Wasaga Beach

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Wasaga Beach
Town (lower-tier)
Town of Wasaga Beach
Skyline of Wasaga Beach
Wasaga Beach is located in Southern Ontario
Wasaga Beach
Wasaga Beach
Location of Wasaga Beach in southern Ontario
Coordinates: 44°31′14″N 80°01′00″W / 44.52056°N 80.01667°W / 44.52056; -80.01667Coordinates: 44°31′14″N 80°01′00″W / 44.52056°N 80.01667°W / 44.52056; -80.01667
Country  Canada
Province  Ontario
County Simcoe
Incorporated January 1, 1974
Government
 • Mayor Brian Smith
 • Deputy Mayor Nina Bifolchi
 • Councillors
 • MPs Kellie Leitch (C)
 • MPPs Jim Wilson (PC)
Area[1]
 • Land 58.43 km2 (22.56 sq mi)
Population (2011)[1]
 • Total 17,537
 • Density 300.1/km2 (777/sq mi)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Postal Code FSA L9Z
Area code(s) 705
Website www.wasagabeach.com

Wasaga Beach (variant: Wasaga) is a town in Simcoe County, Ontario, Canada. Situated along the longest freshwater beach in the world,[2] it is a popular summer tourist destination, located along the southern end of Georgian Bay, approximately two hours north of Toronto, and neighbours, to the west, the town of Collingwood. Wasaga Beach is situated along 14 kilometres (8.7 mi)[3] of sandy beach on Nottawasaga Bay and the winding Nottawasaga River.

Wasaga Beach Provincial Park is the first provincial park in Canada to be awarded the Blue Flag designation for its efforts to manage Wasaga Beach's shoreline according to international environmental standards.[4]

History[edit]

Wasaga Beach and the surrounding area was inhabited by the Huron (Wyandot) people for centuries before they were dispersed in 1650 by the French-allied Algonquin people. The word Nottawasaga is of Algonquin origin. Nottawa means "Iroquois" and saga means "mouth of the river"; the word "Nottawasaga" was used by Algonquin scouts as a warning if they saw Iroquois raiding parties approaching their villages.[5]

In the early 1800s, Upper Canada was drawn into a struggle between Great Britain and the United States. Wasaga Beach evolved into a strategic location in the War of 1812 when the schooner HMS Nancy was sunk at her moorings in an effort by the Americans to cut the supply line to Fort Michilimackinac and points to the north and west.[6] Lumbering was the main industry for the remainder of the 19th century. Logs crowded the river and the bay, floating down to feed local saw mills.[7]

Wasaga Beach's unsuitable sandy soil contributed to the late European settlement of the area, as the lack of suitable farming land made it unattractive to settlers. In the 1820s the first sign of settlement in the area began as John Goessman surveyed Flos Township. In 1826, land was being sold for four shillings an acre. Though unsuitable for farming, the Wasaga Beach area had an abundance of trees. In the late 1830s and throughout the rest of the century the logging industry would play an important role in the development of the area.[8]

During the 1900s, families began to discover the beauty of the area and the beach gradually became a place for family picnics and holidays during the summer months. During the 1940s, while stationed at a nearby military base, servicemen from across Canada visited Wasaga Beach's amusement park, and they made Wasaga Beach known across the country. After the war, Wasaga Beach continued to be a popular place for cottages and day trips, beginning the century-old tradition of city dwellers travelling to the beach in the summer.

Wasaga Beach entered history's headlines in 1934 when the first overseas flight from mainland Canada, across the Atlantic to England and in a plane called the "Trail of the Caribou", used Wasaga Beach's long flat sandy beach as a take off strip.[9]

The town was originally referred to as "the northern border of Flos Sunnidale and Nottawasaga Townships". The first municipal reference occurred when a designation of Local Improvement District emerged in 1947. In 1949, Wasaga Beach progressed to the status of a Police Village in the Township of Sunnidale, and the Police Village graduated to Incorporated Village status in 1951.

The incorporation of the Town of Wasaga Beach became effective January 1, 1974. The permanent population stood at 4,034, a dramatic increase from 1965, when only 500 people called Wasaga Beach home. Today, 17,000 full-time residents and 16,000 seasonal and part-time residents reside in the town.[7]

Wasaga Beach Fire of 2007[edit]

Main Street Mall as it appeared in August 2000. Fire destroyed most of the buildings in November 2007.

On November 30, 2007, a major fire destroyed between 50 to 70% of the main street pedestrian mall, including 17 businesses and 5 apartments.[10] Plans to rebuild the beach front included a modern style with shopping, an indoor/outdoor theme park and monorail service. Controversy also arose over whether or not the fire was deliberately set in order to allow unobstructed progression with the planned development or whether it was simply an accident. A report issued on February 13, 2009, suggests that the fire was deliberately set by two young men (one from Barrie, 21 years of age, and the other from Midhurst, 18 years of age) suggesting that although the fire was deliberate it was not related to the planned development. The accused arsonists were arrested and charged. The fire originated at around 1:00 am on November 30, 2007, and was originally small; moments later, it was fuelled by very strong winds, eventually turning it into one of the biggest and most disastrous fires ever in Wasaga Beach history.

Despite the major fire, the beach and the remaining businesses reopened the following summer, and although the destroyed buildings were considered old and dingy, they were missed by residents and visitors.[11][12]

The proposed development came to an abrupt end when the Blue Beach Corporation declared bankruptcy in 2010. The Town of Wasaga Beach worked out a plan to help the remaining businesses open for the season but the plans for hotels, theme parks and a monorail all ended and have not been revived.[13]

Geography[edit]

Beach 1 (the main beach) looking west with Beaches 2 and 3 in the distance.

Over two million people visit Wasaga Beach every summer to stroll the shores of the town's freshwater beach (stretching 14 kilometres or 8.7 miles), swim in warm clean waters and enjoy the panoramic views of the Niagara Escarpment across the bay. There are many recreational trails that are used for hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. The Nottawasaga River offers game fishing and canoe routes.

The beach is divided into smaller sections, with the public beaches numbered 1 to 6 from east to west. The beach's position on the waters of Nottawasaga Bay means its summer temperatures are moderated somewhat by the water, so summer days are much more comfortable than days that are hot in Toronto, but the same winds off the water trigger very heavy and intense snow squalls in the winter. As such, snowmobiling, skiing, and other winter sports are popular along the beach.

Also located in the town of Wasaga Beach is Wasaga Beach Provincial Park.[3] In the summer months it is a very popular place for beach volleyball and sunbathing. A boardwalk runs most of the way along Beach 1 and 2. Beach 1 draws the largest crowds, with the popularity of the beaches decreasing further west. East of Beach 1, the beach continues as segments named New Wasaga Beach, Allenwood Beach, and on to the Tiny beaches outside of the town limits. The beach in these areas abuts against many homes and cottages close to the water.

In the winter, there are many miles of fresh groomed trails for snowmobiling thanks to the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs and in part to the purchasers of the trail passes. The town also has several community centres, including the Rec-Plex, which has an auditorium, an amphitheatre and a YMCA, as well as the Wasaga Stars Arena.

Land area, geology and topography[edit]

Aerial view of Wasaga Beach from the southwest, 2013.

The Town of Wasaga Beach covers an area of 61.13 square kilometres (23.60 sq mi) comprised predominantly of sand and loamy sand that exhibit excessive to good drainage and irregular to moderately sloping topography. The poor soil quality has frequently been cited[citation needed] as a major problem for Wasagans, who list constant lawn tending among the annoyances it causes. The Canada Land Inventory for Agriculture rates the lands as predominately Class Six and Seven with primary restrictions of adverse topography, erosion damage and low natural fertility.[14]

Demographics[edit]

Historical populations
Year Pop. ±%
1971 1,923 —    
1981 4,705 +144.7%
1991 6,224 +32.3%
1996 8,698 +39.7%
2001 12,419 +42.8%
2006 15,029 +21.0%
2011 17,537 +16.7%

The 2006 Canadian census indicated a population of 15,029 residents. When compared to its 2001 population of 12,419, Wasaga Beach is one of the fastest growing communities in Canada based on population growth percentage (21.0% over 5 years).[15] Wasaga Beach is in the midst of a building boom, including a major development for the beach planned with the goal of making the town a year-round tourist destination.[17] Because of its proximity to Toronto, there is a heavy outflow of money from Toronto and surrounding towns and cities into cottage or weekend properties located in the Beach.

Education[edit]

There are several elementary schools, but no high schools in Wasaga Beach. Buses transport students to high schools located outside of the town (Collingwood Collegiate Institute and Jean Vanier Catholic High School in Collingwood, Stayner Collegiate Institute in Stayner, Elmvale District High School in Elmvale or École secondaire catholique Nouvelle-Alliance in Barrie).

Wasaga Beach Transit[edit]

Main article: Wasaga Beach Transit

Transit service in Wasaga Beach is operated by Georgian Coach Lines, using town-owned buses, under the name Wasaga Beach Transit. The service was started with one route in July 2008, and quickly expanded to two routes in the summer of 2009.[18] Services for Wasaga Beach Transit occur in a loop from the Wasaga Stars Arena in the east to the Real Canadian Superstore in the west every hour from 7 am to 7 pm.

Future of the Main Street Pedestrian Mall[edit]

Wasaga Beach is currently working with the Canadian non-profit organization 8-80 cities to create a scenic Pedestrian Mall for Beach Areas One and Two. The beach itself is owned and operated by Ontario Parks as the Wasaga Beach Provincial Park and is the primary attraction to the town. Of the six main beach areas, Beach areas One and Two and the adjacent private/public lands have historically functioned as the main destination for tourism activity. Due to the economic climate, losses due to fires, and recent failed private redevelopment plans, Beach areas One and Two have been in steady decline. The area is so important that the town undertook an in-depth community visioning exercise, called Opportunity Wasaga, to develop a long-term vision for the future of the public and private lands in this area..

Notable residents[edit]

  • NHL Hockey Player, Jason Arnott was born and raised in Wasaga Beach and in the summer of 2000, Jason Arnott Day was declared in Wasaga Beach to celebrate his Stanley-Cup-winning goal scored in double overtime.[19]
  • WWE stars Adam Copeland and Jason Reso, better known as Edge and Christian, lived together in Wasaga Beach throughout their time in college and early training.
  • Chris Steffler, drummer for Platinum Blonde, 1980s Glam Rock band.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Wasaga Beach census profile". 2011 Census of Population. Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2012-03-07. 
  2. ^ "Visit Georgian Bay / Georgian Bay Coastal Route". 
  3. ^ a b "Wasaga Beach". Ontario Parks web site. Ministry of Natural Resources (Ontario). 2007-06-18. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  4. ^ "Wasaga Beach". Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  5. ^ Archives/THE HISTORY OF WASAGA BEACH.pdf "The History of Wasaga Beach" (PDF). 
  6. ^ "The War of 1812 and the H.M.S. Nancy". History. The Friends of Nancy Island Historic Site and Wasaga Beach Park. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  7. ^ a b "About Us". Town of Wasaga Beach. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  8. ^ "The Lumber Trade in 1800s". History. The Friends of Nancy Island Historic Site and Wasaga Beach Park. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  9. ^ "The Trail of the Caribou". History. The Friends of Nancy Island Historic Site and Wasaga Beach Park. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  10. ^ Teotonio, Isabel (2007-11-30). "Fire razes Wasaga beachfront". Toronto Star (Torstar). Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  11. ^ "Fire guts at least a dozen buildings in Ontario resort town". CBC News (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). 2007-11-30. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  12. ^ Hawthorne, Karen (2007-11-30). "Huge fire sweeps Wasaga Beach". National Post - Posted Toronto (CanWest Global Communications). Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  13. ^ "Beach Developers Bankrupt". Bayshore Broadcasting (CHGB-FM). 2010-04-26. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  14. ^ "Land Area, Geology and Topography". Community Profile. Town of Wasaga Beach. 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  15. ^ a b "2006 Community Profiles". Canada 2006 Census. Statistics Canada. March 30, 2011. Retrieved 2012-03-07. 
  16. ^ "2001 Community Profiles". Canada 2001 Census. Statistics Canada. February 17, 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-07. 
  17. ^ Rusk, James (2007-08-16). "From ice cream and french fries to condos and bistros". The Globe and Mail (CTVglobemedia). Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  18. ^ Phil Birchard (2009-05-10). "Wasaga Beach Transit Expands". bayshore broadcasting. Retrieved 2009-05-13. 
  19. ^ "Legends of Hockey - Jason Arnott". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2007-05-05. 
  • Ontario Parks, H.M.S. Nancy and Historic Wasaga Beach brochure, 1997.

External links[edit]