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National park proposal raises suspicions among county residents

By Nicole Kleinsteuber

A movement to bring a national park to Prince Edward County is a thinly-veiled attempt to block any wind farms from being developed in this area, says a South Marysburgh resident.

Objections from local residents towards a national park and conservation marina along the county’s south shore took center stage at Tuesday night’s council meeting in Picton.

Point to Point PEC Foundation, is a local non-profit group that brought forth the park and marina plan to council.  Point to Point wants to preserve and protect natural habitat along the south shore in the county.

But some see the plan as a way to stop wind projects destined for the county.

“This is a clever, well-put together process,” said Don Chisholm, a member of the County Sustainability Group, which wants the community to adopt green initiatives, including windmills.  “The whole purpose of the park is to create a road block and prevent wind energy development in the county”.

Prince Edward County council voted in favour of the proposal at the last committee of the whole meeting.  Council agreed to endorse the creation of a national park and conservation area on the south shore, including Main Duck and False Duck Islands.

But there are some residents who don’t agree with the council’s decision and spoke out against the plan to build a park.

“Council’s motion to approve a national park in South Marysburgh has been done without any consultation of the ratepayers in the township or the county as a whole,” said Deb Hudson a resident of South Marysburgh.

Karen Hatchard, co-founder of Point to Point, said the group has taken steps to involve the community in the planning process.

“We tried to survey the county,” said Hatchard.  “We’ve tried to engage people by asking them to contact us on our website and we ran full page ads in local newspapers.”

Hatchard said out of the 740 people surveyed, 94 per cent of voters were in favour of the park proposal.

Former councillor Monica Alyea is in favour of the park proposal and has been working with Hatchard by bringing the park proposal to council.

Alyea told council the plan is just an idea and it’s not about wind turbines.

“I would not be involved if it was about wind turbines.  I ask you to think bigger than that when it comes to Prince Edward County,” said Alyea.  “We have the opportunity to stay out of it.”

Alyea said it’s unfortunate that people are worked up about it but the two issues are not related.

Hatchard agreed with Alyea.  She said the group’s plan isn’t dedicated to stopping wind farm projects; it’s about preserving the area for wildlife and future generations.

“People are trying to bring the whole wind energy issue into it,” said Hatchard in an interview.  “Nobody is talking about how this impacts the wildlife.  We love this area and we’d love it for future generations to enjoy.”

Hatchard said she’s pleased that council has decided to endorse their plan because it allows the plan to move forward.

“Until we had the support of the council we couldn’t see the point of public consultation, said Hatchard.  “This is a long process we need to see that we have a viable project before we get the public involved.”

Hatchard said the process could take up to 10 years.