SCUGOG: Local residents taking part in the Port Perry edition of the Terry Fox Run this weekend will be doing so in a new location, after the event’s organizers switched the venue from Palmer Park to the Port Perry Fairgrounds following the request of nearly $1,200 in municipal user fees from the organizers of the annual charitable event.
Local Terry Fox Run organizer Elizabeth McArthur said that she and other organizers were first notified of the fees by township staff on Aug. 15 - exactly one month prior to the Sept. 15 event - and were informed that the charges could not be waived. Although Ms. McArthur said that each year organizers complete the proper applications for permits, this is the first time that the municipality has not waived such fees in the Port Perry run’s 19-year history. In addition, she said that some of the fees requested had never been made known to the organizers. She said that in discussion with the township, she was told that as of this year, all Palmer Park users "had to abide by the same policies with no exceptions.
"I gather there’s a lot of requests to use the park," said Ms. McArthur, "but as a volunteer group raising funds for cancer research, there’s no way we can afford that."
The expenses quoted to the run’s organizers included:
- Palmer Park rental at $667.70 per day, plus a $565 deposit
- Hydro at $124.60 per day
- Gazebo rental at $135.60 for four hours
- Latcham Hall rental at $180.80 for four hours, plus $100 deposit for the use of tables and chairs for registration/barbecue/dedication area
- An $80 road occupancy permit, plus $300 deposit.
In discussion with township staff earlier this summer, Ms. McArthur said that she and the other organizers were invited to seek a one-time $500 grant for the use of the park. However, she noted that the money would only cover a fraction of the cost quoted for the use of the park that day.
"It’s a non-starter," said Ms. McArthur of the grant money. "We had to look at the bigger picture and we couldn’t cover any of those costs."
Scugog Mayor Chuck Mercier said that while the Terry Fox Run had previously been exempt from such fees, township staff had recently been advised by council to ensure that all users were subject to the applicable fees bylaw. He added that he had also advised the organizers of the available grant money for the park’s use.
"This is what comes up every year," said the mayor, "and we can’t tell one group ‘yes,’ but say ‘no’ to all the others. At the last minute, things can happen with events and in fairness, they saw this as a curveball. But groups like the Cadets, the Scugog Council for the Arts - they all pay to use the park and the fee bylaw was in place long before."
The Port Perry edition of the event, which has taken place in Scugog each September since 1994 through a group of local volunteers, has raised more than $902,000 - approximately $483,000 from the main community event plus $419,000 from local school runs - for cancer research. Ms. McArthur said that the local Terry Fox committees do not receive funding from the Terry Fox Foundation and in Port Perry, the event receives some support from a local group of sponsors who cover the cost of the complimentary barbecue.
Ms. McArthur also noted that the Terry Fox Runs in Uxbridge, Oshawa, Ajax and Pickering are not charged by their respective municipalities, while in Whitby, organizers pay $300 for the use of a building. According to Martha McClew, Ontario director for the Terry Fox Foundation, the waiving of municipal fees for the various runs is the rule rather than the exception across Ontario.
"It’s pretty consistent across the province," said Ms. McClew of municipalities waiving fees associated with the run. "We have 225 runs (in Ontario) - we’d be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars just to host them. We’ve had an incredible relationship with Port Perry and because there was no indication of these fees, it was surprising."
Ms. McClew added that Port Perry is among the top fundraisers for the foundation each year.
"Terry Fox once said he wanted to see ‘a dollar from every Canadian’ and definitely in the last decade, Scugog has met Terry’s request. We can’t thank Elizabeth and the rest of the community enough."
As a result of the fees, the local Terry Fox organizers approached the Port Perry Agricultural Society with a request to use the Fairgrounds at Reach St. and Old Simcoe Rd. for the run, where the event will now take place this year and in the future. According to Port Perry Agricultural Society President Jake Haak, the situation is win-win as the board is always on the lookout for other uses for the grounds.
"We were OK with that and we already have all the facilities that they would need," said Mr. Haak, noting that the grounds are also home to the annual Walk For ALS in the spring. "We’re always looking for other uses for the grounds, other than the three days that we have the fair."
The Port Perry run will begin at the Fairgrounds at 9 a.m. with registration at 8 a.m. Ms. McArthur also noted that although the run will be hosted out of a different location, neither the five nor 10-kilometre routes have changed as a result.
Signage around town will also inform participants of the change in venue, said Ms. McArthur, including postings on the signs at Lake Scugog Lumber and Port Perry High School. In addition, volunteers will be stationed around Palmer Park to direct traffic to the fairgrounds.
For more information on the Port Perry run, contact Ms. McArthur at 905-985-0951 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Uxbridge, participants will gather at Elgin Park for the 9 a.m. run, with registration at 8:15 a.m. Contact Maggie or Drew Ferraro at 905-852-2169 or email@example.com.
Both the Port Perry and Uxbridge routes are accessible by wheelchair, rollerblades and bicycle.
For more information, visit www.terryfox.org.