Cup and Saucer fate hangs in the balance as MTA changes focus

NORTHEAST TOWN—The Northeast Town council has declined to take over the “lead responsibility” of the Cup and Saucer Trail after reviewing a request from the Manitoulin Tourism Association (MTA) to take over the care of the iconic trail.

“An important element of the new strategy of the MTA is to increase efforts and resources to draw people to the Island,” states a letter to council from MTA President Ron Berti and Director of Operations Shelba Millette. “This requires an outward focus and the development of far reaching arms and initiatives. Like all organizations, there is a limit to our capacity so we must choose carefully where we place our energies and resources.”

“Counterproductive to this outward looking focus are ongoing responsibilities that pull our attention back in the opposite direction–one such situation is the responsibility for the management of attractions like the Cup and Saucer Trail. While we whole heartedly recognize the importance of this site, Islanders may be better served if this responsibility was transferred to a steward with more direct and local connection and vested interest. We respectfully ask the mayor and council of the Northeast Town to consider assuming the lead responsibility for the Cup and Saucer Trail and all it entails.”

Although the importance of the trail was recognized by council, motions to defer the decision or to assume the responsibility were both defeated.

“This could be a big cost to take on,” said Councillor Bill Koehler. “Maintenance, cleaning, garbage etc.

I don’t want us to take on more than we can chew. Maybe we should see if Central Manitoulin might want to take this on with us?”

“This is a big tourist attraction to the Northeast Town and the Island as a whole,” said Councillor Mike Erskine. “It is vitally important. I find the whole thing baffling that the organization in charge of attracting tourists doesn’t want the responsibility anymore. Either way, this is not something we should make a rash decision about. Perhaps we should see how Central Manitoulin feels. If one group doesn’t want to do it, maybe we should explore other municipalities. I would really like to defer this decision until we talk to other municipalities such as Central Manitoulin.”

“This affects all the municipalities,” said Councillor Dawn Orr. “The trail is a big draw.”

“The Lewis Trail in Sheguiandah is quite expensive to maintain,” added Councillor Christina Jones. “Just the Northeast Town paying is going to be pretty expensive.”

“We need to talk to others and also the MTA to see what they are going to do if we don’t (take over responsibility),” said Councillor Melissa Peters.

A recorded vote on a motion to defer the decision of assuming responsibility of the trail was defeated due to a tied vote.

“Council is moving forward on something that they have no clue about,” said Councillor Peters, referring to its decision to not defer the decision until finding out more information and speaking with other municipalities.

“I want a retraction from Councillor Peters,” inserted Councillor Koehler, adding that he was insulted.

“I will apologize,” responded Councillor Peters. “My comment was not meant to be an insult to anyone.”

A second motion was put on the table to “support the request put forth by the Manitoulin Tourism Association for the town to assume the lead responsibility of the Cup and Saucer Trail effective January 1, 2015.”

In a recorded vote the motion was defeated by Councillors Christina Jones, Bill Koehler, Dawn Orr, Paul Skippen, Bruce Wood and Deputy Mayor Marcel Gauthier. Councillors Michael Erskine and Melissa Peters voted in favour of the motion.

Following the decision, The Expositor contacted Central Manitoulin Mayor Gerry Strong.

“I had not heard that the MTA was asking the Northeast Town to take over the trail,” Mayor Strong responded to The Expositor’s inquiry. “I can’t say what (Central Manitoulin) council would decide, but I’m sure we would at least explore taking it over with the Northeast Town if we were asked.”

Mr. Berti was unavailable as of press time Monday for comment.