Few would think of an old bungalow on a busy road as a part of the history of West Garafraxa township. For many years, it was the summer time mecca for tiger tail ice cream cones and french fries after getting wet in the splash pool next door.
We speak, of course, about the restaurant on the south side of Lake Belwood closest to Shand Dam. In a short period of time, the recently boarded up local eatery was reduced to a distant memory. If not for a construction fence and some fresh dirt, people driving by might not know something was once there.
It had been closed for months after the Grand River Conservation Authority lost yet another tenant.
As is the case for many eateries on roadsides across Ontario, increasing regulations and standards can often be the final straw.
Typically those kinds of restaurants run on fairly low margins. Many diners do not have the advantage of hooking into municipal services, aggravating officials at other ministries insistent on regularly tested water and properly handled sewage. The same circumstances are faced by the GRCA at its parks across the county where formal communal services of some sort were needed after the Walkerton water crisis.
As the accessibility rules kick into full swing for government entities like the GRCA, further pressure will be placed on those bodies to rent facilities or insist on facilities that are wholly accessible.
That could make many old time arrangements like the little restaurant at Shand Dam basically redundant.
For the GRCA to decide now to limit its exposure to liability in the future is no great surprise. Estimates can easily be massaged to nix anything, but we figure the outlook penned by staff for consideration by the board was on the mark.
What concerns us is that in the rush to govern or make wise choices it is very easy to base decisions on liability, future costs and the like. It is worth noting that the property tax savings after demolition factored into the decision. How about governing based on a longer-term view?
Perhaps the dynamics have changed, but we see opportunities for business owners that may wish to cater to the recreational crowd. Snowmobile meets, trail users, hikers, extreme cyclists and even Sunday drivers could thoroughly enjoy stopping at the Shand or Conestogo Lake.
Elora and Rockwood conservation areas benefit from close proximity to town, making the need for on-site facilities to cater to the travelling public less critical.
It seems to us there is a cultural shift taking place where we are eliminating chances for the little guy to work hard and prosper – or at least make a living doing something he finds enjoyable.