All Muskoka power expected back on Nov 2

Updated November 2, 8.30 am. There are still pockets of Muskoka without power — near Windermere, north of Torrance and in the Lake of Bays area but HydroOne hopes everyone will be back on line by noon today. Some Muskokans have been without power since Monday night or sometime early Tuesday.

Updated Oct. 31. 230pm: While some Muskokans still wait for the power to come on, HydroOne is estimating most homes should be back on by about 5 pm tonight. There are some pockets west of Highway 400 and near Mactier that could remain out until almost midnight. Take extra care and extra flashlights if out trick or treating tonight!

Updated Oct. 30 6pm. Muskokans are still feeling the wrath of Sandy as many remain without power — and Hydro One reports some may stay that way until tomorrow, October 31. Some affected areas presently include Minett, Bass Lake, a section of 169 north of Butterfly Lake, and along the shore of Lake Muskoka on Hwy 118 from Tondern Island in the north to almost Golden Beach Road near Bracebridge. That area of over 500 Hydro One customers affected includes the Leonard Lake area. Some Moon River residents are still patiently waiting for power to return. Affected areas west of Highway 11, mostly in Muskoka Lakes township may not have power restored until sometime late tomorrow. A large number of homes east of Highway 11 along Highway 118 are also without power but crews hope to have them back on before midnight.

If you have Internet, you can check HydroOne.com/stormcentre for updates. Or call the outage line at 1-800-434-1235.

Updated Oct.30, 1pm: Power is being restored across Muskoka but there are still spots across our region and in west Muskoka in particular that could be without power for several hours. If you have an Internet connection or smartphone, go to www.hydroone.com and click on the Storm Centre map to find your location. Power came back on for Bracebridge and Torrance before noon and Bala was restored just before 1 pm. So far, MNW has received reports of relatively minor damage such as branches down and docks damaged. If you are still without power and need information, please ask a neighbour to contact @MuskokaMedia by twitter or email info@muskokanewsarchive.com and we’ll try and get answers for you.

Updated Oct. 29, 9pm: There are pockets of power outages across rural areas of Muskoka and HydroOne reports crews are on scene at these locations. Estimated restore times vary from 10 p-m until one a-m. HydroOne maps show the largest outage, possibly affecting over 500 customers, is in an area north of 169 stretching from Walker’s Point to Long Lake in Bala and northward to Shaw Island off East Bay. Up to 500 customers are reportedly without power in the Bass Lake area.  There are also outages reported around 3 Mile Lake, Bala and Rosseau and in Lake of Bays.

Muskoka Sandy Tree
Wind buffets birch

Posted Oct. 29, 6pm. As trees sway outside our windows in Muskoka, you may be wondering what the next 24 hours might bring weather-wise in our part of Ontario. Muskoka is expected to experience what might be considered a normal fall storm for our parts, while Southern Ontario is battening down the hatches. Environment Canada is forecasting 10-15mm of rain for tonight.

If you’re concerned and want to be extra sure you’re ready for anything, the Ontario government has issued an emergency preparedness bulletin at www.ontario.ca/sandy

For up to date weather reports from Environment Canada, click here.

But what about those flood prone areas of our region: what if we get more rain than expected?  Local Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) staff report we should expect “significantly less rainfall as compared to areas to the south of the Parry Sound District that includes the Muskoka River watershed.”

Presently our lakes and rivers are said to be in good shape and should not be significantly affected by Sandy (aka “Frankenstorm” due to additional and combined meteorological factors). The MNR does caution that we will likely see somewhat higher water levels in our local lakes and river courses but flooding or high water issues are not expected.

Best advice? Keep an eye on those potentially damaging winds though as it may be more than just the remaining Muskoka leaves that fall. Certainly having back up power and lighting sources is always a good idea in Muskoka. Note: The lights have flickered in the MNW office earlier today, so keep the flashlights handy. For some, a fine brew from Lake of Bays Brewing Company or Muskoka Brewery may be especially comforting this evening.

Stay dry and safe, Muskoka.

New One Muskoka Meeting Date: Wed, Dec. 5

Nov. 13: One Muskoka has rescheduled its meeting aimed at improving the way municipal politics run in Muskoka to Wed., Dec 5th, Gravenhurst YIGs, 630pm. Oct. 30, 5.20 pm: Event Cancelled: The One Muskoka meeting about municipal governance in Muskoka scheduled for tonight at 7 pm in Gravenhurst has been cancelled due to inclement weather. If you have an event you wish posted on Muskoka News Watch (or have a cancellation), please email info@muskokanewsarchive.com.

Stay safe and dry this evening!

Learning Symposium: Paths to Creative Knowledge

Updated Oct 29: Here’s what’s you missed Oct 27 at Paths to Creative Knowledge, a symposium that explored learning opportunities in Muskoka to help drive the our region’s economy. The creative economy is a key driver here — and studies have shown we need to do everything we can to help it along for Muskoka’s prosperity. Muskoka News Watch is pleased to support this event.

Keynote speakers, expert panel, educational marketplace…

9-10am: Registration, Coffee, Networking
T-KnowUp – A Twitter meet up for all attendees on Twitter at the Twitter board by door to lecture hall.

Want to know about other Knowledge Network events? Follow the organizers @knownetmuskoka or at Facebook.com/knownetmuskoka

LIVE EVENT HOST: CBC’s Jesse Hirsh, Director, The Academy of The Impossible

Introductions: 10:00 – 10:15
•    Martina Schroer, Chair, Arts Council of Muskoka
•    Dr. Robert Hemmings, Assistant Professor, English Studies; Program Coordinator, Arts & Culture, Nipissing University – Muskoka
•    Larry Curley, Regional Advisor, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport

Panelists: 10:15 – 11:15
•    Dr. Mary Robertson Lacroix, Creative Muskoka
Mary specializes in project design, management, and strategic coordination of provincial rural-based projects. She is past manager of Ontario’s Innovative Rural Communities Project. Mary has designed and delivered courses in rural studies at both the University of Western Ontario and the University of Guelph. She is the past chair of Creative Muskoka.

•    Gary Froude, Artistic/Managing Director – Muskoka Chautauqua and Chair – Explorer’s Edge
Gary has spent 30 years in the entertainment industry as a manager, promoter and producer of live entertainment. His eclectic variety of indoor and outdoor productions throughout the world has entertained audiences of 500 to 250,000. Gary has spent the last fifteen years living in Muskoka and with his partner Gayle Dempsey owns and operates Muskoka Cultural Impresarios (MCI), a business committed to supporting arts and culture in Muskoka and to preserving and promoting the region as a culture and heritage tourism destination.

As Managing Director of the Muskoka Chautauqua Gary has worked with more than a dozen different boards to present musical entertainment and to grow the Festival’s award winning “Kaleidoscope Arts in Education” programming into an important part of the Muskoka cultural mosaic.

Gary is current chair of Explorers Edge (formerly RTO 12), one of the 13 Regional Tourism Organizations set in place by the Ministry of Tourism & Culture to identify & implement regional priorities allowing for more consistent marketing of Ontario’s Tourism Regions.

•    Gary McMullen, Founder and President – Muskoka Brewery; Chair – Ontario Craft Brewers
Gary founded the Muskoka Cottage Brewery in Bracebridge, ON in 1996. Over the thirteen years the brewery has been operating Ontario residents have been able to drink the likes of a Weissbier, Cream Ale, Dark Ale, and a Premium Lager, all of which continue to bring in medals at the annual Canadian Brewing Awards. On top of running his brewery, McMullen also serves as the Chair of the Ontario Craft Brewers. The Muskoka Brewery has recently entered into an apprenticeship partnership with Niagara College’s brewmaster program.

•    Susan Lovell – Enterprising Women Facilitator for YWCA Muskoka
Susan joined YWCA Muskoka in the fall of 2011. She brings with her 32 years of experience as a teacher, consultant and Special Education coordinator for both Trillium Lakelands District School Board and Simcoe County School Board. She has a passion for the women and people of this community and is proud to be working as a facilitator and advocate for women in small to medium sized businesses.

•    Zander Sherman – Author – The Curiosity of School
Zander Sherman was born in 1986. He grew up in a rural setting in Central Ontario’s lake district, where he was homeschooled by his mother until the age of thirteen. Sherman has worked as a freelance writer, photographer, and musician. When he isn’t writing, Sherman composes music. In 2011, a short film he scored was a finalist for the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. The Curiosity of School is his first book.

WORKSHOPS
•    Hands-on workshops start at 11:35. There are two workshop sessions, with three workshops running concurrently:
•    Session 1: 11:35 – 12:15

–    Workshop A:
Skills Development & Business Incubation
Presented by Muskoka Futures

–    Workshop B:
Understanding How You Learn
Presented by Learning in the Knowledge Age
–    Workshop C:
Needle Felting
Presented by Haliburton School of the Arts

•    Session 2: 12:20 – 1:00
–    Workshop A:
Can I Make Money at My Business Idea?
Presented by Business Enterprise Resource Network

–    Workshop B:
Rights & Responsibilities: Health & Safety and Accessibility
Presented by Northern Lights Canada
–    Workshop C:
Managing a Creative Project
Presented by Pat Hillcoat
•    Lunch in the Bohemian from 1:00 – 2:00
CHECK OUT THE EDUCATIONAL MARKETPLACE
•    The Educational Marketplace will be open from 1:00 – 3:00 in the art room, just down the hallway. 15+ booths. Take a look at all of the great educational opportunities offered in Muskoka.
•    KEYNOTE: Speaker Emily Pohl-Weary at 3:00 in the lecture hall.

MNW thanks the organizers for asking Editor Norah Fountain to be the social media moderator for the day.

New CAO coming to Muskoka Lakes Township

Posted Oct 24, 9.10 am: A new CAO will be in charge at the Township of Muskoka Lakes this December.

The Township has announced the appointment of Christopher David Wray to the position of Chief Administrative Officer. In a press release, the Township reports Wray brings private sector and public sector experience to the municipality, the most recent being 13 years as the CAO of Wawa where he has been the driving force behind a number of award winning administrative innovations in the application of geographic Information Systems.

A member of several provincial association boards, Wray has an extensive network of municipal contacts to draw on.

“I am looking forward to working with the staff team and with Council at Muskoka Lakes in the years ahead” says Wray. “I am keen to lead the application of our collective wisdom towards Council’s goals.”

Mayor Alice Murphy, speaking on behalf of Council, noted that Chris Wray has a strong financial background as well as a keen appreciation of the land use planning process, both critical to the success of Muskoka Lakes, and indicated she is looking forward to working with him as he orients himself to a new community and its challenges. He will be starting with the municipality in early December. John Curran has been acting as part-time CAO to fill the gap between Walt Schmid’s departure to the Town of Bracebridge and the hiring of Wray.

District Councillors approve Bala portage sign

Update October 22: District Councillors approved the portage sign in Bala on District land last night. Two councillors abstained, two voted against and the others voted for it. According to sources at the meeting, one Bracebridge councillor had a list of concerns about approving the sign.

District Councillors: Is it a Portage Sign or is it a Ruse? Posted October 19, 11.35am: Commentary by Norah Fountain. A few Bala and area residents have expressed concern about the Portage Sign that popped up behind the guard rail on Hwy 169 at the North Bala Falls site being considered for heritage designation. At least four letters have been sent to the press and Councillors over the past few days, one of them being from me, your MNW Editor. My letter is included in official District correspondence for the next District Council meeting on October 22 is pasted in below. I wrote the letter because it’s time to address directly what’s going on with this sign. Everyone in Bala and area knows this is part of the proposed Bala Falls hydro plant protest. The behaviour the Township is modelling by going ahead without permits, etc, and pretending to take action for reasons other than protest, is not appropriate, in my opinion. I have no problem with protesting the Crown land site for the proposed plant — I too, objected to it, and pushed for a better location. I wish our politicians could find a better way to continue their objection to the plant other than through an ‘anything goes’ approach. I do not believe Muskoka Lakers want their Council ignoring bylaws and putting portage signs in potentially dangerous areas with this Machiavellian ‘end justifies the means’ manoeuvre. It also makes a mockery of honest and transparent heritage efforts in Muskoka. Letter below.

 

LETTER TO MUSKOKA DISTRICT COUNCIL

Re: Sign erected without permit on District land in Bala

Dear District Chair and Councillors,

Maybe it is due to misunderstanding, or maybe it is blatant disregard for our municipal government process, but District Councillors need to know that a simple sign issue they are voting on Monday, October 22 is not as simple as it seems. Councillors, you may not have all the facts, and without them, you may be approving a sign for a potentially non-existent portage route.

When a Township comes to District with a request, I think it’s normal that District Councillors quite reasonably believe that the Township Council has discussed the issue, that it’s in the best interests of the township, and has asked its staff to make the request. In fact, the recommendation you received reads:

“The Township has advised that the sign provides necessary and appropriate directional

guidance regarding the Bala Falls portage route connecting Lake Muskoka and Moon River.”

You [the Committee members] then debated safety concerns and reasons for the sign at your District Engineering and Public Works meeting, and according to reports in The Weekender and District staff, there was a 3-2 vote to approve the sign pending full approval at the next full District Council meeting on Oct. 22. Your committee also had feedback to be forwarded to Township Council. At the same meeting, you discussed MNR fencing going up for public safety in the same area of the Portage sign. Perhaps it occurred to some of you that it was odd the MNR would say the area where Township was promoting a portage route is unsafe. Something is amiss.

That was Wednesday, October 5 and two days later (the same day of The Weekender report), the sign was back up – without a permit. Township staff was directed to erect the sign by Mayor and Council, according to the Township Public Works department. From discussions with the CAO and others at Township, it appears the staff may have been led to believe permission had been granted even though a permit never changed hands. As of today, I have confirmed that District has not yet issued any permit and will not do so until District Council votes. I also asked all Township councilors to comment on what they knew about the sign. Only three responded, saying they do not recall anything about a sign. One did say there was discussion about the portage and he raised safety concerns, but nothing about a sign.

The elephant in the room? The Ontario Conservation Review Board was due to tour the site on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as this site is being considered for heritage status. That tour went ahead. It is my opinion that someone at Township demanded the sign go up in time for that tour to help convince the Board that the area is a well-used portage route, when it is used rarely, if ever. (Please see the attached map that shows the portage on the OTHER side of the river following Portage Street).

 

Did Township not understand that a Committee report is not final and requires ratification by Council? If Councillors are still unaware of this, perhaps some training is in order. Or more probably, the total disregard for District land and process was yet another last ditch, save face attempt to thwart a hydro plant being built. I say ‘save face’ because the Mayor and others swore it was not financially viable or feasible to build on the present Crown land only position.

For the record, I do not support a building right on the side of the falls that blocks public access. I supported moving the plant away from the falls. But I cannot support a Council that attempts to manipulate our heritage, rewrite decades of history, and breaks permit rules with no regard for municipal process or public safety.

I hope you will consider the concerns that have been expressed by Councillor Scott Young and Chair John Klinck when you vote on Monday – and ask Township Councillors why they feel it is appropriate to act without your vote and without a permit.

 

Norah Fountain

Torrance, Muskoka

 

P.S. I can provide further background information if requested. One other note: the District committee may have been told (you would have to confirm with those at the meeting) that a portage sign resided beside Hwy 169 previously. One was put up around September 15 and it came down again on Sept. 28 – the day after your District Public Works department was asked to put in a request for a sign (the request coming reportedly on Township learning the first sign was being removed). MNR removed the signs on its property. The sign on District property only existed ‘previously’ for about 10 days.

Related Posts: No Permit Doesn’t Stop Township Sign on District Land

 

NHL blues? Try local hockey instead with new free program.

Posted Oct 19, 10am. Free Hockey Program in Muskoka Lakes: For a moment yesterday, it seemed like progress might get made in the NHL lockout but instead of watching the wrangling going on there, maybe we should turn our attention to LOCAL hockey? And maybe keep our focus right here at home rather than on the big money in the big rinks! The Township of Muskoka Lakes has a great offer for boys and girls to encourage them to give hockey a try. Here are the details:

FREE Come Try Hockey ProgramOctober 14-December 23, 2012

When? Sundays, 12-1:30pm

Where? Port Carling Arena

  • Boys and girls aged 5-13 are invited to come try out hockey. Need help with equipment? There's some available.
  • Program a partnership with Port Carling Minor Hockey as coaches and thanks to District funding

Hockey is a fun way to get active and this program gives children a chance to give the sport a try without making a big commitment first. Questions? Email Lisa McMurray or call the Township office at 705 765-3156
 

Save the Date for Paths to Creative Knowledge Symposium, Oct. 27

Posted Oct. 17, 10am: Press release from the Knowledge Network promoting FREE symposium Oct 27: The Knowledge Network, a partnership between the Arts Council of Muskoka and Nipissing University, is host to a free educational symposium on Saturday, October 27th. The “Paths to Creative Knowledge” event will focus on educational opportunities in Muskoka, including experiential education, alternative ways of learning, and life-long learning. The intention is to highlight the variety of learning options available in this district, especially those that can provide skill development and knowledge related to the creative economy.

Share the Symposium Poster. Click here to download PDF

It is well known that ongoing learning is critical to being successful in the knowledge-based economy, which is quickly becoming an important part of Muskoka’s year-round economic base. Recent studies have shown that many people, especially those aged 20 to 39, leave Muskoka to pursue their education or find work elsewhere. The “Paths to Creative Knowledge” symposium aims to highlight the variety of learning opportunities offered right here in Muskoka – residents d­­on’t have to leave to continue their learning.

The symposium, held at Nipissing University in Bracebridge, will feature a panel discussion with local leaders in the field on the state of education in Muskoka, hands-on workshops, a networking luncheon and an “educational marketplace” showcasing Muskoka’s educational businesses and organizations. The daylong event will be facilitated by CBC radio’s tech guru Jesse Hirsh (jessehirsh.com), and the keynote speaker is Emily Pohl-Weary (emilypohlweary.com), a Hugo-award winning author, founder of the Parkdale Street Writers for at-risk youth, and executive director of the Academy of the Impossible (impossible.ws).

The symposium will be highly interactive, with graphic artist Pamela Hubbard visually recording the event and an “Ask Me Anything (AMA)” live social media conversation facilitated by Norah Fountain. Participants can get involved by following @knownetmuskoka on Twitter and using the hashtag #knownet2012.

The event is open to the public, but pre-registration is required. For more information or to register, visit the Knowledge Network’s website at www.knownet.ca <http://www.knownet.ca> .

The Knowledge Network is an initiative of the Arts Council of Muskoka and Nipissing University, with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Culture’s Cultural Strategic Investment Fund. The symposium is presented in partnership with Muskoka Chautauqua and Muskoka Futures.

For more information, contact Knowledge Network coordinator Jen Morgan Anderson at info@knownet.ca.

Miller surprised and disappointed: reacting to McGuinty’s resignation

Norm Miller disappointed legislature prorogued

Posted Sept 15, 840pm: As Premier Dalton McGuinty answered questions about his surprise announcement he is stepping down, Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller expressed his surprise to Muskoka News Watch. His immediate reaction is like many on hearing the news: "I am surprised by his resignation," says Miller, "and disappointed the legislature is prorogued."

Not surprisingly, Miller's reaction echoes that of his party's leader. Tim Hudak is sharply critical of McGuinty's call to prorogue the legislature.

As part of the Premier's announcement today in a sudden caucus meeting, McGuinty said prorogation is necessary "to allow discussions with our labour partners and the opposition to occur in an atmosphere that is free of the heightened rancour of politics in the legislature. And when the legislature returns, we will either have negotiated agreements in hand or a firm sense of what the opposition will support." He then said it was time for renewal and announced it was "the right time for Ontario's next Liberal Premier."

McGuinty will continue to serve as the MPP for Ottawa South until the next general election and he told the press just minutes ago he has no plans beyond his term of duty. Meantime, speculation swirls about his surprise announcement with some political watchers saying his announcement is linked to the recent revelation about documents regarding the Oakville gas plant to the possibility McGuinty may consider a run at the federal Liberal leadership. McGuinty scoffed at the latter suggestion several times during tonight's press conference, asking reporters "are you with me, here?" and "what rumours are you people spreading?" As for the gas plant issue, McGuinty said he has made it clear that two of the gas plant decisions were wrong but his party made a decision to relocate the plants and it is not unlike Mike Harris' decision to shut down the subway line that cost $270million. He did not apologize when asked if he would by reporters or say his resignation had anything to do with the gas plant controversy.

Tragic crash on Highway 118 claims one life: Breaking News from Moose FM

Posted 3.52 pm: Moose FM and Bracebridge Examiner are reporting a crash on Highway 118 West somewhere between Kirrie Glen and Ziska Road. Please see Moose coverage for details. On Twitter, Moose reporters say school buses on that route will be running up to 30 minutes late.

Moose FM – One Confirmed Dead in Bracebridge Crash

Muskoka’s trial bus service comes to screeching halt

Corridor 11 Bus from Huntsville to Barrie Halted, For Now

Posted Oct 11, 5.53pm. Blaming regulatory issues, Hammond Transportation has been forced to put a temporary stop to the Corridor 11 Bus service. The last bus will run the route from Huntsville to Barrie on Wednesday, October 17. The trial bus project, a joint initiative of the District of Muskoka and Hammond, was to operate until at least December.

A press release from Hammond explains passenger transportation in Ontario is regulated through the Ontario Highway Transport Board (OHTB), and the company felt it had the authority to run the Corridor 11 Bus Service. Hammond is licensed to operate charter bus services throughout the Muskoka and Simcoe areas. The press release, sent on behalf of Greg Hammond by the District of Muskoka reads: "We were shocked when we were notified by the OHTB that existing licensed carriers had expressed concerns that we were not operating in accordance with the Public Vehicles Act."

That existing licensed carrier is Ontario Northland that operates a bus service between Toronto and points north of Muskoka, stopping in Gravenhurst, Bracebridge and Huntsville at certain times of the day. Until recently, Ontario Northland also ran a passenger train service that was partially subsidized by the Ontario government and had stops in Muskoka as well.
 
To comply with the act, Hammond Transportation says it submitted two applications to the OHTB. The first application was for temporary authority to operate the Corridor 11 Bus route. This application was supported by 577 individual signatures indicating public support for the new service. The second application is for permanent authority to operate the Corridor 11 Bus route. The company says it is disappointed that its application for temporary authority was opposed by the current existing licensed carrier, and that the OHTB had denied our application.
 
Here's what Hammond plans to do: "It is our intention to continue with our application for permanent authority. Once that authority is obtained we will reinstate the Corridor 11 bus service. We expect that a hearing will be held locally in the next month where the OHTB will consider our permanent application.: 

In the release, Hammond says it wishes to apologize to anyone who is inconvenienced by its need to halt this service. It also thanks everyone who has supported the Corridor 11 Bus project to date.
 
Here's what the public can do:
To help with the OHTB hearing, Hammond says feedback from the public is important. Knowing how Muskokans use and plan to use the Corridor 11 Bus service will strengthen its case and help ensure continued future service. To lend your support, please send an email to corridor11bus@muskoka.on.ca or deb@hammondtransportation.com or leave a message at 705-645-2412 x 1411.

Georgian Bay Township wins three marketing awards

Posted Oct 10, 8.48am: The Township of Georgian Bay is a triple marketing award winner. Mayor Larry Braid accepted the Marketing Canada Awards at a Council meeting yesterday from staff who received them at a recent conference in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

The Township competed against municipalities all across Canada and submitted four submissions for excellence in best practice and were winners for the:
• Marketing Canada Just Add Water Festival 2011 Marketing Campaign;
• Marketing Canada Electronic Newsletter ‘e-news’

The Township's Electronic Newsletter also won an additional award:
• Sustainable Marketing initiative of the Year

No permit doesn’t stop Township sign on District land

Update Posted October 9, 11.35. For those who've noticed the yellow and black canoehead portage sign that keeps being put up and taken down on Hwy 169 at the Bala Falls, MNW got some answers today on who put the sign up and whether it is there to stay now (our earlier posts pointed to conflicting information on how the signs keep going up and are subsequently taken down).

Tony White, District of Muskoka Commissioner of Engineering and Public Works, has confirmed the public works committee voted 3-2 to allow the sign but that decision has yet to go to District Council for ratification on October 22. He says District has informed the Township it needs a permit to erect a sign on District lands. The sign went back up on District land on Friday without approval of District Council or a permit.

Jason Krynicki, Director of Public Works for the Township of Muskoka Lakes, says township staff put the sign in place on the direction of the Mayor and Council on Friday — the same day The Weekender reported the portage sign stirred up debate at committee, prompted recommendations that the Township should look at how others erect signs in highway areas (such as Algonquin Park regarding Highway 60) and that the fate of the sign would be decided by the full District Council. Read The Weekender story here.

Township thumbs nose at District approval process

While White concurs that the Township has perhaps put 'horse before cart' in quickly erecting the sign again in advance of having a permit, he says it is clear the Township feels the sign is necessary and he says District will likely not make it a priority to take it down. He also says District staff did not take the first set of signs down in September. He does not know who removed the sign on District land but says he has confirmed the Ministry of Natural Resources had removed two other portage signs on Crown land beside the falls.

MNW COMMENT: It is possible the signs were quickly erected again in advance of the provincial Conservation Review Board's site tour this morning. Perhaps a sign will be more convincing to the Board than the Township's documentation which sources say is still being prepared. Surveys, etc, of the area to be designated as heritage properties that include the site of the portage sign are reported to be still in progress. Note the sign is not a priority for District, so why is it such a priority for Township? Surely there are more important issues our Township could be spending time and money on.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear Readers!

Posted Oct 8. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. What will you do on this last day of the Thanksgiving weekend? Maybe trek up the Dorset Fire tower to get a bird's eye view of magnificent fall colours. See pic below.

Or find a tree in full show off mode to gather your family for a fall family photo?

And we've been enjoying everybody's sharing of the incredible rainbows spotted across Muskoka on Saturday, too. Here's the fourth one we saw that day streaming colour down onto Scarcliffe Bay on Lake Muskoka. Be thankful we get to enjoy Muskoka every day! Happy Thanksgiving.

Muskoka Rainbow and Fall Colours, Lake Muskoka

Bala’s Portage Sign Pops Up Again One Week Later

Commentary Posted Oct. 5, 7.50pm: On the same day The Weekender publishes a story about District debate on a canoehead sign being requested to be erected by the Township, the sign that was taken down last Friday popped back up again. According to The Weekender article, a District committee voted 3-2 to send the question on to District Council to decide. But some excited party in Bala, ostensibly thumbing nose at process, erected the sign back up again today (some time Friday afternoon before 5 pm). Below is the newest photo of the portage sign (taken today, Friday, October 4 at 4.53pm). Interesting timing as the new sign  will likely still be there Tuesday when the Conservation Review Board is here in Muskoka Lakes for a second pre-hearing conference on sites up for heritage designation (and possibly a site tour) by the Township of Muskoka Lakes. Is that what we've lowered our 'proof' to — sticking up a sign and saying, 'look, see, there's a sign, so this must be true?'. Read on past the photo for Councillor Phill Harding's explanation of why the canoehead sign is so desperately needed now.

The Weekender article quotes Councillor Harding as saying "it [crossing the highway] is a very popular canoe route where all of our camp kids are crossing the highway." He also added that no construction permits or applications regarding the hydro project have come to Township so no construction is set to begin although there is speculation in the community." Unquote. 

Perhaps Councillor Harding didn't get the memo. Perhaps he is unaware that the Mayor and others on Council have said they will do anything to stop the proposed power plant that now has approval from the province to go ahead, pending the inevitable appeals. Looks like they are making good on campaign promises to do anything — and many in the community might applaud that plan. But do they have to insult our intelligence and make us look like hicks with these ridiculous shenanigans?

District doofus moves: More and more at the District table, our Township representatives look silly. Sources say that recently at an Official Plan (OP) amendment meeting, Councillor Allen Edwards was put in the embarassing position of having to admit he didn't know if discussion about Township concerns about the OP had happened. He was responding to a question about what specific  concerns the Township had. Apparently the Township had expressed its objections to the OP as it stands but did not give any reasons why. This week, Mayor Murphy complained about the possibility of District meetings being reduced, with the Bracebridge Examiner quoting her as saying, "If I’m going to take the time to come here, I’d like it to be substantive.” Good point, Mayor. Perhaps you can consider what your Township is bringing to the District table then. Is it 'substantive' action to take up District Council time discussing a portage sign at a portage that few are seen using as the paddling season comes to a close?

But then again, I guess we don't have to wait for the next District meeting as the sign is already up again. So much for respecting the process of asking 'can we put this on your District land'. Who put up the sign? Somebody must know (I'm not suggesting Township staff or any politician got their hands dirty doing this). But it would be nice if they told us what is really going on here. Likely, it has to due with the Conservation Review Board (CRB) looking into proposed heritage designations. That's a frustrating process in itself. Even if the Conservation Review Board doesn't fall for the insubstantive proof of a portage route, Township can still go ahead and designate land it owns (which gets really confusing as they don't own the District land the sign sits on or the Crown land the power plant may rise on). There are reports Township also wants to designate the 360 degree 'view' from that site. Whew, good thing the Mayor got her dock finished so the view will be the same when this review process ends. The only option to those who may object is to take the Review Board's findings to the Ontario Municipal Board to fight the designation. That takes money, and lawyers, and planners. What IS substantive here? The amount of money the Township is spending on this idiocy.

Note; The Review Board has another Closed Meeting planned for Tuesday and then a public meeting is expected to go ahead in January.

Original post and pictures below.

Pondering the case of Bala's disappearing portage sign – Posted Oct. 3, 2012. 12pm

Commentary posted Oct. 3, 12 pm: Here's a post about a portage sign post that appeared suddenly in Bala one September day and disappeared just as fast and how it got me thinking about what signifies heritage in Muskoka.

Sign went up, sign went down: In mid-September a portage sign showed up beside Hwy 169 just beside the bridge over the north Bala Falls and between the historic plaque that refers to Bala's power generation heritage. I took the pictures (below) of the sign on September 18 thinking it might come in handy in case we ever get a public hearing on heritage designation sites in Bala (a public meeting planned by the Township of Muskoka Lakes early this year was later cancelled. March Break conflicts were cited as the reason for the cancellation and the meeting has never been rescheduled). Ten days later the sign was gone. Here are two views from across the street that show the sign's short-term location.

I poked around and learned the District of Muskoka had the sign removed from its District land beside District Muskoka Road 169 and a Ministry of Natural Resources Conservation Officer removed another sign that was on Crown land there. Reportedly, there was no permission granted to install portage signs at the Bala location. Who put up the sign? I don't know. But it started me thinking about how we preserve heritage. Personally, I try to by writing about Muskoka history (see any 2000 edition of the Muskokan) and retelling stories of what I've seen for myself over the years (I'd also like to see a centralized Muskoka archive library, but that's a topic for another day). Sometimes the older stories are harder to confirm and we have only the recollections of our elders — but that's how history lives, and we count on professional historians and volunteers who care to gather enough evidence to prove stories have not been over embellished or romanticized.

Portage parades evoke personal nostalgia

A portage sign is a powerfull signifier for me. I love canoe heads. Summer isn't the same until the kids from Pinecrest hike down my street with paddling gear headed for Lake Muskoka. Some choose a longer portage route, but I can count on a group inevitably coming by, the younger ones coping resolvedly with packs that seem to dwarf them. Not so many canoes though – maybe they trailer some between lakes now. But for me, it is a constant of Muskoka summer viewed from my living room window – a moment I can count on to take me back to when my street was Clear Lake Road and Pinecrest campers were always passing by. They would stop and play in my white sand pit (now mostly overgrown) and in return, the Y dock on Clear was always open for our use. That doesn't happen so much now, but somehow — and thankfully — the short cut gets passed down to camp counsellors every summer. When the portage parade makes its way down Kidd Street my childhood memories take me back to when my home in the village and cottage on the lake were connected directly. The Pinecrest portage route is a part of my heritage and it means a lot to me.

I'm sure our elders feel the same way about seeing canoes launched into Moon River and I regret I don't share those memories. I spent most Sundays of my teenaged years hanging out at the rocks at Bala Falls. When teaching swimming at Jaspen Park my first year as an assistant, I would stroll over to the falls for my lunch breaks every day (my boss Diane Davidson was such a cool girl that I was too shy to try and lunch with her and the other instructors). I've shot portraits of my mother and my daughter as a toddler and then a pre-teen there. Those rocks will always be inviting to me and I often stop there to collect my thoughts, maybe before or after a lunch at Annie's. I've watched as divers performed their open water certification dives there and have hauled my scuba gear down on a few occasions myself. Didn't see divers there this summer too much. Maybe I missed them. We can't be everywhere all the time, after all. But here's the thing. I have never seen any portage activity on that site, ever. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen (i don't have a webcam set up) and I have seen a picture of kids with canoes at Purk's Place. It certainly doesn't mean portaging didn't happen in the distant past as we know voyageurs and aboriginals made their way through our parts, whether it be via the mill stream or at the falls. But it seems to me lately that some that wish to protect heritage are reshaping history or have selective memories — or measure heritage by what they recall over only the past 50 years or so.  Like me, I suspect they place more nostalgic value on what they can remember personally as it affects them more emotionally than events that happened prior to therir existence. But our collective heritage can not (should not!) be denied or rewritten and deserves to be respected, equally.  I fear the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) may have unknowingly — or purposely — disrespected our local heritage in their newsletter this week. it was a blatantly inaccurate and disturbing view of just the past two years in Muskoka Lakes — I hate to think what some members of this group present as 'fact' when they go back three years or more. Perhaps someone fed them wrong information. I've called the office and asked the manager if they would like to comment on what they've published. I believe generally in the goals of the ACO but I think the article by their president damages their credibility. I look forward to hearing from them. The ACO has private funders but is also partially funded by our tax dollars through provincial programs such as the Trillium Foundation. If dollars are being spent on preservation, we should also ensure they are being spent to preserve facts. All this from a portage sign. Who knew?

On a totally unrelated portage note, MNW cheered on The Pink Portage this summer! Where will Andrew portage next?