Billings seeks to close smelt season this year

BILLINGS—In an emergency meeting held on Monday, March 30, Township of Billings council took strong measures seeking to discourage the annual influx of people travelling to Manitoulin, and specifically the popular Kagawong River, in order to fish for smelts. Council also closed all municipal parks and trails (including the dog park), parking lots associated with Bridal Veil Falls and playgrounds. To be clear, this is not an April Fool’s Day prank.

In unanimous decisions taken during the second council meeting to be held online, council proceeded to shut down access to both sides of the Kagawong River and the bridge spanning that waterway.

Throughout the meeting, which suffered some technical challenges that the council soldiered through with the assistance of staff, each councillor stressed that the actions being taken were not being put forward in order to “spoil anyone’s fun,’ but rather being engaged in order to protect the safety of residents, visitors and municipal staff.

Further, council will be asking other jurisdictions with access to the smelt run to also shut down access to those streams

The council also intends to place advertisements in off-Island and local media pleading with those thinking of coming to Manitoulin, either for the smelt run or as a refuge from the pandemic in urban centres not do so.

Further, at the behest of M’Chigeeng Chief Linda Debassige, council will seek the support of other municipalities to request that Destination Manitoulin Island not proceed with its marketing campaign to encourage people to travel to the Island this year.

Council heard from the town’s bylaw officer on the enforcement of the provincial ban on gatherings of more than five people and the extension of authority to enforce that ban and other emergency measures to the municipal bylaw officers. The emphasis will be on “friendly encouragement” as a first resort, but the option of issuing tickets will be the stick held in reserve should compliance not be forthcoming.

Council exhorted the bylaw officer to maintain social distancing as much as possible and to keep himself safe.