For the next five years, the OPP will continue its marine training program at the Muskoka Wharf in Gravenhurst.
The training will take place for two weeks every May.
After previously using the Ontario Fire College for its training for nearly four decades, the provincial police moved to the Muskoka Wharf for its two-week May marine training program this year.
Gravenhurst’s fire college was decommissioned in March 2021 after being unused since its temporary closure the previous year.
Caroline Kirkpatrick, Gravenhurst’s Manager of Operations, told council the police scouted “a number of locations” but none were as ideal as the wharf. “They identified a lot of unique benefits of staying in Gravenhurst and staying on Lake Muskoka,” she said, adding one of the benefits is being steps away from Residence Inn by Marriott at the wharf.
Officers stayed at The Marriott when they were in town training in May and Kirkpatrick says that partnership will continue.
The benefits, according to Kirkpatrick, are that Lake Muskoka has “unique navigational challenges” as well as multiple buoys to simulate what trainees would deal with on other lakes across the province. The venue is also a short drive from the OPP’s central region headquarters in Orillia. Kirkpatrick adds police can also train on the lake without being a hindrance to other boat traffic.
On top of all that, Kirkpatrick writes that the police had an already established program on the lake.
She explained that renting dock ‘e’ at the wharf will cost the town $8,775. However, Coun. Heidi Lorenz and Sandy Cairns said the loss is “good value” pointing out that the increased police presence on the lake could help decrease the number of complaints the town and police get about boaters. “If you see a fleet of OPP boats, it’s certainly going to make you think twice about how you’re going to behave on the water,” Lorenz said.
During the OPP’s recent training at the wharf, they brought 12 21-foot seaswirl boats and three 24-foot boats. It was not noted in Kirkpatrick’s report what equipment will be brought next year.
Andrew Stacey, the town’s Director of Infrastructure Services, said they are working on a fall program with the provincial police. He said they are only in the initial stage of talks, so more details aren’t known yet.