Ed Fluter is a Grand Bend resident and representative of a new community association supported by many residents in the area. Fluter and his group oppose the PVB project – and any others – using the public beach for commercial purposes. The Grand Bend Strip spoke with him shortly before Monday night’s council meeting.
Interview and photo by Casey Lessard
What are your main issues with volleyball on the beach at Grand Bend? This is not a volleyball issue. I am a strong proponent of volleyball and other sports. My career was as a physical educator and coach. I love volleyball and sports and the benefits of sports. This issue is about commercializing our beach, a beach that has been designated for public use. It’s my feeling and our feeling – I represent a fairly large segment of the population right now – that no commercial activity should take over any portion of any of our beaches. Beach volleyball is big business. If you have John Morrison of Not So Pro owing the City of Toronto $328,000 (including, according to the Globe and Mail, $113,000 for three months rent), you have to know this is big business. Even if it weren’t a huge potential for business, it’s still a for-profit activity on our beach.
So what do you say to suggestions that many of those opposed are of a certain generation that does not understand the needs of young people? It has absolutely nothing to do with it. We are trying to protect this beach for people of all ages. We feel it is totally unfair that an organization of any kind is allowed to take over and lease a portion of public beach for private use for four months. One of the great joys I’ve seen over the years, on that part of the north beach that is not used for bathing purposes, the area considered underutilized is often used for spontaneous free play for people of all ages. I’m a strong advocate of that. Zoning regulation states that lakeshore be used for such passive recreation. This deal is a precedent we don’t want to be set. I’m not against non-profit groups coming in and using a portion of the beach for a weekend, preferably during the shoulder seasons. In fact, I would be a proponent of that. That portion of the beach that will be used for beach volleyball can be used by nobody else if they’re running from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week for the entire summer.
You are part of a new group referred to at council as the Community Association of Lambton Shores. Can you tell me about that? We felt that our voice was not being heard. When you can show up with 100 people at three or four council meetings, when you can show up with 200 at the only meeting we had any opportunity to have input in (the PVB meeting on May 1), when you can get over 1000 names on a petition, including 50 businesses, when you can get that kind of vocal majority and be totally disregarded, you have to take further steps to fight this and other concerns through a group.
This has become quite a heated debate. Someone suggested they would put spikes in the courts where the children were playing volleyball. Do you and your group condone such violence? Absolutely not. We condone no form of civil disobedience.
What do you plan to do if the revised agreement with fewer courts, shorter hours and fewer tournaments goes ahead this summer? We are against that because it still doesn’t solve the bottom line issue. We have a number of strategies planned that I would prefer to keep in confidence at this point in time. We’re not going away. We’re not going to roll over and give up on this issue. We’ll take it as far as we possibly can. There’s a small minority – I call them the silent minority – who claim they haven’t been heard, but have made no attempt to be heard in a formal, professional way other than complaining and gossiping in the background. Let them step forward and speak out. We’re not getting personal in this debate. I have no personal issues with the proponents. This is an issue we’re fighting because we strongly believe in it.