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Royalty comes to dock at Penetanguishene

'We're disappointed that they chose to go to Penetanguishene as opposed to Midland,' says Midland mayor, 'considering the support council put toward accommodating the facilities down there for their vessel'
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Co-owners David Scoffield, left, and Wade Plewes are pictured on the Island Princess at its current Orillia location.

Penetanguishene is opening up its waters to boat tours aboard the Island Princess. 

Georgian Shores Boat Tours, the company that now owns the boat, was at a council meeting this week.

Southern Georgian Bay Chamber of Commerce general manager Cathy Tait made the case for two of the three attending boat owners, Dave Schofield and Wade Plewes. Missing was Jerry Hogenhout, a Toronto-based accountant.

The proposal to run boat tours from Penetang's dock was welcomed by all around the table, but Coun. Debbie Levy expressed some concerns later during the committee of the whole meeting, during which a staff report was discussed.

"I'm absolutely delighted," she said to Schofield and Plewes during the council presentation. "These guys are great; their product is great. Their new product brought to our town dock is such a success story for them and hopefully for us, too. I'm so delighted."

But she wasn't entirely sure about the role the chamber was set to play.

In her presentation, Tait said the chamber's primary role would be to sell tickets (also available online) and promote the Island Princess cruise.

"We are in the process of hiring a full-time person who will begin in June and will work out of the information office at the Town of Penetanguishene dock," she added. "This staff person will also be promoting other attractions, restaurants, members of the chamber of commerce and other things to do in the region." 

That's what stood out to Levy.

"My concern is the (Southern) Georgian Bay Chamber of Commerce proposal that there will be a full-time person in our tourist information centre office to sell tickets," she said, during the committee discussion. "First of all, tickets will be sold online and secondly, it's funded by the taxpayer's money, do we really want this chamber of commerce promoting all businesses all over the place? I'd like to hear what others have to say."

Sherry Desjardins, director of recreation and community services, said the draft agreement outlined options for the tour company to place a separate kiosk on the wharf or utilize the information centre during its current operating hours.

"That has been put out to them, but I have not since had an opportunity to discuss where their head is at," she said. "The intent was also to provide flexibility of the potential for how the kiosk could move around based on things transpire at the wharf. The concept of the chamber of commerce operating there full-time was new to me tonight, so that will warrant further discussion with the chamber."

Staff was asked to discuss that aspect of the agreement with the boat tour operator and bring back a report. 

After the council meeting presentation, Coun. Michel Mayotte asked how far out into the waters would the boat be going?

Schofield said he would defer that to the expertise of the captain.

"He was also the captain of Miss Midland," said Schofield. "Part of the reason we love Penetang is the waters work very well. The boat being a bit wider, we don't want to go in the larger waters. The length of cruises will be an hour and half to two-and-a-half hours or longer, so there are lots of waterways that can work for any type of length of journey."

Before making its way to berth at the Penetanguishene dock, for a quick second, the Island Princess was set to dock in Midland after moving from its long-time Orillia location.

Mayor Stewart Strathearn said it was the enterprise's right to make the best decision for its business.

"Clearly, we're disappointed that they chose to go to Penetanguishene as opposed to Midland," he said, adding, "considering the support council put toward accommodating the facilities down there for their vessel. At the end of the day, they need to decide based on what they think is best for their business."

Strathearn said Midland is open for business for other boat tour companies that may be looking for opportunities to cruise Georgian Bay.

"We do have the facilities to house various sized vessels," he said, adding at least two (600-foot) cruise ships are coming to Midland next year and there may be a third vessel as well.

"That just falls in line with the Great Lakes cruising business plan put together by eight participating municipalities to look at reinvigorating the cruising industry on the Great Lakes."

Mehreen Shahid

About the Author: Mehreen Shahid

Mehreen Shahid covers municipal issues in Cambridge
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