The Blue Mountains council will not forgive a bill three hikers received earlier this year after becoming stranded at Metcalfe Rock.
At its committee of the whole meeting on September 27, council received a follow-up report from CAO Shawn Everitt about the hiking mishap. In April, three young hikers were stranded at Metcalfe Rock, a remote hiking trail in The Blue Mountains, and eventually had to be rescued by emergency personnel.
After the rescue, the hikers were presented a bill of more than $5,000 ($1,700 each) for the rescue operation. The town’s fire chief later reduced the amount each hiker owed to $930.
The hikers, Taya Eisses, Jenna Veenstra and Mary Grace Kloosterman, attended council’s meeting on Aug. 29 and requested the bill be forgiven by the town.
In his report, Everitt confirmed the details of the incident. The CAO said the hikers had become stranded on a ledge and firefighters needed a 24-foot ladder to get them down. The hiking trail they were on is owned by the provincial government and is not town land. The hikers were not on the marked trail section of the property when they were rescued. Signage at the parking lot advises users to stay on established trails when hiking.
“It was definitely a rescue, there was no other way,” said Everitt. “They were lucky, I stress lucky, that they found a ledge. There was no going up and no going down.”
The CAO noted that in advance of the report coming to committee of the whole, he had contacted the individuals involved to advise them that the report was being presented to council. He said the town did not hear back from them.
Members of council were not interested in reducing the $930 each hiker owes the town for the rescue costs, but supported giving the hikers plenty of time to pay the bill.
Mayor Alar Soever suggested a nine-month payment plan.
“This is a very serious thing. When I look at where they were, they’re extremely lucky they’re just paying money,” said Soever. “There is a price to pay and there should be a learning experience here.”
The town also plans to correspond with the provincial government about including additional signage with stronger warnings about the dangers of leaving established trails on the property.