Letter: Saving RYTAC / St.Mary’s River Boat Club
Peter Chow for local2 sault ste. marie
April 25th, 2012 at 8:03am
Boat Club, the property bought for $800.00 in 1904. Tennis courts (clay) were added and it became the St. Mary’s River Boat Club (SMRBC), governed by trustees and run by an executive of young people, high school seniors and university students. Ex-mayor Alex Harry is the sole remaining trustee. The SMRBC executive passed down from generation to generation of young leaders all those years until 1969 when the SMRBC boathouse / clubhouse burned down.
The SMRBC was more than just a boating, rowing, sculling and tennis club. It was a social center for young people. In the 60’s (I first joined in 1960) it was the place to be, with dances on weekends that featured live bands and wall-to-wall people.
Tennis-wise, SMRBC was where all serious players played. There was a vibrant junior program with lessons and coaching . A junior team travelled out of town to junior age-group tournaments, culminating in the Ontario championships in Toronto at the end of the summer. In the late 60’s we had juniors ranked in the top 20 provincially and
one ranked nationally. In the late 40’s the 2 best players in the world, Jack Kramer and Bobby Riggs played an exhibition match at SMRBC, which would be like Nadal and Federer playing at RYTAC.
In 1969, after SMRBC burned down, the trustees (of whom only Alex Harry survives) deeded the property to the YMCA for $1.00, on condition that the YMCA continue boating and tennis for the youth of this city. Failure to do so would mean the property would revert to the Rotary club. Initially, under the first few RYTAC directors appointed by the YMCA, the junior programs in boating and tennis, the junior tennis team and competitive tennis enjoyed vigorous support. Gradually this support for junior tennis began to erode. Without new young players being developed, an exodus out of town of the best players in the early 90’s ( Robt Woods, John Corelli, Nancy Currie, Chris Crawley, Brian Wells, Patrick Galey ) left young players with no one to emulate. The best player left in town, Andy Simon, resorted to commuting to Petoskey, Michigan to train and compete. Tennis has been dying in this city despite the fact that it is the fastest growing sport in North America- thriving in Sudbury and North Bay. The rowing club in North Bay has produced Olympic caliber rowers.
Now the YMCA is deeply in debt ( a $1.4 million mortgage in 2012 ), through a series of bad decisions. RYTAC if sold to a developer is worth over $1 million, which the YMCA wants to split with Rotary. It seems apparent that
1) the YMCA has deliberately sabotaged the programs for boating, sailing, rowing and
tennis for young people in the spirit of the SMRBC, in order to revert ownership of the property to Rotary. The YMCA cannot sell RYTAC on its own ; The Rotary can.
2) the YMCA has a huge conflict of interest re RYTAC. It has locked the tennis courts down despite the pleas of a large group of tennis enthusiasts who have formed a committee with an executive. The YMCA is now determined that tennis and boating not be revived at RYTAC so that ownership reverts to the Rotary, which will then share with the YMCA the proceeds from sale of the property to a developer. The YMCA is
attempting to breach a public trust in order to cover up its mismanagement.
3) the YMCA, being a charitable organization, surely has other means of fund-raising without having to sell RYTAC.
4) reports by the YMCA that the clubhouse/boathouse is unsafe are exaggerated, this according to an outside contractor, to ensure that no activity be revived at RYTAC
5) if the RYTAC property reverts back to Rotary, surely Rotary has a moral if not legal obligation to preserve the property for its original intent
6) Camp Korah does not come close to providing the benefits of the original SMRBC to the young people of this city, being more of a daycare with children being bussed out there
The RYTAC property is a unique, iconic treasure on the water, within the city, that should be preserved for the youth of this city, for future generations of leaders, boaters, rowers and tennis players.
The actions of the YMCA in its management of RYTAC have been unscrupulous and shameful for an organization with such a public reputation.