The Hiawatha Highlands and Proposed Golf Course Facility
Last updated: Mar 16, 2000

This page chronicles the events surrounding the Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority exploring the possibility of leasing land for a public golf course facility in the Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area.

A list of contacts and organizations involved is listed at the bottom of the page.

October 1999
The Conservation Authority placed advertisements in The Sault Star, the Globe and Mail and the National Post calling for formal expressions of interest to lease land and develop a public golf course in the Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area. A total of 355 acres is available for lease and the deadline for submitting a proposal is Nov. 30, 1999. Prior to posting the ads, the Conservation Authority was approached informally by three separate entrepreneurs.

November 1999
Two letters to the editor were published in The Sault Star voicing strong concern against the idea of developing the conservation land for a golf course. Some of the concerns expressed were: loss of Lookout ski trail system and part of Red Pine ski trail; loss of hiking and biking trails in summer; the use of pesticides and fertilizers; and the loss of many of the trees.

November 12, 1999
An article was published in The Sault Star with a map of the area affected. The majority of the land for the proposed golf site is located north of Fifth Line and south of Mockingbird Hill Farm and surrounds the Lookout Ski Trail system (Pinder Trail), the Sugar Bush and the Conservation Authority office. The smaller potion of land is located south of Fifth Line, encompassing half of the Red Pine Ski Trail, and a 42.84 acre parcel of land east of Landslide Road and south of the ski hill.

According to the Conservation Authority, leasing property in the Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area would give the Authority a say in the development of the land, ensure public use, generate money for the authority and ensure environmentally friendly projects.

According to the article in The Sault Star, any proposal would have to meet the criteria that includes:

According to Linda Whalen, secretary-manager of the Sault Ste Marie Region Conservation Authority, if the board decides to proceed with one of the formal proposals, a public hearing process will begin. The estimated time line includes a public hearing and consultation by mid January, followed by a selection of the final list of proposed operations by mid February. A draft set of terms and conditions is expected to be prepared by mid May with the finalizing of the proposal and approval by MNR by mid August.

Under the city's planning and master plan, the majority of the 355 acres is zoned recreational with a small portion zoned rural. According to Joe Sniezek, the city's manager of long-range planning, both zonings allow for a golf course.

November 29, 1999
In an article published in The Sault Star on Nov. 29, the Friends of Hiawatha Highlands see potential problems with the proposed development of a golf course on conservation authority property. The Friends of Hiawatha Highlands is a citizens group concerned with the environmental impact of developing the area at the north end of the city. Their press release stated, "We are concerned that the development and long-term maintenance of a golf course in the Hiawatha Highlands could have a significant impact on the quality of the water and on the quantity of water available to the Tarentorus Fish Hatchery". Spokesperson Leslie Uhlig also voiced concern about the quality of the cross-country ski trails if a golf course is developed on the land. "With fewer trees, that means more sunlight on the area and that, in turn, changes the snow and leaves it more crusty instead of powdery." The group is also concerned about the potential loss of hiking and biking trails in the summer. The area in question is by far the most utilized area of the conservation lands, according to the group. It's used by hikers, cyclists and skiers.

December 2, 1999
According to a Sault Star article published on Dec 2, the Sault Ste Marie Region Conservation Authority received three proposals from developers wanting to lease property in the Hiawatha Conservation Area. The deadline for proposals was Nov. 30. Linda Whalen, secretary-manager of the conservation authority, would not say where the developers are from or if the proposals deal strictly with a golf course facility or other recreational project. The Conservation Authority board is expected to discuss the proposals and next steps at its Dec. 14 monthly board meeting.

December 5, 1999
Open letter from the Friends of Hiawatha opposing the proposed golf course and asking for people to contact the Conservation Authority (and others) in writing with their concerns.

December 9, 1999
According to a Sault Star article, the Sault Ste Marie Region Conservation Authority has approved, in principle, entering into discussion with a developer to create a golf course on authority property. A public information session has been scheduled for Jan 18, 2000 to discuss the proposal and listen to feedback. The location of the information has not been disclosed yet by the authority nor have they indicated whether the public will have access to the proposal prior to the information session. The authority has not released the name of the developer but has said that the developer has selected a location that does not involve the Red Pine or Lookout (Pinder) ski trails.

December 10, 1999
The following speculation is based upon the only information released to date. If the developer is proposing to construct the golf course within the Hiawatha Highlands Conservation Area and not interfere with the existing ski trails, then the only option would appear to be a location east of the Kinsmen Park property. The authority owns a large parcel of land that stretches as far east as Mabel Lake and north to Crystal Lake and includes the Olympic Loop of the Crystal Creek ski trail and the Mabel Lake ski trail. If the developer has selected land outside the Hiawatha Highlands area, then the only parcel of conservation authority land large enough to contain an 18 hole golf course would appear to be the Shore Ridges Conservation Area which is located in the far west end of the city at the junction of Sunnyside Beach Road and Walls Road. Shore Ridges is approximately 1,100 acres. The Superior View 9 hole golf course is located very near the area and may actually border on the authority property.

January 14, 2000
In an article in the Sault Star, it was announced that the promised information session will be held on Tuesday, Jan 18 in the Algoma Board Room in the Civic Centre starting at 7:00 pm. The Sault Ste Marie Region Conservation Authority described the meeting as an opportunity to exchange information and concerns. The authority has still not announced the location of the proposed golf course facility nor have they announced the selected developers. Even though we live in the information age, it apears it is still necessary to appear in person to gather information.

January 18, 2000
Approximmately 100 people attended the information meeting at the Civic Center. Another meeting was also held earlier in the afternoon but was only open to invited groups that use the area in question. Ernie Gulyas, Chair of the Conservation Authority opened the meeting with some remarks about the intended project and introduced the representative from Yenway, the corporation with which they have entered a memorandum of understading. Yenway operates three golf courses in the Sudbury area. One course, Timberwolf, was developed by them on land leased from the Sudbury Conservation Authority. Yenway has hired Dillon Consulting to ensure all measures are taken to protect the environment of the area.

The bulk for the land ear marked for development is located adjacent and to the east of Kinmen Park property along with a small strip of land between the Kinsmen property and Connor Road. The land encompases all of the Olympic Ski Trail and part of the Crystal Creek Trail.

After the presentations, the meeting was open for questions and comments. Most of the people at the meeting were against the idea of a golf course in the area and some spoke out in favour. Many people voiced envonmental conserns and also with the process used by the Authority in accepting proposals. One of the main issues discussed was the budget cuts experienced by the Authority during the last few years. The budget is currently at $261,000 from a high of $451,000 in 1995. The authority is currently only funded by goverment to administer and maintain flood control and flood warnings. Due to budget cuts, their recreational programs have been cut. A request was made to have their budgets from the last couple of years posted to their web site so that everyone can gain a better understanding of the issues and amount.

March 16, 2000
The Friends of Hiawatha Highlands (FOHH) is hosting an open public forum on the Sustainability of the Sault Ste Marie Region Conservation Authority on Tuesday, March 21, 2000 at 7:00 pm in the Algoma Board Room of the Sault Ste Marie Civic Center. The open forum is an attempt to help the Conservation Authority come up with alternatives that are environmentally and financially sound for the Hiawatha Highlands.

The forum will begin with a short presentation by FOHH. Then the forum will be divided into smaller working groups. Each group will include one trained facilitator to lead the group as a whole. The idea will be to get people involved in brainstorming ideas that would serve to generate sufficient funds to revitalize the Conservation Authority's financial health in an environmentally sustainable manner. After each group will present their results and the forum as a whole can comment, amend and provide further input to the ideas. Hopefully some solid, tangible strategies can be developed.

For more information on the FOHH or the public forum, please contact them at fohh@hotmail.com or call Andrea Welz at 942-3119.


Contacts

Sault Ste Marie Region Conservation Authority
E-mail: ssmrca@soonet.ca
Chair: Ernie Gulyas
Vice-Chair: Dave Edgar
Board Members:
Charlie Swift, City Councillor for Ward 1, Phone & Fax 759-1031, E-mail: swiftc@soonet.ca
Peter Vaudry, City Councillor for Ward 6, Phone 254-4638, Fax 254-2479
Staff:
Secretary-Manager: Linda Whalen, Phone 945-8530, Fax 946-8533
Technical Assistant: Andy Cairns
Field Supervisor: Jerry Boyle
Assistant Field supervisor: Ron Chapman

Sault Trails and Recreation Inc.
PO Box 580, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario P6A 5N1
Hiawatha Lodge II office 945-6444, 800-361-1522
Deane Greenwood, Manager
Scott Jones, Chair of the Board
The STAR board has representatives from the following four groups:
Kinsmen Club of Sault Ste Marie, Sault Ste Marie Region Conservation Authority, City of Sault Ste. Marie and Soo Finnish Nordic Ski Club

Sault Ste Marie's Community Services Department - 759-5310

Contact information (phone, fax and email) for Sault Ste Marie's Mayor and Councillors