'I've been waiting for this': St. Thomas, Ont. council votes to allow recreation on Lake Margaret

Every Sunday morning, Ryan Shaw likes to take his twin six-year old-boys fishing.

Now he can do it legally at Lake Margaret in St. Thomas, Ont.

"When we heard we had another spot to come to we're pretty excited," says Shaw who was reeling them in with his boys Maverick and Gunnar.


Ryan Shaw holds a bass which was caught by his son at Lake Margaret (Brent Lale / CTV News)

On Monday, May 10, St. Thomas City Council approved fishing and non-motorized watercraft on the lake which is in a residential area just south of Pinafore Park.

A motion was brought forward by councillor Gary Clarke who felt his colleagues wanted it open despite voting down a $50,000 study to see if recreation would be environmentally feasible.

Council voted 6-3 in favour of opening the lake.

"I got the impression that they may not be against opening things up on the lake, but the vote was actually just to find out whether we want to do more studies," says Clarke.

"It had been a new asset to us and it was given to us by Doug Tarry Limited so once we took it over we wanted to do some research on it to make sure what would be feasible. We didn't know about enough about the fish and about erosion and the plants. We had a fish study done in 2019, and we knew the lake was sustainable and could without any harm to endorse these things."

The idea of allowing recreation on the lake was opposed by some area residents, and a three city councillors who feel people have enough other spots in the area to fish and canoe or kayak.

The vote caught everyone including city staff off guard, so Monday night another item has been added to the agenda. Parks and Recreation staff will discuss the logistics of allowing fishing and boats on the lake.


Lake Margaret in St. Thomas, Ontario (Brent Lale / CTV News)

"The parks department needs to take the old signs down, they need to look at where the access points would be so people have guidance," says Clarke.

"If there was a couple viewing stations or small docks where people could put their boats in or could actually fish off I think that would be attractive because it would draw people to the prime spots. The best place to catch fish is down at the west end where it is the deepest and that's where it's most park-like."

Clarke says the west-side of the lake is ideally where they want people to be as there is houses on the east end.

"People want that setting when they go fishing. They don't want to be in the middle of a bunch of houses so hopefully people will respect that and stay down at the at the park end."

The push to allow recreation came after the city allowed people to skate on the lake during the winter.

Jim Copeland who wrote a letter to council in the winter says he's thrilled to see the lake being used for recreation.

The proposal had opposition from some area residents, and three councillors but now people like Kevin Koning and his son can fish the lake legally.

"This is big news," says Koning who was fishing with his four-year-old boy Bryce Sunday.

"It's a real ray of inspiration in these times for my family and I've been waiting on this for a long time. This is a big day for us."

Shaw agreed while using the area to gain valuable father-son time.

"We respected the signs and waited till they approved it and this is our first day, so we're excited to be here."