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Parks Canada creates laneway of buoys to make it easier for emergency services to access island

By Roberta Bell, Orillia Packet & Times

ROBERTA BELL/THE PACKET & TIMES
Parks Canada installed six white buoys Tuesday to mark a laneway in the horseshoe-shaped bay off Big Chief Island at the request of Orillia OPP. The laneway is to be kept clear for the boating public and emergency services to enter and exit the bay.

ROBERTA BELL/THE PACKET & TIMES Parks Canada installed six white buoys Tuesday to mark a laneway in the horseshoe-shaped bay off Big Chief Island at the request of Orillia OPP. The laneway is to be kept clear for the boating public and emergency services to enter and exit the bay.

In an attempt to ensure a clear access to the horseshoe-shaped bay off Big Chief Island in Lake Couchiching, Parks Canada has marked a laneway with buoys at the request of Orillia OPP.

“Right now, our officers responding to calls cannot access boats within the area because there's no way in or out,” Const. Jim Edwards said. “This is a safety corridor that will allow vessels to leave if there's an emergency, to bring somebody out if there's an injury. It will also allow emergency personnel an access point to get in and help somebody if they are injured.”

The six white buoys, each of which will have an orange marker, were installed Tuesday in two rows from the entrance of the beach inlet. They're temporary but will remain in place for the August long weekend.

Orillia OPP, which is expected to step up patrol in the area, is asking the hundreds of boaters who congregate there to anchor outside of the channel.

“Any vessel found in the restricted area will be asked to relocate,” Edwards said.

Earlier this month, Orillia OPP officers looking for a missing person in the bay said they were verbally assaulted by some boaters when they pulled up. Also, a flare was shot toward their vessel. It landed about 15 feet away.

Boater John Beattie said that unfortunate incident isn't a reflection of everyone who visits Big Chief.

“I understand there's things escalating ... but why target all of us?” he said. “I bring my family out here. We barbecue, we swim, we enjoy it the way it's supposed to be. But because there's a few guys who can't handle their alcohol or whatever it might be, it ruins it for everybody.”

Beattie, who was at Big Chief Tuesday and watched the buoys going in, said in the 30 years he's been going to the island, he has never had trouble getting in or out.

“On one half of the horseshoe, that's where they all party. The other half of the horseshoe are the families. We've more or less separated it ourselves,” Beattie said.

He acknowledged the number of boats that anchor in the bay, particularly on long weekends, could present challenges for emergency services but said he's willing to work with them to help.

“It wouldn't only be me,” he added. “It would be quite a few of the boaters who would be there to help them.”

He hopes boaters respect the laneway, but he isn't sure that will be the case.

“For normal people, it'll be great, but you're going to get those guys who are upset that the police are invading. They're not going to look at it as a positive influx into it and they're going to look at it as, 'Oh, they're just trying to watch and see what's going on and make it easier ... to pull me over,'” Beattie said.

He also pondered the implications of a clearly marked, wide-open space.

“It looks like it's a perfect slalom course for somebody with a Sea-Doo,” he said.

“It's another opportunity for somebody to be a dumb ass.”

roberta.bell@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/roberta__bell



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