Beachburg – Despite the sale of a major real estate property along the Ottawa River, Joe Kowalski says he’s not retiring or stopping Wilderness Tours.
Summerhill Resorts, a Toronto-based company that operates vacation properties primarily in southern Ontario, purchases 133 hectares of land from White Water & Wild Land Tours Ltd., which operates the outdoor adventure recreation company Wilderness Tours, which includes white water rafting. Summerhill Resorts also acquired the neighboring Logos Land resort.
Wilderness Tours will continue to operate from the old River Run property upstream of the subject property.
“When we bought the River Run property seven or eight years ago, the plan was to move Wilderness Tours there over time,” said Mr. Kowalksi, owner of White Water & Wild Lands. “When COVID hit and devastated the tourism industry, it sped up the process. It was a health and safety decision. Safety has always been our first priority. It used to mean “safety on the river,” but now it includes safety on land. ”
He explained that the new location, located right at the foot of the rapids used for rafting, means far fewer buses for rafting participants.
He stressed that he would not be retiring.
“At 73, I am too young to retire,” he said.
He sees a bright future for Wilderness Tours.
“In addition to rafting, canoeing and kayaking, we are also expanding and improving our bike paths,” he said. “We work with the Beachburg Off-Road Cycling Association (BORCA). We are used to seeing cars pass by with kayaks on them, but now we see just as many with bicycles.
He said Summerhill Resorts is a very professional operation which, with the purchase of the former base of Wilderness Tours, “will kick start tourism in this area in the future.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better buyer,” he said.
The 133-hectare property in question now houses 62 trailer sites, six cabins, two beach cabins / houses, a lodge and the Rafters building with ancillary recreation facilities and outdoor spaces.
Mr. Kowalski and his brother Jack, who remains a partner in the business, founded Wilderness Tours in 1975. His son, Joel, and daughter, Katie, are also with the business.
“Joel is the manager of the river and Katie is in charge of the bike.”
Site plan agreement with the township
Whitewater Regional Council is in the process of entering into a site plan agreement with Summerhill Resorts Ltd. to accommodate the redevelopment of the property at 503 Rafting Road.
The request to enter into the site plan agreement is supported by detailed site development plans, a wastewater treatment assessment report, and a water source assessment and inspection to assess the ” adequacy of existing wells and water treatment equipment with the proposed development.
Phase 1 of the proposed redevelopment does not suggest any new development. Instead, redevelopment will occur on existing developed sites and the scale of development is generally considered to be less than the historic use of the property. Future phases of development that require work on the foundation site will require full engineering and environmental assessments.
Whitewater Area Planner Ivan Burton noted that while no below grade development is proposed at this time, the site plan agreement will formalize a site development plan and servicing.
“This will ensure the health and safety of the public,” he said.
The property is designated as Tourist Commercial (TC) in the Renfrew County Official Plan.