St. Thomas city council isn't ready to make a decision on the future use of Lake Margaret.
At Monday's meeting, councillors decided to put the issue back to city staff for a scientific report.
"We've heard from a number of citizens both pros and cons and it's time to review it," says Gary Clarke, a St. Thomas councillor.
"It’s been about six years since the original study was done. It's about the scientific information. They've done a lot of erosion control and checking water quality. We don't want to make a knee-jerk decision."
A motion came to them from Lake Margaret resident Jim Copeland. He's witnessed the hub of activity over the past month with residents enjoying skating on the man-made lake.
"I wrote a letter advocating for the year-round use of non-motorized watercraft of canoes and kayaks," says Copeland.
"The science says they are rather benign of their impact on the environment. It's fantastic to see people out on the lake, smiling, using the facilities that should be at our disposal. It's great see people walking these concrete trails and getting out for the betterment of their mental health and use a resource that should be available to all the residents of St. Thomas."
Clarke agrees but says what happens remains to be seen.
"We've created an environmental area with osprey and ducks," he says. "We want to make sure the things we've done with shoreline erosion isn't compromised. It's been wonderful as people have enjoyed skating and walking on the trails. It's a wait and see at this point. It is the city's lake so it's there to be enjoyed."
The lake’s management plan from 2010 prohibits fishing and the use of watercraft.
However, the city does allow both of those activities at Pinafore Park and Waterworks Park, which has Copeland and others questioning the double standard.
The city took ownership of the lake from developer Doug Tarry Limited in 2017.
Years ago, the lake was used by non-motorized boats for high school rowing.
"Parkside (Collegiate Institute) and Arthur Voaden (Secondary School) had rowing teams that used the lake," says Copeland.
"Also make note that there are over 500 conservation areas in Ontario that rent canoes and permit fishing. The model surrounds us and I just don't have a clear understanding why this lake is not available for use for all the residents of St. Thomas."
Standing near the lake Tuesday, most of the passing walkers wished to see the lake open for year-round use. However there were a few who expressed concerns over parking the area and also the expectation of privacy for people who purchased homes which backed onto the lake on the north side.
One resident said they were going to start an online petition to advocate for recreational use.
"As long as the decision is based on science, and evidence-based understanding of environmental impacts than I believe residents will be content in whatever decision is made," says Copeland.