Wasaga Beach

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Wasaga Beach
Town of Wasaga Beach
Skyline of Wasaga Beach
Nickname(s): 
"The Beach", "Wasaga"
Motto(s): 
"The Beach is just the beginning"
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
CountySimcoe
Incorporated1951 (as village)
January 1, 1974 (as town)
Government
 • MayorNina Bifolchi[1]
 • Deputy MayorSylvia Bray[1]
 • Councillors
 • MPsKellie Leitch (C)
 • MPPsJim Wilson (PC)
Area
 • Land58.64 km2 (22.64 sq mi)
Population
 (2016)[3]
 • Total20,675
 • Density352.6/km2 (913/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
Forward sortation area
Area code(s)705
Websitewww.wasagabeach.com
Wasaga Beach town sign on Highway 26 in the west end of town. The sign has since been relocated to the highway's new bypass.

Wasaga Beach (variant: Wasaga) is a town in Simcoe County, Ontario, Canada. Situated along the second longest (14 km; after Twelvemile Beach, MI, 19km) freshwater beach in the world,[4] it is a popular summer tourist destination. It is located along the southern end of Georgian Bay, approximately two hours north of Toronto. To the west, Collingwood and The Blue Mountains also attract visitors much of the year. The town is situated along a very long sandy beach[5] on Nottawasaga Bay in Georgian Bay and the winding Nottawasaga River. The beaches are part of the Wasaga Beach Provincial Park; the park area totals 168 hectares (415 acres).[6] Wasaga Beach also has many seasonal residents.

The economy has struggled for some years, particularly since a major fire in late November 2007 destroyed many of the stores, and due to a reduction in the number of tourists in an area where the primary shopping season is three to four months per year.[7] In March 2017, the town passed its Downtown Development Master Plan, a 20-year strategy for significant redevelopment of the tourist area and adding a downtown to the business area. The goal is to improve tourism, diversify the economy, and rid itself of the "party town" image.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13]

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 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 the town has 20,665 full-time residents and 16,000 seasonal and part-time residents.[11]

Wasaga Beach fire[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 90 per cent of the buildings along the street mall in the Beach One area. About 17 seasonal businesses were said to have been affected, including bikini shops, ice cream parlours, a restaurant, a motel and an arcade.[14] Nearly 100 firefighters from surrounding areas battled the blaze for hours. The Toronto Star later reported that "Twenty-one businesses in eight buildings overlooking Georgian Bay were destroyed, causing an estimated $5 million in damages."[15]

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. Two young men (one from Barrie and the other from Springwater) were charged with arson. There was no indication that the fire was deliberately set to remove old buildings in advance of planned development.[15]

The Town of Wasaga Beach worked out a plan to help the remaining businesses open for the season but the hotels, theme park and a monorail were cancelled and never revived.[16]

Local government[edit]

The town's council includes a mayor, deputy mayor, and five councillors elected on the basis of one per ward. The members of council elected as of the 2018 municipal election are:[17]

Mayor: Nina Bifolchi

Deputy Mayor: Sylvia Bray

Councillors:

  • Joe Belanger
  • David Foster
  • Mark Kinney
  • George Watson
  • Stan Wells

Economic challenges[edit]

Despite the major fire, the beach and the remaining businesses reopened the following summer. Although the destroyed buildings had been considered old and dingy, they were missed by residents and visitors.[18][19] In 2008, an entertainment dome was built, intended as a temporary structure until development started. It lasted until February 2011 when the exterior cover was destroyed during a storm; repairs were not done and the dome never reopened. The structure was removed in May 2012.[20]

The long-term plans after the fire, by the Levy brothers' Blue Beach Avenue corporation, included a rebuild of the area in a modern style with shopping, an indoor/outdoor theme park, two major hotels and monorail service. The proposed development came to an abrupt end when Blue Beach Avenue declared bankruptcy in 2010. "The past couple of years haven't been kind to the tourist industry ... So I gather there were some major cash shortfalls that put them in this situation," the town's mayor said at that time.[21] One of the Levy brothers was charged with fraud in 2012 after an investigation of misappropriation of the insurance money paid out after the 2007 fire.[22]

Reduced tourism, partly as a result of the destruction of many buildings, has continued to be a problem in the area whose tourist season is typically not much longer than three months per year, (The most recent stats indicate a decline in tourism "of roughly 100,000 a year between 2002 and 2012".) The town spent $13.5 million in 2015 to purchase seven properties, including eight buildings and 28 rental units, along Beach Area One, becoming a landlord to some businesses including three bars. The town acquired any existing leases from tenants and succeeded in leasing most of the empty space to commercial enterprises by July 2016.[23] A few of the tenants subsequently enquired about the possibility of breaking their leases because they were struggling financially. The town council agreed to a one-time opportunity for businesses to break their leases without a penalty; requests to do so had to be submitted no later than September 23, 2016.[7]

The beach itself is owned and operated by Ontario Parks as the Wasaga Beach Provincial Park and is the area's primary attraction. 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.[24][25]

There has been a great deal of controversy (among the public and council members) about the previous strategies used by the Town of Wasaga Beach, including the 2015 purchase of the seven properties for $13.8 million using borrowed money. "That's no small sum for the town of 18,000 that will collect $20.3 million in property taxes this year and spend $48 million in operating and capital costs," according to a report by the Toronto Star.[26]

New development plan[edit]

An entirely new Downtown Development Master Plan[27] was released by town council in late January 2017, with an estimate for capital investment of $625 million and a 20 plus year time frame for completion. The first phase (five to 10 years) will cost about $200 million for two development areas, one on the beach and one on the main land.

In July 2018, under the council led by then-mayor Brian Smith, council agreed to enter into a Letter of Intent with FRAM Building Group for the development of town-owned land in the downtown and at the beachfront.

In December 2018, under a new council, with Nina Bifolchi as mayor, council decided to undertake a review of the development of town-owned lands in the downtown and at the beachfront.

The council agreed to let the Letter of Intent the town had with FRAM Building Group Ltd. lapse at the end of December 2018 as a first step in the review process. The Downtown Master Plan, however, remains in place.

In March 2019, FRAM advised the town it is not interested in being a part of future development of the beachfront. The town is now looking for developers interested in developing town-owned land at the beachfront.[citation needed]

Additional information about this process is under the Build Wasaga tab of www.wasagabeach.com.

Wasaga Beach Provincial Park[edit]

Wasaga Beach Provincial Park
IUCN category II (national park)
Map showing the location of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park
Map showing the location of Wasaga Beach Provincial Park
LocationOntario, Canada
Nearest cityWasaga Beach, Ontario
Area1,844 ha (7.12 sq mi)
Established1959
Governing bodyOntario Parks

Wasaga Beach Provincial Park is a small recreational provincial park consisting of the eight beaches with 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) of beach. Beach Areas 1-6 can be accessed off Mosley Street in Wasaga. Allenwood and New Wasaga Beaches are north of the Nottawasaga River and are accessed via River Road East.[28]

The park is available for day use only. Its area totals 1,844 hectares (4,560 acres) of which 6.8 hectares (17 acres) are protected. The park is a habitat for birds, primarily for shorebirds including the endangered piping plover. Hiking trails of over 50 kilometres (31 mi) are available. In winter, they are used for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The visitor centre provides access to the Nancy Island Historic Site with a theatre, a museum and a lighthouse.[6]

Geography[edit]

Beach 1 (the main beach) looking west with Beaches 2 and 3 in the distance
A cottage-lined side street

Over two million people visit Wasaga Beach every summer, attracted by the town's freshwater beach (stretching 14 kilometres or 8.7 miles), swim in shallow (warm), clean water 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 sections, with the beaches numbered 1 to 6 from east to west, with off-beach public park areas, mostly with parking and all with toilet facilities. A published summary indicates that Beaches 2–4 benefit from shade trees, a bike trail and a playground. Beach 1 is the most touristy, with bars, beach-themed shops and fast food restaurants, attracting primarily young adults. Beach areas 3 to 6 have many seasonal waterfront cottages between the park areas; Shore Lane Road is used for jogging, biking and roller blading. There are two additional beaches nearby, New Wasaga Beach and Allenwood Beach that are cut off from the 1–6 areas by the river; these also have seasonal residents. The town publishes a map of all of these areas.[29]

An unusual aspect of the town compared to other Ontario Cottage country communities, is that most of the summer homes are non-waterfront and are closely spaced on an extensive grid of side streets within the town itself, rather than being located on larger lots in more rustic settings often well outside the said towns as is the typical case elsewhere.

In the summer months it is a 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 the town limits, the sandy beach continues east and north into Tiny Beaches, nearly as far as the tip of the Penetang peninsula. The beach in these areas is also fronted by many cottages and homes, but unlike in Wasaga Beach, the beaches are mostly private property.

The beach's position on the waters of Nottawasaga Bay means that summer temperatures are moderated somewhat by the water, so summer days can be quite comfortable especially when there is a breeze off Georgian Bay. In winter, however, winds off the water trigger very heavy and intense snow squalls. Due to these heavy snowfalls, activities include snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and other winter sports. Downhill skiing is available at nearby Blue Mountain. 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[30] makes it difficult to sustain lush lawns in the town. 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.[31]

Demographics[edit]

Historical populations
YearPop.±%
19711,923—    
19814,705+144.7%
19916,224+32.3%
19968,698+39.7%
200112,419+42.8%
200615,029+21.0%
201117,537+16.7%
201620,675+17.9%
Canada census – Wasaga Beach community profile
2016 2011 2006
Population: 20,675 (17.9% from 2011) 17,537 (16.7% from 2006) 15,234 (21.0% from 2001)
Land area:
Population density: 352.6/km2 (913/sq mi) 300.1/km2 (777/sq mi) 257.2/km2 (666/sq mi)
Median age: 48.8 (M: 47.8, F: 49.9)
Total private dwellings: 11,645 9938
Median household income: $54,181
Notes: Includes corrections and updates. – References: 2016[32] 2011[33] 2006[34] earlier[35]

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).[36][3]

Education[edit]

There are several elementary schools: Worsley, Birchview Dunes, and St. Noel Chabanel (Catholic); and a private school, Silvercrest Christian School.[37] There are no high schools in town. As of February 2017, there was no plan by the Simcoe County District School Board to build a secondary school.[38] Buses transport over 760 students to high schools located outside the town, in Stayner, Elmvale, and Collingwood.

Schools in Wasaga Beach:

  • Birchview Dunes Elementary School
    • Principal: Melissa Mortimer
  • Worsley Elementary School
    • Principal: Darrell Bax
  • St Noel Chabanal Elementary School
    • Principal: Steve Charlebois

[39]

Wasaga Beach Transit[edit]

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.[40] 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. There is a transit link between Wasaga Beach and Collingwood that operates on a continuous loop.[41]

Transit service in Wasaga Beach is no longer operated by Georgian Coach Lines. The contract was changed in the Summer of 2014 to Sinton-Landmark Bus Lines.[42]

Notable residents[edit]

  • Jason Arnott - NHL hockey player; born and raised in Wasaga Beach; in the summer of 2000, Jason Arnott Day was declared in Wasaga Beach to celebrate his Stanley-Cup-winning goal scored in double overtime[43]
  • Adam Copeland and Jason Reso - WWE stars better known as Edge and Christian; lived together in Wasaga Beach throughout their time in college and early training

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Certificate of Election Results". Town of Wasaga Beach. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  2. ^ "Wasaga Beach census profile". 2011 Census of Population. Statistics Canada. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Wasaga Beach [Census agglomeration], Ontario". 2006 Census data. Statistics Canada. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  4. ^ "Visit Georgian Bay / Georgian Bay Coastal Route".
  5. ^ "Wasaga Beach". Ontario Parks web site. Ministry of Natural Resources (Ontario). June 18, 2007. Retrieved June 12, 2008.
  6. ^ a b "Wasaga Beach". Ontario Parks. Province of Ontario. 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Brandon, Rowe (July 28, 2016). "Struggling Wasaga Beach beachfront businesses will get chance to exit lease". CTV Barrie. Bell Media. Retrieved February 25, 2017. Some business owners have complained to town council about the struggle and are being given a one-time option to get out of their lease without penalty.
  8. ^ "THE TOWN OF WASAGA BEACH DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT : MASTER PLAN : FINAL REPORT" (PDF). Wasagabeach.com. March 2017. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  9. ^ "The History of Wasaga Beach" (PDF). Wasagabeach.com.
  10. ^ "The War of 1812 and the H.M.S. Nancy". History. The Friends of Nancy Island Historic Site and Wasaga Beach Park. Retrieved June 12, 2008.
  11. ^ a b "About Us". Town of Wasaga Beach. Retrieved June 12, 2008.
  12. ^ "The Lumber Trade in 1800s". History. The Friends of Nancy Island Historic Site and Wasaga Beach Park. Retrieved June 12, 2008.
  13. ^ "The Trail of the Caribou". History. The Friends of Nancy Island Historic Site and Wasaga Beach Park. Retrieved June 12, 2008.
  14. ^ Teotonio, Isabel (December 1, 2017). "Wasaga fire 'end of an era'". Toronto Star. Toronto. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  15. ^ a b ROBYN DOOLITTLE (February 13, 2009). "Two face arson charges in Wasaga Beach fire". Toronto Star. Toronto. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  16. ^ "Beach Developers Bankrupt". Bayshore Broadcasting. CHGB-FM. April 26, 2010. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
  17. ^ "CERTIFICATE OF ELECTION RESULTS". Wasagavotes. October 23, 2018. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  18. ^ "Fire guts at least a dozen buildings in Ontario resort town". CBC News. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. November 30, 2007. Retrieved June 12, 2008.
  19. ^ Hawthorne, Karen (November 30, 2007). "Huge fire sweeps Wasaga Beach". National Post - Posted Toronto. CanWest Global Communications. Retrieved June 12, 2008.
  20. ^ Wasaga Sun (May 14, 2012). "Dome Dismantled". Wasaga Sun, Simcoe.com. Wasaga Beach. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  21. ^ Gillick, Shawn (April 30, 2010). "Blue Beach development pulled into bankruptcy". Enterprise Bulletin, Postmedia. Collingwood. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  22. ^ Adams, Ian (August 8, 2012). "Man linked to redeveloping Wasaga Beach fire site facing fraud rap". Barrie Examiner. Barrie. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  23. ^ Stockwell (September 22, 2016). "The Wasaga Beach Stockwell Report". Stockwell Report. Stockwell Report. Retrieved February 25, 2017. recommend to Council that staff be directed at the meeting to offer a one-time opportunity for any current tenant in a Town-owned beachfront unit or Kiosk to break their lease immediately with no penalty if they wish to do so
  24. ^ "Can Wasaga Beach find its way out of the shade? | Toronto Star". thestar.com. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  25. ^ Walker, Mike (December 1, 2016). "New arena, resort among ideas for downtown Wasaga Beach". CTV Barrie. Bell Media. Retrieved February 25, 2017. As for the cost of building the downtown, the town will be banking on developers. Smith hopes it will start to take shape within the next two years.
  26. ^ Betsy Powell (January 22, 2017). "Can Wasaga Beach find its way out of the shade?". Toronto Star. Toronto. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  27. ^ "Downtown Development Master Plan" (PDF). Wasaga Beach. Town of Wasaga Beach. January 26, 2017. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  28. ^ "ABOUT THE PARK". Wasaga Beach Information. Friends of Nancy Island. 2015. 25 February 2017
  29. ^ "Beach Areas - Overview". Wasaga. Wasaga Tourism. Retrieved February 25, 2017. assess what your needs are and pick an area that can accommodate those for you. The maps below show you where the entrance is for each beach area.
  30. ^ "The Soil Column Geology, Land-Use - Wasaga Beach". UNB Library. UNB. 1976. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  31. ^ "Land Area, Geology and Topography - C.C. Tatham & Associates Ltd" (PDF). Community Profile. Town of Wasaga Beach. September 28, 2007. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  32. ^ "2016 Community Profiles". 2016 Canadian Census. Statistics Canada. February 21, 2017.
  33. ^ "2011 Community Profiles". 2011 Canadian Census. Statistics Canada. July 5, 2013. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  34. ^ "2006 Community Profiles". 2006 Canadian Census. Statistics Canada. March 30, 2011. Retrieved March 7, 2012.
  35. ^ "2001 Community Profiles". 2001 Canadian Census. Statistics Canada. February 17, 2012.
  36. ^ Ian Adams, Wasaga Sun (February 9, 2017). "Wasaga Crossed 20,000 Population Mark". Simcoe.com. Metroland. Retrieved February 25, 2017. Wasaga Beach Mayor Brian Smith says the latest population numbers bode well for the future of the community.
  37. ^ "Wasaga Beach Schools". Wasaga Real Estate. Royal LePage Trinity Realty Inc. 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  38. ^ "TOWN OF WASAGA BEACH'S POPULATION SURPASSES 20,000" (PDF). Wasaga. Town of Wasaga Beach. February 9, 2017. Retrieved February 25, 2017. The future for Wasaga Beach is about becoming a complete community. Wasaga Beach is in the process of re-inventing itself and as we work to implement our new downtown plan and redevelop our waterfront, we are confident that Wasaga Beach is not only going to continue to be a great place to live, it is also well positioned to attract investment, create jobs and regain its place as one of the top tourism jewels in this country."
  39. ^ Adams, Ian (July 27, 2016). "The numbers are there to support high school in Wasaga Beach: report". Simcoe.com. Metroland. Retrieved February 25, 2017. The only thing standing between us and a high school is the school board
  40. ^ Phil Birchard (May 10, 2009). "Wasaga Beach Transit Expands". bayshore broadcasting. Retrieved May 13, 2009.
  41. ^ Latimer, M (2016). "Wasaga Beach Transit". Wasaga Beach. Wasaga Beach. Retrieved February 25, 2017. Wasaga Beach Transit operates two routes. A bus transfer system allows passengers to transfer between routes without paying an additional fare.
  42. ^ "Wasaga Beach Transit - CPTDB Wiki". cptdb.ca. Retrieved November 23, 2018.
  43. ^ "Legends of Hockey - Jason Arnott". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 5, 2007.

External links[edit]