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Campground may be coming back to Lake Ontario Park

Council is considering bringing camping back to Lake Ontario Park, but as part of a plan to promote active transportation in the city. Global Kingston

It’s been almost 15 years since campers have set up tents in Lake Ontario Park, but now the city will be holding consultations to bring a campground back to the King Street greenspace.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, councillors voted in favour of the city looking into a possible pilot project after Coun. Jim Neill, seconded by Deputy Mayor Peter Stroud, put forward a motion to establish short-term camping for cyclists in the park.

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“We did have in the past a very extensive campground in Lake Ontario Park, and I understand with these with RV’s and campers and trailers that it was fairly high maintenance,” Neill said at council.

The previous campground closed in 2005 before Lake Ontario Park went through a $5-million revamp, which finished in 2013. Along with the campground, the park lost a dog park, but gained more accessible walkways to the waterfront, a splash pad and accessible washrooms.

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Stroud also admitted the previous campground had some issues.

The truth was, as Coun. Neil was saying, the municipal campground at that time was a problem. Problem with garbage. Problem with noise. Problem with tenants or campers staying a long time,” Stroud said.

But the two councillors have envisioned a campground that will cater to cyclists or any campers who are coming into town using active transportation, such as hikers and transit users.

“It’s a would be a very low-maintenance camping opportunity for a number of people who now are already coming through Kingston, unfortunately, not having an opportunity to pitch a tent and go to a restaurant,” Neill said.

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The councillors argued that much of the infrastructure used in the old campground still remained, and many other parks along the St. Lawrence River are now offering short-term camping to cyclists.

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The suggestion was met with a bit of trepidation, specifically from Lanie Hurdle, Kingston’s commissioner of community services and acting CAO. She noted that during the park’s revisioning, public consultation had leaned towards getting rid of a permanent campground.

“The recommendation as part of the visioning [of the park], which included substantial public engagement, was that camping be limited to events. And that’s something that the public supported at the time,” Hurdle told council.

Mayor Bryan Paterson was also reticent about the idea of a permanent campground at the park.

“Lake Ontario Park is one potential location, but it is not the only potential location for something like this,” Paterson said.

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The mayor mentioned that the St. Lawrence Parks Commission has also been looking into a campground location that could be “far better than Lake Ontario Park.”

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Nevertheless, the mayor was not opposed to a trial campground at the park.

“That would allow over the next two years to decide, is that the best permanent location for camping? Or if there’s another better location that may come onside,” Paterson said.

After several proposed amendments to the motion, council voted seven to five in favour of the city looking into what kind of infrastructure and costs would be needed for a two-year camping pilot project for cyclists as part of cycling events by the first quarter of 2020.

—With files from Jennifer Basa.

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