Gravenhurst Farmers’ Market boots author

Book ‘insulting, abusive and slanderous’ claim market directors

Posted July 30, 12:30pm:  A murder mystery novel entitled Farmers Market that’s set in a town closely resembling Gravenhurst has resulted in its author being kicked out of the Gravenhurst Farmers’ Market. Charging author Wendel Messer was guilty of a third bylaw offence because of the book’s content, directors of the Gravenhurst Farmers’ Market Co-operative revoked Messel’s vendor status effective July 10.

Gravenhurst, Farmers Market, novel banned, Messer, Rosseau, Muskoka
Farmers Market: fiction too close to home?

Messer has been a vendor with the Gravenhurst market since 2008; he has been selling in several markets for 12 years; and has held chair and director positions on two other market boards. A Notice of Offense and Revocation of Vendor Status (you can read the Notice by scrolling to the end of this post) shows Messer received three warnings from the Co-operative’s board — and the contents of his book were grounds for the second and third strikes against him.

“The insulting, abusive and slanderous content of this book constitutes an appalling violation of the Market by-laws and their spirit,” reads the wording of the Notice. Messer’s novel places the fictional town of “Gravywurst” in New York State and while Messer says it’s obvious Muskoka is the inspiration for the book’s setting (there’s even a steamship called the Segwun), he says the market directors’ complaints against him are “bogus.”

“On July 10, a deputation from the board of directors came to me with a list of complaints,” says Messer, describing what happened the day he lost his vendor status. “I told them I didn’t agree with the document they handed me and when they asked me to take my book off the table, I complied. The board chair made a video of the proceeds and they left when I took the book off the table.”

But the directors weren’t done, says Messer.

“Toward market close, the chair and wife of one of the directors came to my table and gave me another document revoking my vendor status,” he says. “They told me not to come back.”

Following his dismissal, Messer says wanted to put up a “Banned in Gravenhurst” sign in relation to his book in other Muskoka farmers’ markets, but those markets would not allow him to do it. He adds the board of the Rosseau Farmers Market has bought a copy and the directors plan to read it, but “for what reason, I can’t imagine,” says Messer.

As for the Gravenhurst board of directors, Messer says his exchanges with the board have always been civil. Still, the board did take issue when he wrote a letter to the editor of the Gravenhurst Banner in March after controversy over the market’s exclusion of a local farmer made headlines. Heather and Andy Johnson, owners of the Severn Sunset Eco Farm, wanted to sell cut flowers at the market but were refused due to the market policy of not allowing duplication of items offered in the market.

Rosseau, farmers market, book ban
Messer at Rosseau market. Photo from

Others cried foul as the Johnsons are local farmers, while some market members are not. The issue was resolved with the Johnsons in the spring, and now they are vendors at the market (See Related Stories at the end of this post). At about the same time, a letter entitled “Boycott the Directors, not the Market” was published in the Gravenhurst Banner in March. In the letter, Messer called for the board of directors to be dissolved. Messer was also involved in a market reform committee called the Committee of Ten.

Fictional novel the last straw

A Notice of Offense dated July 5 notes that Messer received a verbal warning from several members of the Board of Directors as well as other co-op members that he was allegedly acting in a rude, disruptive and/or offensive matter that was contrary to market By-Laws.  The Notice also mentions letters written to the press that the Notice states prompted other market members to be concerned about negative publicity that could potentially harm the market. That verbal warning was strike one. Strike two is also contained in the Notice of July 5: the Board charges Messer actively promoted and sold his book, Farmers Market, on the market days of June 26 and July 3 when the book was not approved for sale at the Market. According to the market bylaws, the acceptance of any products “is strictly at the discretion of the board.”

People connected to other farmers markets don’t agree with the ‘rude and disruptive’ description aimed at Messer. At the Bala Farmers’ Market on Monday, one person who asked not to be identified, described him as “consistent, dependable, courteous to customers and market staff.”

Related Stories

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Messer, Farmers market, Muskoka, Gravenhurst
Notice of Offense and Status Revocation July 10





$113K grant awarded to Muskoka Conservancy and Muskoka Lakes Association

Grant for shoreline stewardship, MLA student bursary winner and other highlights from MLA AGM

Posted July 29, 12.30pm: The Ontario Trillium Foundation has awarded $113,000 to the Muskoka Conservancy and Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) for a new shoreline stewardship project.

Muskoka Lakes Association, Muskoka Conservancy, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Bala, Muskoka
Bill Roberts (right) of Trillium Foundation presents plaque to MLA and Muskoka Conservancy; announced $113K grant to the organizations

Foundation representative Bill Roberts presented the two organizations with a plaque and made the grant announcement at the annual general meeting of the MLA at the Bala Community Centre on July 26.

The money is earmarked for a new collaborative two-year project to create a flagship shoreline stewardship program that will build community-wide awareness of water quality issues and shoreline management options.  MLA Communications Manager Marilyn Vogel says the project includes three main elements:

MLA Directors Huddle after AGM Friday night
MLA Directors Huddle after AGM. New directors this year are Robinson (Rob) Clark, Michael Cleverdon, Catherine Inniss and Steve Phillips.
  1. data collection (including water quality data and identification of high-risk shoreline areas);
  2. education and outreach (including development and delivery of teaching materials, how to workshops for landowners and specialized training for landscaping and real estate professionals); and,
  3. program implementation (including site visits and individualized site recommendations, distribution of educational material and water quality data, and demonstration projects).

The goal of the funding is to support the partners to help improve the quality of Muskoka’s shorelines and wildlife habitat connectivity, reduce human impact on lake and river water quality, and empower landowners to undertake simple shoreline restoration projects.

“The Shoreline Stewardship Program is a multifaceted project that will provide solutions to a host of shoreline issues while also showing the link between shoreline issues and water quality issues,” says Kristie Virgoe, Executive Director, Muskoka Conservancy.  “This collaboration with the MLA will allow us to join forces and share information, skills, and work together to find solutions for shoreline owners.  We are very thankful for the Ontario Trillium Foundation’s commitment to environmental programming in our community.”

For its part, the MLA is excited about furthering its past work on water quality and shoreline preservation.
“We believe this program has the capability of providing real improvement to the areas of the lakes that our research has shown need special attention due to a variety of stressors,” says MLA Office Manager Lisa Noonan. “The key to maintaining, but ultimately improving, the quality of the water in our lakes is education. This initiative will provide us with a vehicle to inform shoreline owners on manageable ways to protect the quality of our lakes and rivers and encourage the preservation of natural water’s edge habitats through site visits, seminars and local media.”

MLA, bursary, Muskoka, BMLSS
MLA Bursary winner Shelby Rushton (From right, outgoing MLA President and ongoing Board Director Mike Langdon, Shelby and her parents)

MLA Student Bursary Awarded
Another cheque was also trotted out at the meeting to support student Shelby Rushton, who earned the MLA’s student bursary of $5,000. The money will go toward the BMLSS student’s first two years of her continued education in communications at the University of Ottawa. Shelby will also be offered a summer job with the MLA in 2014.

Keynote speakers for the evening were Dr. Norman Yan and playwright Vince Grittani. Yan, a professor of Biology at York University, provided a sneak preview of an upcoming August 15th lecture (See Time for Some Good Environmental News) focusing on good environmental news for Muskoka. He told the crowd that:

  • Gravenhurst Bay is now 5 times cleaner now than it once was;
  • that Muskoka has only half as many acid lakes as it once did; and,
  • that lead pollution, once a common environmental and human health problem, has all but disappeared.
Vince Grittani, Muskoka Lakes Association, Muskoka, Weekend Guy, Bala
Playwright Vince Grittani shares his poignant and funny take on Muskoka cottage life

Grittani entertained the crowd with an array of his fun Weekend Guy cartoons and a taste of productions coming our way. He spoke of his vision of theatre in Rosseau and wound up with a stunning multimedia “My Muskoka” visual display featuring photographs by Bev McMullen and music by Tracey Hoehner, among other talents.


Cycling accident claims life of Bracebridge doctor

Posted July 24, 3pm. There are reports a cyclist hurt seriously in an accident on Sunday may have been a local doctor.

MNW is not releasing the name until police have been confirmed that family have been notified of his condition.

UPDATE: July 25, 11:00 AM: OPP Sergeant Peter Leon has confirmed that 67-year-old Gordon Riddle, a doctor in Bracebridge, has died from serious injuries sustained from his cycling accident on Sunday.

At approximately 10am Sunday, members of the Bracebridge Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Muskoka Emergency Services (EMS) responded to a request for assistance for an injured 67 year old male cyclist on Muskoka Beach Road.

It appears the local Bracebridge man left the roadway while riding his road style bicycle and was riding alone heading toward Gravenhurst. Some reports say  a group of cyclists found the man lying on the road, unresponsive. They say he was bleeding from the head and in an unusual body position on the roadway at a sharp curve that has a bump in the road. The police report states a passing motorist located the man suffering from serious injuries and called 911.

The injured cyclist was transported to local hospital by paramedics, and then air lifted to Toronto for further medical treatment due to the severity of the injuries.

With the increased popularity of road cycling, police have seen a recent increase in bicycle type incidents and they advise caution.

All clear now at Gravenhurst Post office after reports of a ‘suspicious package’

An alarm clock set off the alarm: OPP explosives unit was on scene after ‘suspicious’ package sent from Barrie postal distribution centre; all clear given at 10:20am: police reported an alarm clock to blame

Gravenhurst Post Office, suspicious package, OPP, Muskoka, Gravenhurst Canada Post
All clear as packages leave Gravenhurst post office just after 10am today. Photo by Louis Tam

Posted July 24, 10.25am: Thing are getting back to normal in the area of the Gravenhurst Post Office after a suspicious package raised alarm early this morning. OPP Sergeant Peter Leon confirmed the OPP explosives disposal unit from Orillia was on scene at the Gravenhurst Post Office in response to concerns about a ‘suspicious’ package. They’d been there since just after nine a-m and all normal precautions were taken. He says it was believed there was nothing to be concerned about in respect to public safety but at the same time safety measures, such as containing the area, were necessary. Traffic had been diverted away from the corner of Bay Street and Muskoka Road and Gravenhurst Fire was standing by behind the post office in case it was needed. The package reportedly arrived from the postal distribution centre in Barrie just before 7 am this morning. So far there are no details of why the package was considered suspicious.

UPDATE 11.39pm: Police report the package causing the alarm contained…an alarm clock.




Time for some good environmental news

Gravenhurst Bay 5 times cleaner, acid lakes cut in half: just some of the good news stories being shared by the Muskoka Watershed Council

Posted July 24, 9:15am: The Muskoka Watershed Council is inviting everyone to come and hear about environmental gains made in Muskoka. Its next environmental lecture, “Environmental Good News Stories” is planned for August 15 starting at 7pm at the Port Carling Memorial Community Centre. It will be presented by Dr. Norman Yan, professor of Biology at York University.

Muskoka, environment, ducks, Gravenhurst Whart, Muskoka watershed
Ducks paddling in redeveloped fish habitat area of Gravenhurst Wharf

The invitation reads:

“We have created global environmental problems, but we have also solved environmental problems of a global scale on more than one occasion. Come learn how we can move from creating to solving such problems.”

Did you know that:

  • Gravenhurst Bay is 5 times cleaner now than it once was?
  • Muskoka has only half as many acid lakes as it once did?
  • Lead pollution, once a common environmental and human health problem, has all but disappeared?
  • The concentration of pesticides in the environment fell 10 to 100 fold once the cosmetic use of pesticides was banned?

The council press release points out we can, and often have, solved very large and complicated environmental problems that affect our health and the condition of the watersheds we share with thousands of other species. In this lecture, Dr. Norman Yan will celebrate our past environmental successes by briefly reviewing the history of several good news stories. More importantly, he will talk about what we have learned from the past and the steps we need to take to solve today’s environmental problems.

This is the fifth year the Muskoka Watershed Council has hosted a series of environmental lectures designed to stimulate discussion on issues important to watershed health. Each lecture includes a question and answer period. Admittance is by donation and all proceeds support the work of the Muskoka Watershed Council.

For more information or to RSVP, visit, call the Muskoka Watershed Council at (705) 645-2100 x387 or email

Dark sky lighting concerns spur call for action against RioCan Gravenhurst

Stores not friendly to dark skies? Don’t shop there, suggests Silver

Posted July 24, 9 am By Louis Tam with files from MNW

Claiming Gravenhurst’s dark sky bylaw doesn’t go far enough, dark sky preservationist Mike Silver is calling for a boycott of the town’s RioCan plaza in protest.

Silver, a director of the Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association (MRA), issued the impromptu call while giving an update on dark sky protection to the annual meeting of the MRA on July 20. The meeting drew an audience of about 70 people to the Port Carling Community Centre.

dark sky, torrance barrens, mike silver, Muskoka Ratepayers' Association, ratepayers, light pollution
Getting tough on light pollution: Mike Silver calls for RioCan boycott to protect dark skies in Muskoka

“I’m a mediator, I don’t like conflict, but I think we need to boycott that RioCan development,” said Silver. “You can go and get groceries at other places, you can get dollar store items at other places, you can get hardware items at other places. I think we’ve got to hit the developer in the pocketbook.”

Though Gravenhurst has enacted a dark sky bylaw to help preserve dark skies, Silver takes issues with its terms, saying it will not force existing developments to change their lighting fixtures. He says the lighting at the RioCan plaza, which is home to tenants such as Canadian Tire, Sobeys and the LCBO, is urban in nature and disrupts the dark sky.

Not an official association position: Outgoing MRA president Susan Daglish told MNW after the meeting that Silver’s suggestion about a boycott comes from his frustration over the lack of municipal movement on dark sky preservation in general — and the MRA is not espousing a boycott be supported. A show of hands at the MRA meeting did indicate the majority of attendees remain concerned about dark sky protection, however, and want to continue to pursue the issue officially in some way.

Silver has lobbied long and hard for dark sky preservation and has raised concerns several times about the need for stronger, enforceable dark sky bylaws to ward off light pollution. He was integral in getting the Torrance Barrens designated as North America’s first dark sky preserve (a project of which the MRA has been a sponsor).

To read Silver’s essay about the Torrance Dark Sky Preserve for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, click here.

Silver complains the Town of Gravenhurst has ignored his input on light pollution (he once served on a committee that looked at dark sky friendly lighting for the Muskoka Wharf), and told the MRA meeting that Gravenhurst’s dark sky bylaw is “not worth the paper it’s written on.”

In the Township of Muskoka Lakes, staff have been asked to write a report on the matter of dark sky lighting that takes in all considerations. Presently, light pollution concerns in the Township are addressed at a high level in a dark sky lighting policy in place since 2006. Dark sky lighting requirements for most properties and applications are normally considered in required site plans. To view the Township of Muskoka Lakes’ 2006 policy on dark sky lighting, click here.

Related articles on Muskoka dark sky preservation:

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Ratepayers hear from One Muskoka, Algonquin Healthcare at AGM

Highlights of Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association meeting July 20

By Louis Tam

The 2013 Board poses for its inaugural photo after the group’s annual general meeting on Saturday, July 20. Top row, left to right: Doug Bryden, Andree Baillargeon, Mike Webb, Wayne McKibbin and Mike Silver. Bottom row, left to right: Madeline Fielding, Peter Long, new president Liz Denyar, outgoing president Susan Daglish and Dianne Davidson. (Absent from photo: Andrew Baldwin, Louise Cragg, Michel Fortin and Doug Clark)
The 2013 Board poses for its inaugural photo after the group’s annual general meeting on July 20. Top row, left to right: Doug Bryden, Andree Baillargeon, Mike Webb, Wayne McKibbin and Mike Silver. Bottom row, left to right: Madeline Fielding, Peter Long, new president Liz Denyar, outgoing president Susan Daglish and Dianne Davidson. (Absent from photo: Andrew Baldwin, Louise Cragg, Michel Fortin and Doug Clark)

Posted July 22, 10pm: Muskoka’s environment, economy, healthcare and governance dominated discussions at the general meeting of the Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association (MRA) on Saturday, July 20. About 70 people attended the event at the Port Carling Community Centre.

The crowd heard from Mike Provan of the One Muskoka group – an organization that is studying the possibility of amalgamating government functions in the district.

Provan pointed to the multiple tourism organization offices, economic development offices and municipal departments which exist in each area municipality as examples of where overlap could be eliminated.

“How many more websites do we need for Muskoka tourism?” he asked.

Pitch for One Muskoka: Mike Provan of One Muskoka answers questions at Saturday's meeting of the Muskoka Ratepayers' Association
Pitch for One Muskoka: Mike Provan speaks to Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association meeting; says too many government services are being duplicated

Provan then drew attention to declining enrollment rates at the two elementary schools in Muskoka Lakes. Though the number of seniors in the area is growing, he noted that the number of younger residents is steadily falling at the same time many local employer have closed their doors.

“What is the draw to keep the youth?” he said. “We’ve got our youth population going down, we’ve got our youth going to other areas.”

Three of his own children, he said, have left cottage country to pursue careers in more fruitful job markets.

One Muskoka, Mike Provan, eliminate waste, cut government services
One Muskoka’s Mike Provan wants to put a stop to duplication of government services and see an overall economic development plan for Muskoka

“We don’t have an overall economic development plan for Muskoka,” he said. “There isn’t one for Muskoka. There’s bits and pieces in each municipality or whatnot, but we’re not sure how they all fit in together.”

Tim Smith, chief financial officer at Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare, also spoke to attendees about the challenges of matching community needs with available funding. He said continuing care, currently offered at both the Huntsville and Bracebridge hospitals, will be grouped into the Bracebridge site only.

”What this does is it allows a more efficient, effective treatment for all those patients when they are grouped together, but at the same time it creates capacity at the Huntsville hospital to allow us to bring in new services,” he said.

Cataract surgery, he said, is also slated to take place at one hospital campus only. At the same time, Smith said the hospital network is looking at introducing new services.

“What we are actively pursuing right now is to bring in an integrated stroke rehab unit to Muskoka, and we are working very closely with the Ontario Stroke Network to make that happen,” he said. “This would be a brand new service to Muskoka we don’t have right now. We do have an aging population – this is a service that is required in this part of Canada.”

Alongside displays put on by the Muskoka Lakes Fire Department and the Muskoka Watershed Council, attendees had a chance to check out plans for a new nursing station in Port Carling.

Allen Edwards, Muskoka Lakes, Muskoka Lakes Township, Port Carling, Ratepayers, Muskoka Ratepayers' Association, healthcare, nursing station, wellness centre
New Nursing Station Location: Muskoka Lakes councilor Allen Edwards shows off a map of where a new nursing station is slated to be built in Port Carling.

The meeting also saw the election of Wayne McKibbin and Andrew Baldwin to the Ratepayers’ board of directors. Liz Denyar was chosen to take the seat of outgoing president Susan Daglish. Another director, Robert Anderson, has left the board to pursue career opportunities.

Daglish said she was thankful for being able to serve with the group’s board of directors, whom she praised for their “tremendous talent, enthusiasm and work ethic.”

“Our efforts seem to be paying off, our membership’s on the rise, our opinions and expertise are frequently being sought by organizations and media and government,” she said. “We seem to be a larger presence in the community.”

The association also likes to give back to the community and that includes extending a helping hand to local students. This year the association has awarded bursaries to each to the following students: Megan Evans (Watt Public School), Sydney Smith (Glen Orchard Public School), Mitchell Wallace, Kristin Ledger and Emily Buddo (BMLSS). The MRA says there were no applicants from Gravenhurst High School or St. Dominic’s.

At the start of the meeting, Township of Muskoka Lakes Mayor Alice Murphy brought greetings from the Township; District Councillor Lori-Lynn Giaschi-Pacini did the same for the District of Muskoka; and letters were read from Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement and Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller. Dr. Norman Yan briefly spoke about the new organization supporting the Muskoka Watershed, Friends of the Muskoka Watershed, of which Yan is Chair. He also outlined some plans for the future in terms of expanding education opportunities and scientific research for the good of the watershed. MRA director Mike Silver also spoke, expressing his ongoing frustration over a lack of action in Muskoka on dark sky preservation.

To visit the Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association web site, please click here.

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Faulty coffee maker may be to blame for cottage blaze on Cedar Rail Trail

Muskoka Lakes fire stations battle early morning cottage fire 

Posted July 22, 130pm: The Muskoka Lakes Fire Department responded around 6am today to a cottage fire at 1067 Cedar Rail Trail in Muskoka Lakes. On arrival, Fire Chief Richard Hayes says the structure was fully engulfed with fire. Crews from Station 5 – Minett, Station 6 – Port Carling, Marine 5 and Marine 1 battled the blaze to bring it under control. The cause of this fire is being classified as undetermined but a faulty coffee maker is suspected to have started the fire. The estimated property and contents loss is $150,000.

A case of inside the car road rage: Huntsville passenger charged with assaulting driver

Don’t like my driving? Call 1-800-Throw A Few Punches…

Posted July 21, 12:30pm: It’s one thing to be a backseat driver, but for some reason a Huntsville man allegedly did more than criticize: he’s charged with assaulting the driver of a moving car while he was the passenger.

Police from the OPP detachment in Huntsville say two men in Bracebridge were travelling together in the Taylor Road area just before 5pm on Friday when one of them kicked the vehicle he was in, damaging the door, headlight and windshield. The two men continued northbound, and the accused allegedly started to assault the driver directly, almost causing a crash. The two made it to Huntsville where police stopped the vehicle on Main Street. Police say the accused struggled on the street, allegedly resisting arrest. Charged is 19-year-old Roderick Main. He will appear in Bracebridge court on Monday.

Gravenhurst clean up continues (see pictures), many in Muskoka still without power after storm yesterday

Trees down, power lines down, power still out in spots in Gravenhurst and area, one of the hardest hit regions by the storm yesterday in Muskoka. Pictures show clean up efforts and sample damage on Mary, Bay and Wagner Streets in Gravenhurst (click to move through photos faster)


Posted July 20, 9.25pm: The power’s back on in parts of Gravenhurst and the line ups were long at Petro-Canada, the only working gas station early this evening in the town. Everywhere were piles of bush from fallen down trees. Roofs and siding sported tarps to keep the elements out after trees crashed into homes yesterday. Peggy and Peter Schofield say they raced home when the storm was at its height at just before 3pm yesterday to

Gravenhurst, storm, hydro, outages, tornado
The Schofield family and friends watch from across the street as their house is cleared of downed trees.

discover their house at the corner of Clairmont and Bay Streets was completed covered by downed trees. Just before 8pm tonight they were watching from the other side as the road as crews from their insurance company started the job of clearing their home. The amount of damage is unknown. In West Gravenhurst, the Hans who run the Jugtown were helping people as much they could although their power was out. They say their gas pumps might not get up and running until

Gravenhurst, #summerstorm, Storm, power outage, Muskoka
What can you do? Powers out, so pumps are closed – for now. Mrs. Han poses beside her gas pumps at Jugtown, west Gravenhurst. No power, but the Hans hope to have the pumps open sometime Sunday. Meantime, the store is open to help neighbours.

4pm Sunday. One lady buying several bags of ice at Jugtown described yesterday’s scene like this: “It was if all of the lake was sucked up and then slammed back down on our cottage. We were here for the tornadoes two years ago, but this was something else.” On Wagner Street in Gravenhurst, resident Leslie McCann says the cupola off her garage was sheared right off and her outside furniture spun right around from the storm that she describes as cutting a swath from Ungerman Park on Gravenhurst Bay straight up Wagner and surrounding streets and across to Gull Lake Park where stately trees had been felled as well. Emergency officials remind people to watch for fallen power lines.

Bala, storm, outages, tornado, downspout
So close: Tree down between Overboard and home in Bala

At the height of the storm yesterday, over 5,000 people in the Bracebridge area alone were without power: across the province over 130,000 people reportedly lost power. At press time, Hydro One was reporting it could be at least Monday before power is fully restored in the areas they service in Muskoka.


Did you know… Muskoka News Watch gets by on donations? Keep our journalists writing and bringing you fresh Muskoka coverage. Even a few dollars via PayPal help keep us going (the Donate button is at top right of the Home Page). MNW is also your one stop spot for all Muskoka media outlets.

Environment Canada says the worst has passed: severe storm warnings over

Update at 6.20pm: Clean up under way after severe storm downs trees; some homes damaged, especially in Gravenhurst

Weather update as of 6:20 pm: Environment Canada has ended the tornado and severe storm warnings for Muskoka and Parry Sound. The public is encouraged to continue to monitor local media reports and be aware of changing weather patterns.

Widespread power outage is being experienced, a significant number of trees are down and extensive damage has been reported.  Most roads are now passable but motorists are encouraged to watch for debris, hydro and clean up crews.

The public is advised to stay away from downed trees and wires.

The public is asked to be patient while crews work diligently to clean up the debris and return power to the affected areas.  Homeowners in Gravenhurst are reporting damage. Earlier this afternoon a downspout was reported in nearby Housey’s Rapids. There have been citizen’s reports of possible tornado activity in Gravenhurst. Those reports are unconfirmed.

4pm: Tornado warning ended for Muskoka; severe thunderstorm warning remains – follow Environment Canada and listen for radio reports for more updates.

Here’s the latest update from Environment Canada: 

Bracebridge – Gravenhurst – Port Carling – Port Severn
As of 3:55 PM EDT Friday 19 July 2013
Severe thunderstorm warning for these regions continued.

As of  3:25 PM EDT Friday 19 July 2013 Tornado warning for
Port Carling – Port Severn ended.

Huntsville – Baysville
3:55 PM EDT Friday 19 July 2013
Severe thunderstorm warning for
Huntsville – Baysville continued

Update as of 3:20pm:
At 3:20 EDT, meteorologists are tracking a line of severe thunderstorms extending from southern Lake Huron through Lake Simcoe and east northeastward to the Ottawa Valley and into Quebec.

These are dangerous storms. A roof has been reported blown down in the Petawawa area and trees have been blown down. Wind damage has been reported in Petawawa, Pembroke, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Barrie, and Coldwater.

At 3:20 EDT, meteorologists are tracking a line of severe thunderstorms extending from southern Lake Huron through Lake Simcoe and east northeastward to the Ottawa Valley and into Quebec.

These are dangerous storms. A roof has been reported blown down in the Petawawa area and trees have been blown down. Wind damage has been reported in Petawawa, Pembroke, Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Barrie, and Coldwater. This is all resulting from an unstable airmass across Southern Ontario. Scattered thunderstorms are expected to continue this afternoon. Some of these storms will be locally severe. There is also the risk for isolated tornadoes. The greatest threat for isolated tornadoes will be over northern portions of Southern Ontario, including the Ottawa Valley. Hence a tornado watch has been issued for those regions.

One MNW reader called in to report a downspout in Housey’s Rapids near Gravenhurst. Power’s out and trees are reported downed on hydro lines there. In Bracebridge, some pockets are without power (for example, some stores on the east side of Manitoba Street were out of power at 3.30 pm and the traffic lights at Manitoba and Taylor were out while other traffic lights were on). Be careful out there!

Note: There are multiple power outages in various areas of Muskoka. If you can access Internet, click on Outages on the Hydro One site (Hydro One also offers mobile outage reporting apps for iPhones, BlackBerry and Android.)

Severe thunderstorm watch upgraded to tornado watch alert for Muskoka and parts of Parry Sound.

Posted July 19, 11.10am: Just before 11am, Environment Canada has upgraded its severe thunderstorm watch to a tornado watch. This is an alert to the potential development of severe thunderstorms capable of producing tornadoes. Isolated tornadoes are possible this afternoon and early evening. Environment Canada recommends monitoring  weather conditions and listening for updated bulletins. Right now in Muskoka Lakes we are seeing high wind activity.

You can follow the weather warnings by clicking here for Environment Canada.

Here is more information provided from Environment Canada: At 11:00 EDT, meteorologists are tracking a line of severe thunderstorms likely producing damaging winds, large hail, and heavy downpours. There is also the risk for a tornado.

  • Emergency Management Ontario recommends that you take cover immediately, if threatening weather approaches.
  • Strong wind gusts and hail can damage property and cause injuries. Local downpours can cause flash floods.
  • Go indoors and move away from windows and skylights. Avoid areas of the building that could be affected by falling debris such as tree limbs. Stay on the lower floor of your home or building and if the storm is particularly severe go to the basement.
  • Avoid driving through water on roads. Even shallow fast moving water across a road can sweep a vehicle away.
  • Remember, severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes.
  • In Canada, lightning kills up to 10 people every year. Remember, when thunder roars, go indoors.

Upgraded Tornado Watch alerts for these regions:

Bracebridge – Gravenhurst
10:50 AM EDT Friday 19 July 2013
Tornado watch for
Bracebridge – Gravenhurst upgraded from Severe thunderstorm watch
Isolated tornadoes possible this afternoon and early evening.

Port Carling – Port Severn
10:50 AM EDT Friday 19 July 2013
Tornado watch for
Port Carling – Port Severn upgraded from Severe thunderstorm watch
Isolated tornadoes possible this afternoon and early evening.

Tornado watch for
Huntsville – Baysville upgraded from Severe thunderstorm watch.
Isolated tornadoes possible this afternoon and early evening.

Just after 11am, the tornado watch for the Town of Parry Sound, Rosseau and Killbear has been changed to a Severe Thunderstorm Watch.

Muskoka, tornado
Tornado watch in effect

Muskoka Novel Marathon smashes goal and record again

Muskoka Novel Marathon raises over $18K for Y Literacy; novelist donates book earnings

Post submitted by Karen Wehrstein, July 18, 8am: The Muskoka Novel Marathon, which raises funds for the YMCA’s literacy programs in Huntsville, has had a second spectacular year, blowing away its previous record and goal of $15,000 by raising more than $18,000.

Muskoka, Novel Marathon, YMCA, Huntsville
Marathon writers. Photo by Eileen Lee.

“Last year we jumped more than $6,000 from the year before, and we figured that was mostly because we added online donation,” says Karen Wehrstein, who shared convening duties with fellow writer Dawn Huddlestone.  “This year I thought we’d go up to maybe $16,000.  That we’d jump another $3,000 just blows me away.  It’s the writers—their enthusiasm, their passion, their inspiration, their love for this cause. We have superhero cape parties and they’re only half kidding—these people do leap tall buildings in a single bound!  I’m saying this with tears in my eyes.  I don’t even want to try to predict what they’re going to do next year.”

Huddlestone notes that literacy challenges in adults are accompanied by an unfortunate stigma.

Muskoka, arts, YMCA, Huntsville
Funds from novel marathon go to YMCA

“The Muskoka Novel Marathon writers are highly literate lovers of words and they get it,” she says. “They get how important literacy is: how much it drives community and economic success, how much it contributes to feelings of self-worth, and how much it adds to quality of life. Their passion has been and always will be what makes this event so successful. We also receive tremendous support from Muskoka’s business community and a raft of volunteers who help us pull this event together. To all of our writers, sponsors and volunteers—thank you for helping us change lives.”

The marathon, which took place July 12-15 in the Huntsville Civic Centre, has raised close to $83,000 since it began in 2002. These funds have enabled the Y to initiate new programs including its Computer Savvy Seniors classes, according to Nancy West, who is team leader for the Y’s Employment and Literacy Services in Huntsville. When she found out this year’s take was more than $18,000, she was, in her own words, “floored. I thought that the goal of $15,000 was very ambitious – I never thought that they would surpass it by such a definite margin!”

Now, West says, it’s time for the Y to roll up their sleeves. “The YMCA is discussing where the money will be best spent so we can meet the literacy gaps in our local community,” she says. “So many people don’t know that literacy is even an issue in Canada – we need to get the word out that the need is there, the people are real, and that this is a safe and welcoming place to come.”

Writer donates book earnings to YMCA Literacy Services

In a related story, regular Muskoka Novel Marathon participant Pat Flewwelling is allocating 100 per cent of the earnings from her film-noir science fiction novel The Obliteration Machine to the marathon’s beneficiary, YMCA Literacy Services in Huntsville.

“Back in high school, I decided I would give 10 per cent of all profits from my first book away to charity, because it seemed like a good way of giving back to society,” she says. On publishing her first novel twenty years later, she realized 10 per cent didn’t amount to much.  “I decided to up the ante and give 100 per cent of the profits from the next book I published.”

Flewwelling, who hails from Montreal, was undecided on which charity to donate to until she first participated in the Muskoka Novel Marathon in 2008. “Because I’ve since been able to see proof-positive results of our fundraising efforts, I’ve decided to make YMCA Literacy Programs the charity I support.”

The marathon, which takes place July 12-15 in the Huntsville Civic Centre, has raisedclose to $65,000 since it began in 2002, including a record-smashing $15,000 last year. These funds have enabled the Y to initiate new programs including its Computer Savvy Seniors classes.  This year, writers were so keen to participate that 35 spots filled up in 16 hours.

The Obliteration Machine, which Flewwelling wrote during last year’s marathon, is the first of aseries entitled The Fog of Dockside City. It launched on June 21 as an independent publication, and the author plans to donate its earnings in perpetuity.  “If the whole series is picked up by a large publishing house, the same rule applies,” she says. “So here’s hoping for a big-figure advance!”

For this year’s marathon, Flewwelling will act as mentor to Nora Bartlett, a student of the Y’s literacy program who discovered such a love of writing that she decided to join the Marathon this year.

“It’s hard enough for people to overcome the stigma of illiteracy, let alone to deal with the consequences of not being able to read,” Flewwelling explains. “It takes an incredible amount of courage to ask for help, and an extraordinary amount of patience and humility to start over, learning the basics of reading.  Those are the kind of people I want to support.  And if you help people improve their employability and standard of living, you help to improve the overall economy. You can either complain about a troubled economy, or you can pitch in and help.”

The prolific Flewwelling—she is a four-time winner of the marathon’s Most Prolific Award, cranking out upwards of 55,000 words in 72 hours each year—will soon join the exclusive club of writers who’ve gone on to publish Novel Marathon projects. The book she wrote at her first marathon in 2008, Helix, will be published by Tyche Books next year.

“What better way can I say ‘thank you’ than by supporting everything the MNM stands for, any way that I can?”

The Obliteration Machine is available at CreateSpaceeStore <> and <> .

Tubing accident in Gravenhurst sends teen to hospital with serious injuries

19-year-old airlifted to Toronto after tube hits rock face on Muldrew Lake

Posted July 14, 7:10pm: A 19-year-old girl has been air lifted to Toronto after a tubing accident today on Muldrew Lake in Gravenhurst.

Police from the Bracebridge OPP say they and Muskoka Emergency Services responded to an accident around 1 pm today at the north end of Muldrew Lake. According to police, three young women were being towed on a tube around the north end of Muldrew Lake when they entered a narrow part of the lake and began to turn around. As the pleasure craft (type not identified) made the turn, the tube exited the wake at a high rate of speed striking a rock face.

Due to the seriousness of the injuries. the one girl was air lifted at the scene to Toronto for medical treatment. The other two riders suffered minor injuries

The investigation is ongoing.

Sequel Hospitality Investments buys Touchstone, describes expansion plans

Sequel investment division inks buy and sale deal for Touchstone, no price divulged

Posted July 11, 7.50 am: Sequel Hospitality Investments Inc. is taking over Touchstone on Lake Muskoka. The company is a division of Sequel Hotels and Resorts and the purchase and sale deal was announced in a press release yesterday.

Sequel describes Touchstone on Lake Muskoka as a $35 million boutique Muskoka resort and condominium development and says the Touchstone, Muskoka, resorts, condo ownership, real estate, Bracebridge, Lake Muskoka, spanew ownership will benefit existing condo owners at the property, and will help create jobs.

Some background, with thanks to Sequel’s press liaison, Anne White: Sequel Hotels and Resorts was involved in past with the past developer from demolition of Aston Beach Resort through design of the Touchstone interiors, then operating for the first 9 months only of the Touchstone property, strictly as a third-party management company. Sequel had no previous ownership interest and had not been involved in any capacity with Touchstone over the last few years.

Sequel Hospitality Investment is the newer real estate and development division of Sequel, versus Sequel Hotels and Resorts, the hospitality management operator.

Muskoka News Watch readers may have noticed auction signs at the side of Highway 118 recently. White says those auction signs are about the sale of remaining fractional interests in existing condos only, not the property itself, which is what the Sequel transaction is about. Sequel is working with the stakeholders regarding new condominiums for the site (as per release below), but those will be whole ownership.

Below is the press release in full: 

Sequel Hospitality Investments Inc., a division of Sequel Hotels and Resorts, has entered into a purchase and sale agreement for Touchstone on Lake Muskoka, a $35 million boutique Muskoka resort and condominium development in Bracebridge, Ontario.

Set on 22 waterfront acres, Touchstone on Lake Muskokarepresents one of the most significant pieces of development property in the Canadian resort real estate market. Touchstone is also one of the few Muskoka resortsthat features entirely new build accommodation and amenities.

“Touchstone will compete internationally as a top-tier resort project,” said Robert McLaughlin, President & Chief Operating Officer of Sequel Hospitality Investments.

“Sequel Hospitality secured Touchstone Resort (See YouTube video  at well below replacement value which fits nicely with our investment criteria.”

“New ownership by specialists like Sequel brings new vision and opportunities to Touchstone. Existing Touchstone condominium owners will benefit from the economies we create, and growth of a four-season resort will create new Muskoka employment,” McLaughlin said.

Sequel’s expansion plans for Touchstone will focus on condominium development, presenting new layouts for an additional 56 lakeside, whole ownership condominiums priced from $229,000.  Owners will have the option of placing their unit in the resort rental pool.

“While we work with the property team and existing condo owners, as well as the local community, to research, plan and capitalize on Touchstone’s potential, our focus as hoteliers remains offering that escape for the senses that is already a signature of Touchstone resort. ” said Anne Larcade, President & CEO,
Sequel Hotels and Resorts <> and CEO of Sequel Hospitality Investments.

“Muskoka has earned worldwide destination honours from trendsetters like National Geographic Traveler and Touchstone is situated right on its most prized lake.  Sequel will use our expertise to enhance Touchstone’s already stunning setting, refined architecture and upscale accommodations, presenting this resort gem to a wider audience.”

Lloyd Rubinoff, President of the Board that represents the current condominium owners at Touchstone, said they expect Sequel Hospitality’s ownership will benefit all stakeholders.

“The new owner of the commercial entities and development lands at Touchstone has a real affinity for and an in-depth understanding of Muskoka, as well as expertise in resort operations and the wider real estate market. We will continue to engage with Sequel as they detail the full potential of Touchstone’s magnificent site,” Rubinoff noted.

“Given our strategic locations, growing collection of hotel assets, existing pipeline and hospitality expertise, Sequel Hospitality Investments is ideally positioned to develop truly unique hotels and resorts,
said McLaughlin.  “We look forward to introducing several more developments over the coming months.”

About Sequel Hospitality Investments
Sequel Hospitality Investments Inc. (“SHI”) is a private equity group and development investment company focused on the hotel and resort asset class and mixed-use developments. The Sequel Group of companies is a leading driver of lifestyle boutique properties. For information go to <>

About Sequel Hotels and Resorts
Founded in 2005, Sequel Hotels and Resorts is an independent operator, third party manager and turnaround specialist, with distinctive hotels and resort properties in Canada. Sequel Hotels and Resorts has a record of RevPar index leadership, solid operating margins, innovative marketing and distribution, strong company culture and intuitive guest service. For information go to <>

About Touchstone Muskoka Resort
Set on Lake Muskoka, between Port Carling and Bracebridge, off Highway 118, Touchstone Muskoka encompasses 33 luxurious accommodations ranging from spa suites to 2,000 sq. ft., 4-bedroom villas. Touchstone is also home to Taste Restaurant, designed to capture Muskoka’s heritage of wooden boat building, and Touch Spa, with six treatment rooms and outdoor treatment facilities overlooking the lake. Just 90 minutes from Toronto by car or 50 minutes by float plane, other key features of Touchstone include an 825-foot waterfront, with white sand beach on one side of the peninsula and deep boating water on the other, an infinity pool, the Boathouse lakeside conference centre and fireplaces in every guest room. For reservations and information, visit <> .

Lawn bowling fundraising on a roll in Bracebridge

Lawn bowling club hopes new $5,000 pledge will spur more donations

Posted July 10: 12.34pm: The Muskoka Lawn Bowling Club was delighted to hear a promised $500 pledge jumped to $5,000 when the unnamed sponsor learned of the urgency to start construction on a lawn bowling green in Bracebridge.

Muskoka, lawn bowling, bowling, sports, Muskoka Highlands Golf, greens, Bracebridge
Lawn Bowling in Muskoka

The sponsor, a member of the Club’s Founding Member’s Club, was not identified, but was quoted by Club President Sally Mills today as saying “We need to make this happen.”
The club still needs to raise over $100,000 by July 31 if it’s to start construction this summer. It’s received over $21,000 for the new sports facility to be built on the grounds of the Muskoka Highlands Golf Course. Don MacKay, owner of Muskoka Highlands, has donated the use of the property and plans to welcome lawn bowlers to share the clubhouse and use of his facilities.

A press release from the club says lawn bowling is perfect for Muskoka: it appeals to all ages,

Muskoka, sports, lawn bowling, Bracebridge, Muskoka Highlands Golf Club
Vision of new Bracebridge lawn bowling green

and is a great family activity. All you need to start is a pair of flat-soled shoes, and the club supplies the rest. The game is fun, easy to learn, but challenging to master.

To learn more about Muskoka Lawn Bowling Club and to pledge your support, visit  In the words of another donor, “Every dollar helps move this project towards reality.”

Laser tag tourney Saturday to help Big Brothers Big Sisters of Muskoka

Outdoor laser tag teams to raise $$ for Big Brothers Big Sisters on Saturday

Posted July 10, 12.26pm: Here’s a fun way to spend a summer Saturday and give back to a good cause at the same time: join a laser tag tournament held on an outdoor course at Back Country Paintball in Bracebridge on July 13. Funds raised will support Big Brothers Big Sisters of Muskoka.

“Whether it’s in the form of time or money, there is no more important investment we can make than in helping our community’s children realize, and share, their full potential,” says Rebecca Paul, Executive Director and Caseworker for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Muskoka. “All funds received by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Muskoka are invested directly back into our community-based mentorship program – keeping Muskoka dollars in Muskoka. Investment in tournaments like this one make the community stronger with every dollar donated and every hour shared with a child.”

Teams of four will compete for prizes and to raise money for the mentorship program. To enter a team in the tournament that starts at 9am on July 13, or to become a sponsorcall Brandon Armstrong at Back Country Paintball at 705-645-9869 or Rebecca Paul at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Muskoka at 705-644-9914. Sponsors include Woods Clothing Co., which is providing free T-shirts for the laser tag tournament.


GREATER TUNA on stage in Bala – shows July 21, 26 & 28

Missed the opening of GREATER TUNA on Wednesday? You can catch it again tonight, July 12, on the Bala Curling Club stage. Tomorrow night opener: YOU FANCY YOURSELF. Read more about these plays in the earlier post below.

Bala Turns Texan for the opening of hilarious GREATER TUNA

Posted July 10, 11.48am: The curtain’s up on the 3rd season of the New Actors’ Colony Theatre in Bala and tonight (Wed, July 10) it’s opening night for GREATER TUNA, a slide-spitting show for all ages.

bala, theatre, New ACT, Greater Tuna, Peter Shipston, summer stock
New ACT presents Greater Tuna

All events take place in the town of Tuna, Texas where all the news of the town’s eccentric and scandalous residents is shared by two main characters who run the local radio station (played by Peter Shipston and Mike Petersen).

Tonight’s performance is at 7:30pm at the Bala Curling Club at 1014 Grey Street in Bala.If you miss the opening show, make sure to save the date for repeat performances. In July, GREATER TUNA is on stage July 12, 18, 21, 26 and 28.


Producer Eva Moore with Peter Shipston, starring in Greater Tuna
Producer Eva Moore with Peter Shipston, starring in Greater Tuna

This past Sunday, FRANKIE, written and performed by Mary Ellen MacLean, enthralled the first New ACT audience of the summer. A marriage of rich comedy and physical theatre, Frankie is a witty, honest and intimate play about what happens when a spunky lesbian goes to her high school reunion. With hilarious accuracy, MacLean plays eight different characters including a spokeswoman for Gay-Away, a drag queen, and Frankie’s guitar playing, dope-smoking girlfriend Tundra, as she tackles growing up gay in small-town Nova Scotia. The play is directed by Mary-Colin Chisholm.

The next season opener is YOU FANCY YOURSELF, written and performed by Maja Ardal (winner, Dora Award for Outstanding Performance) on Saturday, July 13. The play can be enjoyed by ages 8 to adult. The hilarious and painfully true tale introduces us to Elsa, a wildly imaginative Icelandic girl, who arrives in dreary post-war Scotland. In the tough playground, and the strict classroom, we follow her comic blunders as she tries desperately to be accepted by her peers. Ardal’s two critically acclaimed one-woman shows, including The Cure for Everything which opens on July 19th, have been sold-out hits in Canada, the UK and the US, and have been hailed as “the most convincing portrayals of a child you will ever see on stage”. Ardal and husband Jeff Bronstein are long-time cottagers in the Bala area.

Tickets for all events are available on-line at  and at the Box Office at the corner of Muskoka Road #169 and Grey Street beside the fashion store, Overboard.

London, Ontario man drowns at Wasdell Falls in Severn Bridge

Early morning swim ends in tragedy; Post mortem expected today

Posted July 7, 11am: An early morning swim in the Severn River has ended in tragedy for a London, Ontario man.

The body of 49-year-old Peter Wielderhold of London, Ontario was found downstream from the Wasdell waterfalls yesterday afternoon near Laidlaw Road in Severn Bridge.

According to the police report, Wielderhold was swimming while another man was fishing from a boat about 7am Saturday. The fisherman was distracted for a moment and when he turned back and couldn’t see the swimmer, he called emergency services for help.

An extensive search of the area was conducted by air, land and water by the OPP (including marine, emergency response, and canine units, along with a helicopter). The MNR also helped by changing the flow of water to help the OPP Underwater Search and Recovery Unit safely continue the search. The victim’s body was found downstream from the falls at about 4pm yesterday. A post mortem has been scheduled for today (July 7).

Greatest Race Boat Show in Canadian History Blasts Off in Gravenhurst

Post Boat Show Update

Organizers say the 33rd Annual Boat Show Festival/Greatest Race Boat Show in Canadian History was a big success with four full days of activities for a wide range of audiences and age groups. Excellent weather helped the cause for the first three days, and despite the rain on Sunday, the sea flea demonstrations and cardboard boat building were great successes (the cardboard boat race was won by a vessel named Grace and Speed II).

With its expanded activities, focus on youth, and, of course, the race boats on Saturday, the show attracted record numbers of club members and the general public throughout the four-day festival. Based on media reports following the show, the Antique and Classic Boat Society (ACBS) believes this format was a clear winner. To make next year’s show even better, the ACBS invites people to send them their feedback on what they thought of this year’s show.

Limited Edition Print

There are also a few remaining copies of the limited edition version of the official boat show poster, personally signed by members of the Canadian Motorsports and Canadian Boating Federation Halls of Fame who attended the Reception for Champions on July 5. To view the print and order your unique piece of Canadian race boat history, click here.

Commemorative Book

You’re also invited to contribute to the Greatest Race Boat Show in Canadian History commemorative book. If you have images that you’d like to have included in the book, please contact Patrice at by the end of July. The book will be available for pre-order and pick-up at the ACBS Membership Appreciation Night on November 9, 2013.

The Americans are coming, will Tony Clement get ‘hosed’, chatting with racers Dave and Carol Richardson & Spike Burns… & just how exciting will it be on Gravenhurst Bay this weekend? 

VROOM! Gravenhurst plays host to the 33rd annual Antique and Classic Boat Show with major twist: This year, the theme is the Greatest Race Boat Show in Canadian History and indeed, racers MNW have chatted with from all over the globe say Canada’s never put on a raceboat show like this before. Once again, MNW Editor Norah Fountain is co-host of the show with boat brain extraordinaire Ron Sclater.

Notes from Norah’s Boat Show Log Book

Will Tony Clement get ‘hosed’ as he helps kick off the show in ‘grand’ style? Canadiana Grand Prix broke speed records back in 1965 in Quebec at just a touch under 154mph – driven by Dwight’s own Art Asbury. Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement is scheduled to open the show

Canadiana Grand Prix, built 1964, world record winner 1965, opens boat show Saturday
Canadiana Grand Prix, built 1964, world record winner 1965, opens boat show Saturday

arriving in this Grand Prix class boat but it’s a tight squeeze. And the driver’s supposed to be flying the Canadian flag, too. (Kidding aside, there’s little chance our MP will get ‘hosed’ – the term for when another raceboat flies by and soaks you with a roostertail…but anything can and will happen on the race course). If you’re new to race boat lore, you’ll pick up a whole swath of new nautical terms at the boat show at Gravenhurst Wharf.

The Americans are coming! The Americans are coming!                                            Staff, friends and fans of the Antique Boat Museum (ABM) in Clayton, New York are invading Gravenhurst today for the ACBS Toronto Boat Show. Earlier this season, the ABM sent Miss Canada III, a former World Champion raceboat, on loan to the Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre located in Gravenhurst, Ontario in anticipation of this weekend’s festivities. The boat has been on display in Ontario since late May and is now a centerpiece in the “Race Boat Glory, Muskoka Legends Live On” commemorative exhibit. (See MNW earlier story about Miss Canada III’s homecoming.)
As well as Miss Canada III being in Gravenhurst, the ABM will be heavily represented throughout the course of the weekend. A big Muskoka welcome to Executive Director Fritz Hager, along with Lora Nadolski, Director of Public Programming; Emmett Smith, Curator; and Mike Corrigan, Watercraft Conservator.

muskoka, marine, antique, boats, ABM, Catch, classic boats, hydroplanes
Catch on St. Lawrence River with ABM’s Emmett Smith at the helm.

They’ll all be on the ground representing America’s premier freshwater nautical museum and taking part in various show events. Also, one of the limited edition Number Boats, Catch, owned by the late Bob Cox, co-founder of the Museum, will be in the water: some of the ABM’s hydroplane collection will als be displayed on land.

It was great Wednesday night to sit down with Dave Richardson (who was the 2012 Vintage Chairman of the 2012 Race Boat Regatta in Clayton, NY last August) and his wife Carol who will be driving Big Chief this weekend. I think she’s set to race Big Chief in the Vintage Division of the 75th Valleyfield Regatta (Valleyfield, Quebec). It looks like she’s the only woman in the small to medium hydroplane class for that event in mid-July. It’s a treat to see her displaying her expertise here in Gravenhurst. Thanks to the Mitchell family for inviting me over to Keewaydin so I could meet the Richardsons!. For a blast from the past taste of Hydroplane Quebec racing, click here for Vimeo video. You might want to move the cursor along a bit to see some really wild action. Of course if you were at Gull Lake in Gravenhurst June 22-23 you saw for yourself just how exciting it can get. Hydro racing on Gull Lake has gone on for years — since the 1940s but this recent event was the third annual Tim Hortons Powerboat races, attracting over 100 speedsters.

Thanks to Jack Hutton who wrote a great column in What’s Up Muskoka about Robert Spike Burns, I also got a chance to hang around with

Spike Burns with one of many trophies won over the years
Spike Burns with one of many trophies won over the years

Spike on Thursday at his home in Bala and hear him retell the early days of racing and building legendary boats. He’ll be at the boat show this weekend with a big fan following. He drove his first boat to first place in his first race when he was just a teenager and in 1987, at age 53, he entered

Spike in earlier days
Spike in earlier days

8 races and won them all.
“Were you ever scared, Spike,” I asked. He answered, “just once,” he said, grinning. He was out in front in the last lap at Valleyfield when he hit the corner and damned if he didn’t hit a beer bottle “that went right through the hull, and I started to sink, fast. I was taking on water so fast but I got right into shore. I would have won that one!” Spike is a Canadian Boating Federation Hall of Famer for his many achievements, including building the first Mercury hydros and so much more.

Marine, boats, boat rentals, classic boats, Duke Playmates, rowboats, Port Carling, Muskoka boats, Muskoka, Stan Hunter, Boatbuilder, Launch, Livery, race boats, hydro planes, hydros
Robert Spike Burns built the Mercury hydros you see in this poster

Spike has been living in Muskoka for the past 30 years but his career started out on Lake Scugog.

Back to the greatest Race Boat in Canadian history though – hope to see lots of vintage boat fans. Drop by the announce tower to say hi to me and tell your own stories of race boat glory. Saturday is going to be great! For the day’s agenda, check out the Muskoka News Watch Events Page.

Related Stories:


MLA commissions review of 2013 Muskoka flood

UPDATE: MLA review results now expected Fall 2013. As per the article, It Was A 100 Year Event, published October 8, 2013, the MLA has stated its review is entering phase two and results are expected sometime this fall.

Research to analyze conditions that led to flood, evaluate potential for recurrence and provide commentary on Muskoka River Water Management Plan

Posted July 4, 2.35pm, Press release provided by the MLA – The Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) today

Muskoka flood, Bracebridge, Huntsville, Big East River, Muskoka River, Black River
Beaumont Road past Stephen’s Bay Apr 22

announced it has engaged Baird & Associates, an international engineering firm specializing in surface water hydraulics, to provide an analysis of the 2013 Muskoka flood.

The research, which begins immediately, will analyze the conditions that led to the flood, evaluate the potential frequency of recurrence (taking into account potential climate change) and provide an analysis of the Muskoka River Water Management Plan.

“This year’s flooding in Muskoka was among the most costly in District history,” said Mike Langdon, president, Muskoka Lakes Association. “Our goal is to make a meaningful scientific contribution to understanding the factors that contributed to the flooding, while

Muskoka flood, Bracebridge, Huntsville, Big East River, Muskoka River, Black River
Bracebridge April 20 9 am

investigating if anything can be done to reduce the likelihood of its recurrence.”

This work will be conducted in two phases, and will proceed to phase two only if sufficient data is available to make a meaningful scientific contribution to this discussion:

  • Phase One: Analyze available data to determine whether the above questions can be answered in a satisfactory manner.
  • Phase Two: If sufficient data is available, Baird & Associates will conduct a thorough analysis and provide comment on the above issues in a formal report to the MLA.

The MLA will provide the final report to interested stakeholders, including members, District and municipal officials, and the Ministry of Natural Resources, later this summer.


Township of Muskoka Lakes, Mayor, Councillor accused of obstruction, defamation in 3 million dollar suit

Bala Falls Update: Swift River legal action demands retraction, injunction & $3million in damages

Posted July 4, 930am: In an action against the Township of Muskoka Lakes, Mayor Alice Murphy and Councillor Brad Burgess, Swift River Energy Limited (SREL) is seeking an injunction

Removing drilling rig on June 20
Removing drilling rig on June 20

against alleged interference on Crown lands at North Bala Falls. There’s more according to legal documents obtained by Muskoka News Watch that were filed in late June: SREL also wants an apology, a retraction of what SREL calls defamatory comments made in the media by Township Mayor Murphy and Councillor Burgess, and the company is seeking damages of $3million.

SREL is the company selected to develop a hydro plant at the North Bala Falls on the Crown land portion of the land on Burgess Island (between the north and south Bala Falls). Murphy and Burgess oppose the project.

The court documents show a Notice of Motion and Statement of Claim were filed on June 25 and June 26 with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto after exploratory drilling was stopped on the Crown work site known as Burgess Island on June 20. Lawyers for SREL state in the claim that work had to be stopped as Mayor Murphy had allegedly interfered in the work going on.

A call to Mayor Murphy caught her in a meeting this morning and when asked if there would be a more convenient time to speak on the issue, she said there would be no convenient time and she had no comment. On contacting the project manager for Swift River, Karen McGhee told MNW she was unable to comment on a matter in litigation. Muskoka News Watch has called the Superior Court to confirm whether both the Notice of Motion and Statement of Claim are proceeding or whether any early resolution has been achieved to date. At press time, confirmation had not been received.

Read the Statement of Claim by clicking here: Swift River Statement of Claim. Read the Notice of Motion by clicking here: Swift River Notice of Motion

Here is the short version of the claims SREL is making as described in the documents.

  • An injunction prohibiting Unauthorized Persons from interfering with, blocking or obstructing movement in and out of the Project Property at any entrance or exit by any matter or means whatsoever.
  • An order restraining the Township Defendants from disseminating defamatory statements about SREL, its officers, employees, affiliated agents, representatives, representative organizations and substitutes and anyone acting under its instructions (SREL Agents).
  • An order that any order in the action may be served upon the Township Defendants, Unauthorized Persons or any other person by delivering a copy of the order to them or by posting a copy of the order at the entrances and exits to the Project Property to be headed in the following words in lettering of not less than ten centimeters: “NOTICE OF INJUNCTION AGAINST UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS TO THIS PROPERTY”
  • Damages, including punitive damages, in the amount of $3million

The documents show SREL is accusing Alice Murphy in her role as Mayor of allegedly preventing and interfering with work on the site on June 20, and of allegedly intimidating people working for SREL. In particular, SREL claims Murphy placed herself and SREL contractors in danger by stepping too closely to heavy equipment that was running, forcing the equipment to be stopped. The document also charges other defendants (not identified other than John Doe 1 and 2 and Jane Doe 1 and 2) threatened to damage drilling equipment.

The Notice of Motion accompanying the Statement of Claim also states that:

As Murphy and Burgess identified themselves as the Township’s representatives, the Township is vicariously liable for their ‘tortious conduct’.

Note: tortious interference is defined as encouraging a breach, infringing on another’s agreement, interfering with contract, interfering with contractual commitments, interfering with contractual obligation, interfering with contractual rights, intermeddling with business activities, and obstruction, etc.

The documents state that Murphy, Burgess and the Township were served with a notice on June 24 in regard to the Libel and Slander Act. As of the date of the claim filing (June 25), SREL claims the defendants had not corrected or apologized for the allegedly defamatory statements.

Finally, the documents show that Mayor Alice Murphy has retained a lawyer from Aird and Berlis in Toronto (Lawyer for Her Worship, Mayor Alice Murphy) while Harold Elston is the lawyer for the Township. It’s unknown if Brad Burgess has or will retain legal counsel. The complete list of defendants includes the Minister of Natural Resources along with the John Doe 1 & 2 and Jane Doe 1 & 2 as previously mentioned above.

Medals for Muskoka’s largest ever national armwrestling team

19 Top Finishes for Muskoka Team. Story by Assistant Coach Ashley Maher.

Posted July 3, 12.47pm: With more muscle than ever before, a team of Muskoka armwrestlers have brought home a treasure trove of medals from a national tournament in Timmins on the weekend.

Alex Hartlen (right) armwrestling Cowan Jansen in the finals in the straps.
Alex Hartlen (right) armwrestling Cowan Jansen in the finals in the straps.

The 14 local athletes walked away from the competition – held over the Canada Day long weekend – with 19 top tier finishes. Many members of the team had spent months training for the event at the Canadian School of Armwrestling, and were collectively the largest arm wrestling team Muskoka has ever sent to a national tournament. Traditionally, Muskoka has only sent one athlete to national competitions.

“A lot of hard training, dedication and passion went into the results that we walked away with in that competition,” said Canadian School of

Muskoka, sports, armwrestling, Jakob Chiton, Timmins, Tournament
Jakob Chiton shown in semi finals: took home 2 medals. Photo by Ashley Maher.

Arm Wrestling founder Joey Costello. “The impressive finishes our hometown arm wrestlers earned, and the fact that our team has grown by 13 athletes since last year, shows just how quickly armwrestling’s popularity is growing in Muskoka.”

Among the many young competitors was Alex Hartlen, who finished first in the lightweight, right-hand event and second in the lightweight, left hand event. Jake Chilton walked away from the tournament with a second-place finish in the middleweight, right-hand event, and another third place finish in the middleweight, left-hand event.

Rachael Becker placed third in the super lightweight class and fifth in the lightweight, left-hand category. ArmwrestlingGroupChase Schell landed in first place in the heavyweight, right-hand event, and also earned a third-place finish in the heavyweight, left-hand category.

Following close behind in the heavyweight, right-hand event was Zac Becker with a second place finish. Becker also placed fourth in the left-hand competition in the same weight class. In the super heavy, right and left hand events, Jordan Croft emerged with a pair of second place finishes.

In the adult categories, Amanda Steele dominated the womens 55 kg weight class, securing a firm grip over the left and right hand events with two first place finishes. Tammy Schell followed with a second-place finish in the womens 80 kg, left-hand event, and a third place finish in the womens 80 kg, right-hand event.

Veteran arm wrestler Mike Miller came in second in the disabled mens left and right-hand, 75+ kg events. He also went on to compete in the 100 kg event, where he placed sixth with his right hand and fourth with his left.

At 71, Neville Beachey showed no signs of slowing down in the grand master, 90 kg category, finishing in first place with his right hand and third place with his left.

Darren Schell also held his own in the 80 kg event, earning two fourth-place finishes with his left and right hand. In the 75 kg event, he finished seventh with his left hand and fifth with his right.

Topping off the string of victories was hometown arm wrestling champion Ashley Maher, who placed first in the women’s right-hand, 60 kg event.

Costello thanked all the athletes for their dedication and perseverance in training for the massive tournament, and says he’s looking forward to even more impressive results in the future.

Photo from Canadian School of Armwresting web site. Other pics are of tournament action.
Photo from Canadian School of Armwrestling web site. Other pics are of tournament action.

“We’re hoping we’ll have an even greater presence at the nationals next year,” he said. For a full list of results, see below. To learn more about armwrestling in Muskoka, email



Super Light Weight 3rd Rachael Becker

Lightweight Right 1st Alex Hartlen

Heavyweight Right
1st Chase Schell
2nd Zac Becker

Super Heavy Right
2nd Jordan Croft

Lightweight Left
2nd Alex Hartlen
5th Rachael Becker

Middleweight left
3rd Jake Chilton

Heavy weight Left
3rd Chase Schell
4th Zac Becker

Super Heavy Left
2nd Jordan Croft

MenDisabled Mens Left 75+ Kg
2nd Mike MillerDisabled Mens Right 75+ Kg
2nd Mike MillerGrand Master Left 90 Kg
3rd Neville Beachey

Grand Master Right 90 kg
1st Neville Beachey

Master Mens Left 100 kg
4th Mike Miller

Master Mens Left 80 kg
4th Darren Schell

Master Mens Right 100 kg
6th Mike Miller

Master Mens right 80 kg
4th Darren Schell

Left Men’s 75 Kg
7th Darren Schell

Right Men’s 75 kg
5th Darren Schell

3rd Rachael BeckerLightweight right
1st Alex HartlenMiddleweight Right
2nd Jake Chilton

Women Womens Left 55 kg
1st Amanda SteeleWomens Left 80 kg
2nd Tammy SchellWomens Right 55 kg
1st Amanda Steele

Womens Right 60 kg
1st Ashley Maher

Womens Right 80 kg
3rd Tammy Schell