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With the change in operation of Big Sound Marina there has been a change in the marina’s policies. The one that sticks out for me is the establishment of a charge for day dockage at Big Sound Marina. According to their website it will now cost $15 to dock for any period of time between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm. After 6:00 pm it may be that temporary dockage is only available at the overnight dockage rate, $1.75 per foot, or about $30 for a 17-foot boat; typical of what a cottager might own.

I am struck by the irony of the situation. The prospect of any charge for parking on Bay Street in the Town Dock area, even if it was only a buck or two, was met with hostility by the business community and caused Council to beat a hasty retreat. The charge for parking meters would have only applied to between about 8:00 and 6:00 on weekdays. Evenings and weekends would have been free. But here we have a new ‘parking charge’ for boating visitors to Parry Sound, that’s 24×7. Day dockage at the Big Sound Marina has been free until this year.

My sense is that it will mainly impact the cottagers and day boaters who want to come into Parry Sound for lunch, to shop for groceries, or attend an event at the Stockey Centre. Does it make sense to come to Parry Sound for lunch or dinner if the ‘cover charge’ is $15 (plus HST?). I don’t know, but if business people felt a $1.00 parking charge was likely to keep people away, I suspect a $16.95 (with HST) charge won’t act as a ‘welcome’ sign.

So what are the options for boaters wanting to visit Parry Sound for the day? Well they can pay the day dockage fee at Big Sound marina and just get over it. I understand there are a couple of free unmarked Town day dockage spots located up past where the Chippewa III is docked. But I can’t easily locate them. There are also private docks in that area, so confusion will reign unless they are properly marked. And will By-Law enforce any type of time limit? With two spaces the ‘early boater’ will ‘get the spot’.

What about the boater who wants to come in for dinner or a show at the Stockey Centre, especially an evening Festival of the Sound concert where there is light in the sky until late ? There is no provision for evening dockage at Big Sound Marina. Or does that imply overnight rates apply for evening dockage?

It’s probably possible to get paid day dockage at one of the two marinas in the harbor. It might even be free with a fuel purchase or pump out, but neither are a short walk to the waterfront and restaurants.

Making money with the marina will be tough, and all avenues need to be explored. The Parry Sound Chamber of Commerce was able to do little more than break even for the years they operated the marina based on the terms offered by the Town.

The issue is with the Town trying to squeeze out as much money, actually avoid any net cost, with Big Sound Marina. The Town of Parry Sound subsidizes the Stockey Centre and the Bobby Orr Community Centre to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, but feels they need, at the very worst, to break even with Big Sound Marina. The Town previously announced that Big Sound Marina would accept seasonal dockage in competition with local marinas to increase revenue. And this is for a facility that is government built and not subject to the same overhead demands (mortgage, property taxes, etc.) as private marinas.

Penny-wise and pound-foolish? I suspect that the day dockage charge will leave a bad taste in the mouth of many and reduce the amount of boat traffic to Parry Sound. It’s one thing to build a new facility and charge for use, and something quite different to start charging for something that previously was free, especially if it’s a government facility. The impact most likely will be felt by restaurants, shops and Stockey Centre events. But what the heck, the Town’s budget will be spared. The Town just needs to reach a little deeper into the pockets of the Town’s businesses to balance the Town’s budget and limit tax rate increases on residential properties.

In the face of opposition to parking meters on Bay Street the town backed down, even though parking meters represented a very attractive return on investment. Perhaps the Town should look at compensating the operators of Big Sound Marina for permitting free day dockage. It would cost a little bit, but not nearly as much as the Town lost by foregoing parking meters on Bay Street.

I have no issue with the new management at Big Sound Marina; they are just trying to keep their heads above water. The Town needs to decide if treating Big Sound Marina as a profit centre really makes sense.

Full House (Parry Sound in Black & White)

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