The WaterCross event is coming back to town.
Co-founders Jason Bidan and his wife, Kelly Bidan, said they took a two-year hiatus to restructure both the organization and the event and to address noise complaints made by residents.
"The organization changed its structure to a non-profit," said Jason Bidan, co-founder of the Ontario WaterCross Racing Association and the WaterCross event in Midland.
"Our biggest complaints were noise-related, so we changed our rules to make it more compliant."
Bidan said it is now mandatory for racers to use a minimum of a 6-inch muffler system, which is expected to reduce noise. By how much would depend on every machine, he said.
He said they wanted the event to have more structure, with a formal board of directors, "instead of being a mom and pop shop that we were before."
At a recent meeting, coucillors voted to bring back the event to town.
All were in favour, except for Coun. Jonathan Main.
"We have tried to find other places, but they need shallow water bodies and Little Lake suits that," said Main. "We hope they take care of the noise problems, but I won’t be able to support it at this time."
Noise was also a concern for Coun. Bill Gordon, but he voted in favour of it.
"I’m going to support this because it’s for Little Lake Park - it’s tourism, it’s money and it’s awareness for our community," he said. "I hope the inclusion of the muffler system will mitigate the noise problems for people in the area."
Gordon said it’s fair to ask them to find a way to mitigate the noise.
"If we’re down to only a few people that complain about it, then I might be able to accept that," he said. "If we still have a litany of complaints coming in, then we need to have a conversation with the event organizers to have a different solution."
Further addressing the noise concerns, Bidan said, the organization has changed rules so that there is no noise made before 8:30 a.m.
"The guys aren’t allowed to even start up their snowmobiles before then," he said. "And there is no noise to be made after 4:30 p.m."
The other matters of concerns were around the possible pollution of the lake's water. Bidan addressed those, too.
"We’ve been working closely with the Severn Sound Environmental Association (SSEA) since 2015," he said. "We have done extensive water testing in Little Lake Water Park the weeks before, during, and after the event to make sure there is no pollution. We’re using biodegradable oils and our fuel system has to have a one-way valve, which allows the water to go into the gas tank but doesn’t allow the gas to come back out.
"We’re not just in compliance, we work with them to keep track of the water’s health," said Bidan.
As for wanting to bring back the event to Midland, he said, being from Penetanguishene, it holds a special significance to him to be able to bring it back to area.
"Really, it’s all about trying to bring family together to enjoy the event," said Bidan. "It’s neat to see the family orientation and how everybody comes together to that event. How often do you see 16-year-old boys hanging out with their dads and grandparents?"
At the last event, he said, there were 80 racers and about 1,000 spectators. That encourages tourism in the area.
"I’m a racer myself, and when we go away, we stay at local hotels or pay for camping there," said Bidan. "We buy our food, gas, groceries locally, so that brings in money. We bring in quite a few people from out of town."
There are no exact numbers to support the economic impact of the event in the area, said Mayor Stewart Stratheran, adding, "I understand it brought out from people all over north America, and those people stay in the restaurants and they eat the food here and they get gas here."
In her report to council, Nicole Major, Tourism and Special Events Manager, described the event as being a unique event that will draw people of all ages from across the region.
"These visitors will be staying overnight, shopping at local businesses, enjoying meals at local restaurants and purchasing fuel at local stations. Not everyone loves butter tarts and this new event will draw a new demographic of visitors to enjoy all that Little Lake Park and the Town of Midland has to offer," she wrote.
The event is slated to be held on July 25-26.
For more information, visit ontariowatercrossracing.ca.