The North Hatley Recreational Society suspends its activities at the beach this summer
The Municipality of North Hatley has agreed to take over and to manage the activities at the beach.
It is with regret that the members of the Board of Directors of the North Hatley Recreational Society took the decision, on April 11, to reject unanimously the Municipality’s conditions that were imposed concerning its summer activities. See below (Context leading to the decision to suspend the NHRS activities).
Because of this refusal, it will suspend all of its activities for the summer and winter periods during the year 2018-2019.
Therefore, we invite our members to disregard the activities described in the previous email.
The NHRS will continue its mission of promoting recreational activities in the community
The NHRS Board of Directors wishes to confirm that, despite this decision to suspend its activities, it intends to pursue with as much energy and enthusiasm as before its mission to contribute to the accessibility of recreational activities to all families of the region.
The Municipality of North Hatley will take over
The terms and conditions of the activities that will be offered at the beach have not yet been established, but the Municipality of North Hatley will - in all likelihood - take over.
We invite our members who wish to obtain more information to communicate directly with the municipality, see:
Context leading to the decision to suspend the NHRS activities
Mission of the NHRS: offer recreational activities to the whole community
For more than 50 years, the NHRS has offered high-quality, safe and low-cost recreational activities for families living in the region. Among those activities, we find:
• Summer: beach surveillance, swimming lessons, sailing lessons, tennis lessons, golf lessons, special activities on Fridays for children, table tennis, foosball, volleyball courts, board games, reading area and access to tennis courts, etc.
• Winter: the skating rink and skating area in North Hatley Park.
Funding for NHRS activities: the product of volunteers and donations from all over the region
In order to finance its activities and to ensure a large access at a low cost, the NHRS organizes fundraising activities, such as breakfasts, i.e. the Mother's Day race, the Antic Show, dance-mechoui and garage sale. The success of these activities rests on the participation of more than 70 volunteers from all municipalities in the region. Thanks to them and the contributions of generous donors, the SRNH has raised more than $ 150,000 since 2012, which has been fully reinvested in the community.
In fact, these funds have been able to offer, year after year, quality services at a moderate cost and to finance the purchase of, among other things, tennis courts ($ 60,000), sailing boats (more than 20,000 $), to help renovate the cottage on the beach (over $ 40,000), and sports equipment (i.e. ping pong tables, zodiac boat, zamboni, etc.). Of this amount, more than $ 100,000 directly benefited the Municipality of North Hatley in the form of donations for renovations of their beach house.
The subject of disagreement: the memorandum of understanding imposed by the municipality
Since 2017, the summer activities of the NHRS are the object of a memorandum of understanding with the owner of the beach, the municipality of North Hatley, in which the terms of the services offered by each party are laid down.
At the time of its renewal, the municipality has decided to modify the initial agreement by introducing new conditions that it expressly described as "non-negotiable". Given that these conditions are contrary to the NHRS’ mission and to the interest of its members, the board of directors had no choice but to reject the proposal and suspend its activities for the current year.
Among the conditions imposed by the municipality that following have been firmly rejected by the NHRS:
1) Substantial increase in pricing for non-residents of North Hatley from $ 200 to $ 300:
NHRS’s refusal rest on the fact that the fees for non-residents have recently been increased (from $ 120 to $ 200) and that an additional increase was likely to restrict access to activities for low-income families, which goes against the mission of the NHRS.
2) Free access to the beach for North Hatley residents without a financial compensation from the municipality:
The municipality insists that North Hatley residents be granted free access to the beach, therefore preventing the NHRS of imposing entrance and registration fees for its services.
As a result of this measure, it is estimated that the NHRS would lose approximately $ 8,000, without any financial compensation by the municipality.
Residents of North Hatley already benefit from a different rate for the registration fees ($ 120 for a family instead of $ 200 for non-residents; free entrance for senior (60 and over) and their contribution, like that of other members, is essential to cover the costs of the activities offered by the NHRS.
In order to compensate for the shortfall caused by this measure, it would have been necessary to substantially increase the fees imposed on other non-resident members, which is highly unfair and goes against the mission of the NHRS.
3) Increased hours of beach monitoring without compensation from the municipality
The municipality has requested that the hours of operation at the beach be increased by one hour, without offering a financial compensation. The estimated costs associated to this obligation would be of $ 2,000.
4) Closing of the beach gates
Since last year, the municipality has decided to limit the access to the beach by locking the gate after service hours.
In the memorandum of understanding, the municipality wanted to impose on the NHRS the obligation to close the gates when the lifegard services would end. The NHRS submitted that it could not comply with this obligation for the following reasons:
• There is no legal obligation to close public beaches outside monitoring hours;
• On the contrary, the NHRS obtained a legal opinion, that was communicated to the municipality, in which Me Nathalie Vézina suggested caution with regards to such a practice.
According to Me Vézina, an expert in the law of extra-contractual liability, foreclosure at a time when the temptation for users to access the water is clearly foreseeable. To close the gates under those circumstances could even be likely to increase the risks that the municipality be held responsible for accidents or drowning. Indeed, the risks of accidents and drowning are increased if users who wish to access the beach or water attempt to access it by other means. In addition, if an accident were to occur, access to the victim would be hindered by the presence of a locked gate. The same applies to the intervention of first responders, for example firefighters and ambulances, that would be called on the spot.
In the absence of legal advice to the contrary, the NHRS could not accept to expose itself to civil liability by locking the gates.
Moreover, the NHRS is deeply concerned about the impact of the closure of the beach outside the monitoring periods, especially during the months of May, June and September, where the good weather would make it possible to enjoy Lake Massawippi. Preventing access to one of the few public beaches is, according to the NHRS, a decline in the quality of life of residents of the region.
For all of these reasons, it is with regret that the members of the Board of Directors of the NHRS decided to reject the requirements imposed by the municipality during the renewal of the memorandum of understanding. The NHRS proposed that the initial agreement be renewed for a further year and that a bipartite committee be created to reflect on the services offered at the beach, but the municipality's management categorically rejected this counter-proposal, pushing the NHRS to make the decision to suspend its activities.