Real Estate

Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks investigating demolition of Haliburton’s Wigamog Inn

Aerial view of Wigamog Inn Photo screenshot from Riddim Ryder/YouTube

From across the dark stretch of Haliburton’s Lake Kashagawigamog, the Wigamog Inn still looks hospitable. Regal white siding topped by a dark tiled roof perched on the water’s edge with 40 acres of forested land stretching out behind it. But as you draw closer, you notice the boarded-up windows, the unkept lawn, the creeping black mold, and the gaping hole that served as the resort’s swimming pool.

Once fondly known as the lady of the lake, the Wigamog Inn has been abandoned for 12 years. Easily accessible from the road, the resort now serves as a beacon for vandals and urban explorers. For its neighbours though, it’s been a thorn in their side.

In August, the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MECP) received a complaint about the site. “The public reached out to the ministry with concerns about the disposal of waste and potential impacts to species at risk during the demolition of the Wigamog Inn,” said Gary Wheeler, a spokesperson for the ministry.

In response, the MECP has launched an investigation into the resort’s demolition. The ministry said that staff are currently inspecting the site to assess the work for environmental compliance. “Following the ministry’s assessment, we may request that certain steps are taken to ensure the demolition is following ministry requirements,” Wheeler said.

Locals are optimistic that the investigation may push the property’s owner, the Aurora Group, to do something with the property. The Aurora Group is the most recent title holder in a long list of property owners.

History of the Wigamog Inn

One of many resorts on the lake, Wigamog Inn was founded by Robert and Anne Gould as a boarding house in 1903, taking in boarders for $3 a week. The Goulds sold to the Robertsons in 1917 who upgraded the property to a fully functioning inn, and accepted their first guests in 1922. Then came the Wards in 1967 who built a million-dollar conference centre. They eventually sold to the Grossmans in 1993 who operated the resort until 2011 when it closed.

After sitting vacant for five years, the Aurora Group purchased Wigamog in 2016, adding the property to its growing portfolio, which included nearby Pinestone Resort. Pinestone remains in operation, but the Aurora Group has never managed to revitalize Wigamog. Instead, the resort has fallen into further disrepair.

After hearing complaints from community members about the state of Wigamog and the fire hazard it poses, the Dysart et al council (the municipality in which the resort resides) asked the Aurora Group to submit a demolition plan by October 2022. The date passed and no plan was submitted, prompting the municipality’s planning staff to look into a Request for Proposal (RFP). This means Dysart would take over the demolition of Wigamog and bill the cost to the Aurora Group.

But in March 2023, before the RFP was finalized, workers appeared on site and began tearing down several of the resort’s cabins. The Aurora Group had taken demolition into its own hands, though the work has been slow, with the resort’s main building still standing.

Currently, any demolition and waste removal efforts are on hold as the MECP investigates the property. In his email, Wheeler said the Aurora Group is complying with the investigation. And Hailey Cole, Dysart’s supervisor of municipal law enforcement, said in an email that bylaw is “visiting the property regularly to ensure the buildings remain secured from entry.”

Once the investigation is wrapped, it’s unclear what will become of the property. The Aurora Group did not respond to a request for comment, but on its website, the company outlines a plan for a residential development on the site that would include over 180 units, including condos, townhouses, and detached homes.

The MECP did not provide a timeline for how long the investigation will take.

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