The site of a historic papal visit in the region could soon become the site of a big resort development

Patti Ann Zaharis lives along the shores of Lake Simcoe across from Strawberry Island in Ramara Township. Like many people in the area, they she is worried about possible development on the island.

“This is our home and this is our lake and we want to keep it that way,” she says.

A plan to build up to 120 condo units on the island has some concerned. Pam Fulford is a Ramara resident and former biologist for the Ministry of Natural Resources, who spent years working around the island.

“The lake trout and the white fish, the cold water species in Lake Simcoe are extremely important. This is a critical cold water spawning shoal for those species and if we destroy those shoals we are going to have a problem I believe with our lake trout and white fish,” she says.

Fulford says she is not opposed to development on the island, just not something so big.

Strawberry Island was once owned by the Roman Catholic Congregation of St. Basil as a place of retreat. In 2002, Pope John Paul the Second spent three days there.

Since 2007, the 25 acre island has been owned by Trans America Group out of Edmonton and now wants to develop on the island.

“We had one public meeting, but there was such a public outcry that we scheduled another one,” says Ramara Township Mayor Basil Clarke.

Clarke says his council has not made any decisions just yet. He says Trans America is asking council to change the township’s official community plan to fit their project. That means it wants to have the land re-zoned from rural to shoreline residential.

“One of my main concerns that hasn't been tackled yet is the boat traffic. This is a very small bay and you start allowing an extra 120 boats that is a real solid concern,” he says.

The company says it has been working on this project for three years now and vows to maintain the quality of the water and of the land. It's expected to cost about $40 million to build. Developers say they welcome public input in the process.

The next step is a community meeting set for June 15. Trans America will be there to lay out its plan and any changes it wants to make. The mayor is encouraging residents to show up, so they can have their say on the future of Strawberry Island.