The Blanchard Landing boat launch and dock on Lake Talon doesn’t reflect the beauty of the Mattawa River Provincial Park.
No longer a floating dock, it leans to the one side available for a single vessel to tie up and would present a challenge to someone using a wheelchair.
“We're of the view that it's actually somewhat hazardous,” said Brian Baker, president of the Lake Talon Conservation Association. “So when the water is high … one corner sinks down and people are kind of not thrown into the water, but they start to scramble.”
Baker said they’ve complained to Ontario Parks about its condition, as well as the difficulty sometimes launch boats due to high levels of silt building up. But they’ve been told it’s been inspected and considered safe.
Even though it’s considered a “none-operating park” and isn’t far west of Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park, Baker said residents of all the surrounding townships and North Bay consider it a valuable asset.
“This is an amazing lake here, so close to North Bay,’ he said. “It's so historic. When you go back through the centuries … everybody really passed through the Talon Chutes Portage here going west … First Nations people, and of course, Champlain, Radison … all the explorers had to come through here. So that's quite exciting when you can actually walk in their footsteps at the chutes.”
The association, which has about 130 members and celebrates its 30th anniversary next year, has tried in the past to get the launch improved but didn’t have any luck.
About 20 years ago, there was a large “government dock” at the site. A long crib of rock that served as the anchor landing remains, although it is now overgrown with vegetation. It fell victim to the national divestiture axe swung by the Department of Fisheries’ small craft and harbours division.
“And all they left was … this floating dock, which unfortunately doesn't float anymore. It's really past its useful life,” Baker said, describing the association’s most recent effort to do something about it.
“About three or four years ago, we tried to get everybody together: Mattawa-Bonfield, Economic Development Corporation, Ontario Parks, Calvin Township, Bonfield Township,” he said. “I thought we were really getting some good momentum behind that, trying to do a funding application to either the federal people or the provincial or both.”
Baker said it just wasn’t a big enough priority.
“We never did get a grant application submitted and our association was willing to put some money into it if we could get a grant. So here we are left with this,” he said, shaking his head about how Ontario Parks thinks it’s safe.
“I know we get a lot of complaints from people that come here with their boat and can't launch it because of the siltation and the poor dock.
“We're kind of stuck here right now. We haven't got the resources to fund it ourselves. And we wouldn't want to,” Baker said.
“We feel it's a public access to the Mattawa River Provincial Park … one of the main accesses of only three. So we're going to try to mobilize again, but somebody else is going to have to take a bit of a stronger role.”
Baker said they won’t get their hopes up knowing the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic economy, although it’s not something that’s going to get any better on its own.
“With these days of fiscal restraint, it's tough to get funding. So I'm sure it's going to be like everything else, it'll fail or whatever. And then they will finally say, ‘I guess the time is here.’”
Editor's Note: An email query for comment was sent to Ontario Parks for comment and this story will be updated when more information is available.