayor Stephanie Jaworski expressed optimism about the proposal.

“I think this is a neat idea. The traffic at Summerstown Forest has gone up exponentially in the past number of years,” Warden said. “I don’t have an issue with this provided that the rules of the Health Unit are followed.”

“I’ve had a couple of other residents ask similar questions about offering food or beverage at Summerstown Trails,” said Jaworski. “It sounds like an idea that could have legs.”

Over the course of the past month, Shaver met with United Counties administration to discuss her idea further.

On Tuesday, Feb. 22, United Counties Director of Transportation Ben de Haan presented a report to Council on the commercial canteen idea but explained how he saw several hurdles to making such an idea a reality.

For one, de Haan explained that the site is not currently zoned to allow for a traditional food truck, but a canteen might be possible. de Haan was uncertain as to what sorts of permits would be required from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) for a canteen.

Additionally, the Friends of the Summerstown Trails (FOTST), a non-profit group which operates the trails in partnership with the United Counties already does offer some food and drinks at the site, with hopes of offering more comprehensive services in the future, which would subsidize their operations.

Another challenge for the United Counties would be whether entering into an agreement with Shaver to operate a canteen that it might be seen as unfair to other businesses who would have liked the chance to bid on that opportunity.

One of the challenges that Council has to wrestle with this on this one . . . the FOTST are a non-profit organization . . . when we get into commercial type of work, that would be something we would put out and give people equal opportunity to bid on,” he said. “An example I would take is maple syrup tapping and that’s an RFI that went out and we had respondents and we went through that process to determine best value for the organization.”

“I commend miss Shaver for coming up with the idea. You want to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit, but I also recognize that there are others out there who might say, ‘What about me? Why can’t I have this opportunity as well,’ and so I think there are some challenges around that,” he added.

Councillor Kirsten Gardner, Deputy Mayor of South Dundas, said that while she welcomed the pitch for the idea, she did not want to make a decision that she felt could negatively impact FOTST.

“When we have a friends group that has put in the long hours and maintained momentum, I think that we need to make sure any decision doesn’t impact them,” she said. “I don’t agree that this is how we should go. I appreciate the idea and I think it is fabulous when people approach us.”

Councillor David Smith, Deputy Mayor of South Stormont said that he was concerned that this would lead to commercialization of a natural area, as well as creating the potential need for more site clean-up.

“We’re going to kill the whole idea of this area. People are going there, and they know what they get when they get there. They can pack a lunch,” he said.

Ultimately, Council indicated they were not interested in going forward with Shaver’s proposal.

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