Ottawa

Crushing silence: Yoga retreat fears quarry's arrival

The owner of a luxury spa and spiritual retreat in Bancroft, Ont., is finding it hard to relax with the impending arrival of a rock quarry just a few hundred metres away.

2 Bancroft-area businesses are incompatible, mayor says

Grail Springs owner Madeleine Marentette fears dynamiting will disturb the tranquility for which her spa has won several awards. (Submitted)

Latest

  • Hastings County council approved the quarry at its planning committee meeting on June 18, 2019.

The owner of a luxury spa and spiritual retreat in Bancroft, Ont., is finding it hard to relax with the impending arrival of a rock quarry just a few hundred metres away.

Madeleine Marentette, owner of Grail Springs Retreat for Wellbeing, fears the noise of periodic dynamiting, drilling and rock-crushing, not to mention a steady stream of dump trucks, will destroy the tranquillity on which the spa so depends.

Without the beauty and solitude and the quiet, our entire operation and our programming is altered.- Madeleine Marentette, Grail Springs owner

"Without the beauty and solitude and the quiet, our entire operation and our programming is altered," Marentette said.

In March, Hastings County council agreed to postpone a controversial vote that would give Freymond Lumber and Fowler Construction a zoning amendment to open a 27-hectare aggregate quarry beside an existing sawmill and lumber yard. That three-month reprieve is up.

The proposed site sits 1.3 kilometres down Bay Lake Road from Grail Springs, however parts of the quarry might come within 500 metres of the forest walking trails where guests are encouraged to take tranquil nature walks.

A renowned Bancroft luxury spa and wellness retreat is at odds over a plan that would see a large-scale gravel quarry established nearby. 1:11

Bad reviews

Marentette said she worries visitors whose silence is shattered by all the noise next door will post damaging reviews on the important and influential vacation review website Trip Advisor. She fears that could force her to shut down, putting about 25 full-time staff out of work.

"What we're imagining is, 'Don't trust them, don't go. How dare they not tell us there was a quarry beside it?'" Marentette said.

Last year, some 1,600 visitors each paid about $500 per night for a stay at the sprawling lakeside retreat, whose website describes it as a place that "teaches and integrates body, mind and spirit, bringing balance to all aspects of our lives that make us whole, happy, wise and fulfilled guests."

'Without the beauty and solitude and the quiet, our entire operation and our programming is altered,' Marentette said. (Stu Mills/CBC)

During a typical week-long stay, guests eat a plant-based diet, participate in daily yoga and meditation classes, learn peacefulness at equine therapy sessions and undergo elixir cleanses.

After dinner, guests gather around the fireplace in a lakeside reading room to listen to speakers give talks on subjects such as "wellbeing through the practice of loving kindness."

It is indeed a tranquil place: visiting last week, CBC was unable to discern any sound of the nearby lumber operation.

The Freymond Lumber company has operated a sawmill on the Bay Lake Road in Bancroft, Ont., since the 1940s. (Stu Mills/CBC)

'Acoustic environment' won't change, company says

Becky Freymond said her family's 70-year-old forestry company has carried out noise audits showing a quarry there would raise current noise levels by a single decibel.

We don't want to change the peace and quiet that they experience there.- Becky Freymond, Freymond Lumber

There would be up to five dynamite blasts every year, but Freymond said the company is willing to co-operate with the spa around the timing of the detonations to cause as little disruption as possible.

"We have no intention and no indication from any of the studies that we've done that their acoustic environment will change," Freymond said.

She added that the gravel-crushing operation would be conducted as far from the shared property line as possible.

"We don't want to change the peace and quiet that they experience there," she said.

Becky Freymond said her company is confident the noise of a quarry operation won't disrupt the nearby spa. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Hastings County's planning committee, a group of 14 regional mayors and reeves, is set to vote on a zoning amendment Tuesday.

The company has said the expanded operation might add between three and four new jobs. There would be about 10 trucks per hour moving in and out of the site, which is expected to be in operation for about 45 years.

It's not just the spa that's complaining: "No place for a quarry" signs have sprung up on lawns in the area, and on Friday, protesters holding signs reading "Say no to blasting in our backyard" and "Tourism saves towns" stood at a major intersection in Bancroft.

Bancroft Mayor Paul Jenkins says he's not in favour of the quarry plans. (Stu Mills/CBC)

They have the support of Bancroft Mayor Paul Jenkins, who said he will vote against the zoning amendment.

"If you look at the whole nature of the wellness industry, it's based on quiet, serenity, nature, all of those things, and they're just not compatible with grinding, occasional blasting and heavy truck traffic," he said.

"I wish there was some way for a compromise, but I just don't think it's compatible."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.