A map of the proposed Skycroft expansion in green, with the current campground outlined in black in the bottom left.
Proposed Skycroft Campground Resort expansion subject of public meeting
By Howie Crichton
The Township of Rideau Lakes isn’t the only municipality in the area facing a debate over campground expansion.
An application to expand Skycroft Campground Resort near Chaffey’s Lock was to be the subject of a virtual public meeting in the Township of South Frontenac Tues., Sept. 20.
Skycroft owner David Hilhorst is seeking permission to expand the 64-year-old campground by adding approximately 30 cabins, 29 transient trailer sites and 90 park model trailer sites in addition to the existing 75 to 80 sites.
The Chaffey’s Area Lakes Association (CALA) heard more details of the proposed expansion at their annual general meeting Sept. 3 at the Chaffey’s Lock Community Hall.
“Currently South Frontenac Township caps its campgrounds at 50 sites, but a recent count of sites on this campground is 79 sites. Therefore, a number of sites have already been added, above the approved 50 sites, at some point,” CALA said in a press release.
CALA was concerned that cottagers received notice of the proposal late in the summer, leaving a short time frame to examine the proposal and send feedback to council.
Once the public process and appeal period are taken into account, a vote by council is unlikely until after Oct, 24 municipal elections.
“This group of cottagers have dealt with a similar proposal from Skycroft five years before, but the plan was tabled due to widespread opposition. They had hoped it was finished,” the CALA release said.
Skycroft owner Hilhorst was looking for public support for his application and has been happy with the feedback.
“I and many other parks like me fully understand the frustration that many of you have, where there is simply nothing available.
“Many parks like myself have applied for permits to expand to make more spaces available but are held back by your local municipalities.
“We need people like you to write letters, send emails and share your voice with your local municipalities to show them camping is needed, that space is needed, and that you really care,” he wrote in a post this summer.
“The municipality needs to hear from people who have positive experiences and enjoy the camping industry.
“False negativity seems to overshadow this, making it one-sided. All the municipality hears is from people opposed, making claims: all they bring are parties, garbage, they don’t belong, they hurt the environment, they are disrespectful, they destroy, they don’t own the property and don’t care, don’t pay their taxes.
“We know just as well as you that is simply not true, actually the complete opposite,” he wrote.
For their part, CALA is not satisfied a full environmental study has been conducted. The Queens Biological Station borders the property, and they have expressed concerns as well.
“The beach area cannot be expanded therefore, more people will be funneled into the same space – noise, garbage, boats, and wakes, will be added to an already busy site. It isn’t just the cottagers and residents that neighbour with Skycroft that will be affected. The rest of the lake will see the increase of boating, wakes and noise as well,” CALA said in the press release.
Other concerns are a lack of current in what is among shallowest parts of the lake, further stress on the fish population and road traffic on Opinicon Road and through Chaffey’s Lock will increase. Chaffey’s is already a bottleneck for traffic during the summer but made worse by this proposal.
“This whole proposal has not been given time to work out all aspects of the change that would come about if it were approved.
“CALA is most concerned that allowing the size of campgrounds to grow without full due diligence, at a time when we are facing the biggest environmental challenges in history, would be a huge precedent moving in the wrong direction.
“Skycroft Campground is currently a lovely spot for campers to visit and enjoy Opinicon Lake, and all of its’ natural settings and wildlife, that cottagers and residents also enjoy. Turning it into a big business in a quiet rural area where our environment is protected, would be a huge mistake.
“CALA takes the position that there is no room for compromise with this proposal until an independent peer review confirms that there will be no negative impact on the environment,” the release said.