Public school soccer field ripped up and more from weekend police files

Watt Public School’s soccer field torn up, gas rip off leads police to suspended driver, more thefts at Summit Centre, and Calgary man charged after crash in Lake of Bays

Published September 29, 5pm – weekend news bites from OPP files:

Watt Public School soccer field torn up: Bracebridge OPP is appealing for the public’s assistance regarding a mischief that occurred to the soccer field at Watt Public School sometime over the weekend.  An unknown suspect drove a vehicle onto the soccer field and tore up the grass leaving a substantial amount of damage and rendering it temporarily useless for the children to play on. Watt Public School is at 2794 Highway 141 in Utterson, and has a school population of under 100 students.  

Gas theft in Huntsville leads to more charges for suspect, but gas bill gets paid: On Sunday September 28, 2014 just before 1am Huntsville Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) was notified of a vehicle that had driven off without paying for gas. A white Suburban had left Mac’s Convenience store on Main St in the town of Huntsville and drove toward Highway #11.

Officers located the white suburban on Highway #11 near Aspdin Road in Huntsville.  It was learned that the driver was a suspended driver.  As a result of the traffic stop 35-year-old Tyson Tefler of Harris Twp, Ontario was charged under the Highway Traffic Act with drive while under suspension and using a plate that was altered.  He will return to Provincial Offences court on November 20th 2014 to answer to his charges. The passenger drove back to the Mac’s and paid for the gas.

More thefts from change rooms at Summit Centre in Huntsville: Huntsville Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) was advised of two more thefts that have taken place in the change rooms at the Summit Centre.

On Saturday September 20 between 9am and 6pm a participant of a swim course had left his belongings including a Samsung Galaxy phone and cash in his pants pocket.  Throughout the day unknown culprits entered the change room and removed the belongings.

On Saturday September 20 a family was visiting Huntsville from out of town and decided to use the public swimming at the Summit Centre.  They used the family change room and put their belongings in a locker, but did not secure it.  Sometime between 2:15pm and 3:45pm, unknown culprit entered the change room and removed New Balance running shoes that belonged to the guest.  The victim had put his Nixon wrist watch and a solid silver bracelet in the shoes.

Huntsville OPP would again like to remind people using the Summit Centre in Huntsville to take extra steps in securing their property.  Take advantage of the lockers provided and secure them.

Anyone with any information or see anything suspicious in and around the change rooms or locker rooms is asked to contact Huntsville OPP or Crime Stoppers.

Calgary man faces impaired charges after crash in Lake of Bays: On Friday September 26 just after 10pm, Huntsville Ontario Provincial Police attended a motor vehicle collision on Muskoka Rd #117 in Lake of Bays Township.  A Ford Escape was found in the ditch at Old Highway #117.

The 59-year-old driver from Calgary was served with a 90 day driver’s licence suspension and had his vehicle impounded for a period of 7 days.  He was not injured as a result of the collision. He will answer impaired charges in the Ontario Court of Justice on November 5. 

OMB approves Port Carling development zoning deal with few changes

Time and money wasted with little change and public input, says developer of Hanna’s Landing in Port Carling

Published September 26, 10pm: Monday’s Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing into the zoning of Hanna’s Landing in Port Carling was more formality than hearing: the two parties still objecting to the bylaw withdrew their issues before the hearing even began.

At the last minute, just before the hearing was scheduled to get under way in Township of Muskoka Lakes’ Council chambers, it was announced that the Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) and Rick Spence had withdrawn their objections. The MLA and Spence were the only remaining Named Parties who had not given their stamp of approval to the deal reached by the Township and Hanna’s Landing (HL) on August 29, 2014. Had that deal not been reached between the Township and HL, it could have been the Township, along with the MLA and Spence, objecting at Monday’s hearing as Named Parties. (Being a Named Party is not without financial risk. As well as the costs to pay planners and lawyers (if you choose to use them as the Township and HL did) to help present your case*, the OMB has the ability to award costs if it deems objections lack substance or are vexatious. A Participant (there were 5 at this hearing) can make a statement and be cross-examined but cannot be held liable for what is said before the Board.).

Featured picture: What will the future bring for the knoll on Hanna’s Landing site?

Anne McCauley, who represents the MLA, told Muskoka News Watch she had met with the Township and the applicant (HL) and “while we’re not fully in support of the zoning bylaw, we are satisfied and have withdrawn our position.” She added she “hoped the OMB would render a verbal decision today.” She got her wish. The OMB decision came down just after noon, fully supporting the zoning deal as written.

Hanna's Landing, Port Carling map
Hanna’s Landing shown on Mirror Lake and Indian River

While there is no more opportunity for the public to comment on the zoning of Hanna’s Landing (the chance for input went out the window when Council deferred circulating thezoning application for public scrutiny and HL decided to go to the OMB), two of five citizens who had asked to be Participants in the hearing outlined specific concerns to the Board.

Speaking on behalf of 17 other property owners connected to the Mirror Lake road association, Carolyn Kennedy of Toronto and Port Carling said residents were highly concerned about a “frightening number” of boat slips. This was also a concern raised by Spence in his objection list. The amount of boat slips a dock can have, however, is not specified by any present Township bylaw.

Kennedy is also worried about shoreline erosion and what might happen to the knoll on the property.

Potential for more boat traffic, shoreline erosion, and noise worry neighbours

“The knoll seems to capture sound and sound echoes throughout the whole area. We envision many mosquito-like noises from Sea Doos and construction. We are concerned about constant bombardment of our shoreline. Boaters are not as courteous as they once were. The mind boggles how busy this development could be if condos are rented out in the summer,” continued Kennedy. “Any development on the knoll will impact our sense of privacy and impact view of every resident. From what I understand from this resolve, the knoll is still very vulnerable and important to us. The public needs a mechanism for further input and I understand from Mr. Elston [the Township’s lawyer] that this will happen in the next phase.”

Kennedy’s husband, Allan Gill, added further concerns about increased boat traffic and docks, noting the length of the council room is comparable to the size of the narrow waterway where Indian River begins. Gill also said he wanted blasting controls in place for development at Hanna’s, concluding, “I want to look my family and friends in the eye and say I did my best.”

The Board chair then took a short break and came back to ratify the amended zoning bylaw and minutes of settlement between HL and the Township.

So, what changed?

Just how different is this agreement from what was originally proposed 18 months ago? Not much at all, says Hanna’s Landing Principal Jeff Goldman, who says his company has actually gained more than it lost.

“The approved zoning bylaw, apart for allowing some additional development rights to Hanna’s Landing, was almost identical to what was submitted to Township in March 2013. A whole lot of time and money has been spent by the Township on this matter with little to show,” said Goldman in a release, “and public input curtailed on what is probably the largest residential development to occur in Port Carling.

He puts the blame for that squarely on the shoulders of councillors he says had private meetings with Hanna’s Landing to work on the proposed bylaw that they later opposed in a public council meeting.

“It’s a fact,” declared Goldman, “that inappropriate and improper delays at the hands of Mayor Alice Murphy and her Council allies, chiefly Ruth Nishikawa, was what led Hanna’s Landing to apply to the OMB. This has resulted in the removal of the public from having significant and wide-ranging input into the zoning application: there was no advertised statutory public meeting as would have occurred if our submission had been handled in the normal fashion – rather than in closed door meetings devoid of public input or scrutiny.” He adds he finds it hypocritical that Murphy would point fingers at her political opponents for meeting to try and understand developer concerns when she herself has done exactly the same thing.

“Her [Murphy’s] suggestion that Council couldn’t circulate a zoning application it didn’t feel had merit shows how much she misunderstands the process,” continued Goldman.

As for concessions by his firm, he said they “were minor in nature and not anything we would have not agreed to had we been given the opportunity for meaningful negotiations with the Township at the outset.”

Rather he says HL “gained permission to build about 20-30 residential units more than what had been proposed. The maximum number of units allowed as per previous OMB decisions of 347 units is misleading: when you take out steep slope and other development restrictions, we never would have been able to build that many units. So any claim from anyone in Township that it prevented us from building an additional 26 units (the difference between the 347 maximum allowed under the previous OMB decision and the 321 maximum now allowed) is specious.”

Kris Menzies, the external planner hired by the Township for the OMB hearing walked the Board through the final draft bylaw at the hearing. “It represents good planning and appropriately addresses the issues that were addressed in the pre hearing conference [in January],” said Menzies who did not see anything in the participants’ statements that would cause her to recommend any further changes.

After the hearing, Margaret Walton, planner for Hanna’s Landing, explained the Official Plan decision in 2011 was “extremely prescriptive and there was not a lot of flexibility in what could be implemented.” As an example, she explains in this latest OMB appeal, the developer was seeking the minimum 50-foot frontages allowed. As a result of negotiations with township over the past few months, they settled on 66-foot frontages.

Jeff Goldman, Hanna's Landing, Port Carling
Jeff Goldman, Hanna’s Landing Inc.

Goldman considers those 16 feet another win. “The Township had originally wanted much greater frontages,” he said. “We also have a win in making it clear that we could build up to 10 residences on the knoll – if the Township does not want to use it for a park.”

Menzies said the Township wants a topographical survey done of the steep slope of the knoll, and Leo Longo, lawyer for HL, stressed that the next step for the knoll is up to the municipality to decide, saying the “bylaw does not preclude the knoll being preserved for parkland.” He says the Township can decide to take 5% of the land for parkland or to take cash in lieu of parkland.

Attending the hearing Monday was Mayor Alice Murphy whom Goldman says told the planner and lawyer for Hanna’s Landing that she was very happy about the matter being settled. While both sides are pleased, Goldman questions Murphy’s assertion that every dime spent was worth it as she stated in a release published by Moose FM today. (You can read Murphy’s statement given to the Moose by clicking here)

In a follow up interview this evening, Goldman says based on what HL paid, he believes the Township’s outlay for external planning consultants and lawyers could be well over $30,000. MNW today left a message for the CAO asking for an estimate of costs to date.

*By inking a deal in August, the Township and Hanna’s Landing were now on the same side going into the hearing, but continued to incur legal and planning fees as they had to prepare to cross examine whatever the MLA or Spence may have brought forward on September 22 before stating their objections were withdrawn.

References and Related Articles:

About Muskoka News Watch – consider donating to keep your Muskoka info flowing: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you like being informed, please toss a few dollars our way using the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page (you can use Credit Cards or Debit). Your support is needed and appreciated. Thank you!



Parry Sound man charged after fleeing from traffic stop in Gravenhurst

Suspect crashes car in Bala but still makes a successful getaway, only to be identified and arrested later

September 26, 9:30pm:  A Parry Sound man faces several criminal and highway traffic act charges after a brief police chase on 169 from Gravenhurst last Saturday.

Here is the report from Bracebridge OPP on the incident last week and subsequent arrest:

On September 20th, 2014, at approximately 1:22am, a Bracebridge OPP officer conducted a traffic stop on Muskoka Road 169 in Gravenhurst. While investigating the driver’s identity the driver sped away from the officer and a suspect apprehension pursuit was initiated.  The pursuit continued for several kilometres and was eventually discontinued. A short time later the vehicle was located near Bala, having crashed into a hydro pole. The driver had fled.  The K-9 Unit and members of the Emergency Response Team conducted a thorough search of the area and the driver was not located.

After a thorough investigation and as a result of further evidence, the driver was identified as 42-year-old Moyer of Parry Sound. He has been charged with several criminal and highway traffic act charges including:

  • Fail to stop for police HTA 216;
  • Theft of a motor vehicle CC 333.1;
  • Obstruct peace officer CC 129(a);
  • Possession of property obtained by crime CC 354(1)(a);
  • Dangerous operation of motor vehicle CC 249(1)(a); and,
  • several related charges.

Moyer will appear in Bracebridge court on Tuesday, September 30.

Body found in car fire in Port McNicholl, Tay Township

Fire call leads to discovery of body in Port McNicholl

Published Sept. 25, 9:30pm: A fire call led to a grisly discovery for police and fire responders today in Port McNicholl on Georgian Bay.

Members to the Southern Georgian Bay Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police and Tay Fire Department responded to a fire behind a home on Simcoe Street today just before 2pm.

On arrival, they found a vehicle on a fire and a body. The victim has not been identified nor it clear whether the deceased was found inside the car.

This investigation into the death is ongoing with the assistance of the Southern Georgian Bay OPP Crime Unit.

Fee freezes, dropped development charges: steps Bracebridge taking to spur economic growth

Non-residential development charges dropped, building permit fees frozen in Bracebridge

Published September 25, 4pm: The Town of Bracebridge today outlined a series of development incentives to promote new investments in the community. A release from the Manager of Economic Development, Randy Mattice, states the Town is hoping these actions will encourage strong economic growth and sustainable development.

The primary incentive? Elimination of all non-residential development charge (DC) fees. 

Other incentives being made available by Bracebridge include:
•           a freeze on 2015 building permit fees to their 2014 rates;
•           façade, sign and building improvement grants and interest-free loans through its Community Improvement Plan; and
•           rebates of municipal property taxes for significant increases in assessment due to development.

“Through these decisions, the Town of Bracebridge is sending the message to the development
community that Bracebridge is open for business,” said Mayor Graydon Smith.
For more information from the Town of Bracebridge regarding these initiatives, please click here.


Logging truck crash in Windermere area

Raymond Road at Windermere Road closed yesterday for log clean up

Publsihed September 25, 11.30am: The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) of the Bracebridge detachment attended a collision involving a truck carrying logs on Raymond Road at Windermere Road, in Muskoka Lakes Township yesterday.

The crash happened just after 1pm.  The OPP attended the crash involving a logging truck that was southbound on Raymond Road by Windermere Road. The truck overturned, impacting a second vehicle that was parked on the shoulder of Raymond Road. The logs were scattered across the roadway forcing the road to be shut down for a period of time for clean-up.

There were minor injuries reported as a result of the collision. Those injured were treated for their injuries in the hospital.

The driver of the truck has been charged with Careless Driving Section 130 under the Highway Traffic Act.

Severe Thunderstorm Warning in Effect today

Severe thunderstorm warning issued 11:42am, Sunday, Sept. 21

Message from Environment Canada and The Weather Network: Conditions are favourable for the development of dangerous thunderstorms early this afternoon that may be capable of producing damaging wind gusts, large hail and heavy rain.

Fast moving water across a road can sweep a vehicle away. Large hail can damage property and cause injury. Very strong wind gusts can damage buildings, down trees and blow large vehicles off the road. Remember, severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes. Be prepared for severe weather. Take cover immediately, if threatening weather approaches. Stay indoors when a thunderstorm strikes. There isn’t a place outside that is safe during a thunderstorm. Stay away from all windows, skylights and doors. Remember, when thunder roars, go indoors. In Canada, lightning kills up to 10 people every year.

MNR monitoring new cougar sightings in Huntsville

Cougars spotted on highway and rail tracks in Huntsville

Published September 18, 3:30pm:  Just after 5:30 this morning, the Huntsville Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) was made aware of a cougar on Highway #11.  The animal was seen in the centre median about 5 kms north of South Mary Lake Road.

Later this morning (around 10:30am), Huntsville OPP were told of a cougar that was on the rail tracks by the Huntsville Fire Department on Payne Drive behind KWH Piping right in the town of Huntsville.  Members of the Huntsville Fire were made aware of the cougar on the tracks and observed it running toward the Hunters Bay Trail.  An extensive search of the area was done by the OPP, along with the on duty firefighters with negative results.

Residence are asked to exercise caution when outdoors as any wild animal can pose a danger given the right circumstances, do not try and capture the animal,  seek a safe location and stay there and call the police.

The Ministry of Natural Resources were made of the cougar seen in town and will continue to monitor the sightings.


Muskoka Lakes Township staff iced to support ALS

Muskoka Lakes Township staff get doused for good cause

Published September 18, 12:30pm: Staff at the Township of Muskoka Lakes are geing generous in their support of ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). Senior staff took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge late yesterday afternoon, and staff donated $585.00 for ALS research.

Clayton Harris the Interim CAO stated “he wants to thank the senior staff for stepping up to the challenge and he is not surprised by the generosity of Township staff.”

Featured photo shows Senior Staff (from Left to Right); David Pink – Director of Planning, Jason Krynicki – Director of Public Works, Lisa McMurray – Community Economic Development Coordinator, Clayton Harris – Interim Chief Administrative Officer, Cheryl Mortimer – Clerk. Richard Hayes – Fire Chief, Neil Donald – Chief Building Official

The Senior Management Team at Township of Muskoka Lakes is now challenging Senior Staff at the District and area municipalities to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.


Municipal Election: Where to find all candidate meetings: tonight in Bracebridge and Raymond

First All Candidate Meeting kicks off tonight in Bracebridge at the Riverside Inn; in Muskoka Lakes, Ward B candidates make their case at Raymond Community Centre

Message from the Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce re Bracebridge meetings:

Tonight is the first of three All Candidates Meetings/Forums hosted by The Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce for the upcoming Municipal Election.

Ward Councillors
Thurs. Sept. 18 from 7pm – 9pm at the Muskoka Riverside Inn

District Councillors
Mon. Sept. 22 from 7pm – 9:00pm at the Muskoka Riverside Inn

Mayoralty Candidates
Tues. Sept. 23 from 7pm – 9pm at the Muskoka Riverside Inn

Georgian Bay:

  • September 20, Honey Harbour
  • October 4, MacTier. Details to follow.

Muskoka Lakes:

  • Thursday, September 18, 7:00 pm Raymond Community Centre (Ward B)
  • Monday, September 22, 7:00 pm Bala Community Centre (Ward A)
  • Saturday, September 27, 10am-12pm, Port Carling Community Centre, doors open at 9:30am. Host: Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association

All Areas; Monday September 29 at 7:00 pm; Gravenhurst Opera House; Gravenhurst Chamber of Commerce

For Huntsville, Muskoka News Watch recommends contacting the Huntsville/Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce for more information or the Town.

Every four years municipalities across Ontario hold elections for a variety of council positions. Your opportunity to meet and question candidates of your choice is a very important part of the election process and democracy in Canada. 

OPP warn about thefts: be careful of belongings at Huntsville Summit Centre

String of thefts at Huntsville’s Summit Centre; OPP telling people to lock up belongings

Published September 18, 9:50am: Over the past few weeks, the Huntsville Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has received several complaints of thefts at the Summit Centre in Huntsville. Items taken include cash, jewelry, clothing, shoes and other personal articles.  One victim had to leave the pool area in bare feet because his shoes had been taken from inside the door of the family change room.

With the busy hockey and activities season upon us, Huntsville OPP would like to remind parents and coaches to take extra steps to ensure that they leave their personal belongings either in a locked locker or take it with them while watching their children at the pool or arenas.  This is also a reminder to all the coaches and managers of hockey teams and skating clubs that locking the doors to the change room is best practice.

If anyone should see anything suspicious in and around the areas of the change rooms at either the pool or the two arenas is asked to contact Huntsville OPP.

Nishikawa to fight defamation charges by fellow councillor Brent

Lawyers for Nishikawa file intent to defend Brent allegations

Published September 17, 2pm: Lawyers representing Muskoka Lakes Councillor Ruth-Ellen Nishikawa have filed a Notice of Intent to Defend allegations she defamed a fellow Councillor.

A statement of defense is expected to follow from law firm Paterson MacDougall in Toronto in the next few days as the Notice was filed September 4 (under the Rules of Civil Procedure, a Notice of Intent normally provides the defence another ten days to file and serve a statement of defence).

The Notice is in response to a claim made against Nishikawa by Ron Brent, also a Muskoka Lakes Councillor, filed August 12th in which he alleges she defamed him by:

a) accusing him of disclosed Closed Session information of Council; and,

b) by questioning a potential conflict of interest. The allegations were made in connection with an email regarding the Bala Falls controversy. See Related Articles for more information.

Brent’s Statement of Claim states Nishikawa was originally given an opportunity to retract and apologize for her comments. The Intent to Defend suggests a day in court could be on the horizon for the two Councillors, who are also candidates in the 2014 municipal election.

Related Articles:

Mark’s Clothiers in Bracebridge celebrates 25 years

Don and Jane Lewis and extended employee ‘family’ celebrate 25 years in business in Bracebridge

Published September 17, 11:15am; includes files from Town of Bracebridge: When Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith presented Mark’s Clothier owners with a plaque congratulating them on 25 years in business, he couldn’t help but notice the number of “family” members crowded around him for the photograph. The “family” includes owners Don and Jane Lewis; sons Ryan and Adam; daughters-in-law; grandchildren; and current and former employees.

Featured photo: Mayor Graydon Smith (Center) presents Don and Jane Lewis and “family” with a congratulatory plague on their 25th Anniversary of operating Mark’s Clothier in Bracebridge.

Smith thanked them “for being a long-standing member of the business community; for investing in Bracebridge, expanding in Bracebridge and providing a growing number of jobs in the community”.

Mark’s, formerly Mark’s Work Wearhouse, started in Bracebridge as a small retail store occupying 3,800 square feet. In 1991, Mark’s expanded to 6,500 square feet, and for the last ten years the store has occupied 12,000 square feet at its current location beside Canadian Tire.

Owner Don Lewis remarked, “This is a family operated business and I mean FAMILY operated business. Whether or not you are related, if you work at Mark’s then you are considered part of our family.”

Staff appreciates the sentiment as evidenced by the presence of Cathy Buchanan at the store’s 25th anniversary celebration on Friday, September 12, 2014. Cathy was the very first employee that Don hired in 1989. Even though she no longer works at Mark’s, she wouldn’t have missed the event. Her story is only one of many from the loyal, long-standing staff that work at the store.

Mayor Graydon Smith and Town Council, wish Don and Jane Lewis and family continued success with their Mark’s Clothier location in Bracebridge.




Municipal Election: First All Candidates meetings tonight in Port Carling for Muskoka Lakes and Ryde for Gravenhurst and other dates

First all candidates meeting for Muskoka Lakes Ward C candidates happens tonight in Port Carling

Published Sept. 17, 10:30am: The first all candidates meeting happens for Muskoka Lakes Ward C candidates and mayoral candidates tonight at the Port Carling Community Centre, starting 7pm. Mayoral candidates Don Furniss and Alice Murphy will be there as will Ron Brent and Phil Harding, competing for the Ward C District Council position. Running for Ward C councillor are Jean-Ann Baranik, Terry Ledger, Larrie MacRae and Jeff Mole. The host for the set of Ward A, B & C meetings is the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce.

First all candidates meeting for Gravenhurst: The Ryde Community Co-op at 1624 Barkway Road is the host for the first All Candidates meeting for candidates in Gravenhurst. It starts at 7pm tonight.

Other upcoming dates for All Candidates in Muskoka Lakes:

  • Thursday, September 18, 7:00 pm Raymond Community Centre (Ward B)
  • Monday, September 22, 7:00 pm Bala Community Centre (Ward A)

Meet organized by the Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association:

Saturday, September 27, 10am-12pm, Port Carling Community Centre, doors open at 9:30am

Muskoka Lakes Association is also doing its own examination of the candidates. It has asked candidates to provide profile information about themselves and will be interviewing candidates over the next few days and then will present information for its membership.

Thanks to the Muskoka Lakes Association for this compiled list of other All Candidate meetings in Bracebridge and Gravenhurst.

Ward Candidates; Thursday September 18 at 7:00 pm; Muskoka Riverside Inn; Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce
District Candidates; Monday September 22 at 7:00 pm; Muskoka Riverside Inn; Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce
Mayoral Candidates; Tuesday, September 23 at 7:00 pm; Muskoka Riverside Inn; Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce

All Areas; Wednesday September 17 at 7:00pm; Ryde Community Co-op; Ryde Community Co-op
All Areas; Monday September 29 at 7:00 pm; Gravenhurst Opera House; Gravenhurst Chamber of Commerce

Many candidates are saying they are discovering people are not on the Voters List. Contact a candidate for them to check or try clicking here to use the Voter Lookup (which some residents have complained does not seem to work well with certain rural addresses). Even if you are not on the list, you can fill out a form and bring it in to the Township office in Port Carling to get on the list and receive a ballot. The vote is by mail in ballot and all ballots have to be in the Township office by October 18th, cautions Ward A candidate Dianne Davidson, to ensure they are included in the vote. So if you’re mailing your ballots, which could arrive as early as September 29, you’ll want to mail them back as soon as you’ve made your election choices or drop your ballot in to the office directly.


Muskoka Ratepayers’ Report questions ‘leadership style’ of Muskoka Lakes Mayor

Opinion Editorial: Muskoka Lakes’ Council Report Card to date: darts and laurels

Published September 14, 3pm: The Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association (MRA) is a community organization focused on monitoring and reporting on municipal affairs in the Township of Muskoka Lakes.  The MRA advocates for good governance, transparency, accountability, and prudent property taxes. What follows is their published “report card” giving the association’s opinion on how the ratepayers of Muskoka Lakes have been represented over the past municipal term. The following report is an opinion editorial produced by the MRA. Muskoka News Watch does not endorse nor does it oppose any of the opinions presented.

Report from the MRA

Representatives of the MRA attend all Council, Planning and Committee of the Whole (COW) meetings at the Township (over 150 to date and counting), as well as many District Council meetings.  It is from attendance at these meetings that the MRA is able to gauge the performance, actions and decision making of the Mayor, individual councillors as well as council as a whole.  This is done conscientiously to ensure we are informed firsthand and you, our members benefit from these observations and reporting.

The MRA issued a “Report Card” in April 2011 noting our observations of this council in its first 100 days in office.  These results are posted on our website at The First 100 Days’ Report and remain available at this time.  In advance of the 2014 fall election, this second review is to assist our members in evaluating the overall performance of the present sitting council.   Additionally the MRA will host an All Candidates public meeting on September 27, 2014 for all candidates running for office.   A handout booklet with each candidate’s answers to a set of questions prepared by the MRA will also be available.

To be clear, the MRA does not endorse individual candidates or issue a slate of preferred candidates for office.  We believe that it is the responsibility of each individual voter to inform themselves and then decide who best represents their interests.

Assessment of the Current Sitting Council

Some Accomplishments

  • Have been actively involved in the cost review of policing, fire protection and waste management at both the District and the Township;
  • The Windermere shoreline retaining wall was repaired;
  • The Ullswater Community Centre was made accessible and the roof was replaced;
  • A public access ramp was approved for Clear Lake, Ward A;
  • An exotic animal by-law was formulated and approved;
  • Contracts to replace condemned docks at the east end of Acton Island and Currie St. in Bala were awarded;
  • The Milford Bay Golf course lawsuit was settled;
  • The program to eradicate giant hogweed on township lands was initiated;
  • A dark sky by-law was formulated and approved;
  • A review of Comprehensive Zoning By-law 87-87 is well under way;
  • Council has not yet stopped  construction of the Swift River Hydro project but it has delayed and blocked its progress;
  • The Nursing Station of the Brock and Willa Napier Wellness Centre is moving forward;
  • Fluoride was maintained in Township water system;
  • Restoration of the Port Carling wall was completed.

Some Disappointments

  • Most of the councillors elected in 2010 had no previous experience on municipal council.  Understandably the learning curve required was monumental;

Although this inexperience has allowed council to look at matters with fresh eyes, this lack of understanding regarding by-laws, protocols and regulations has sometimes negatively impacted decorum and debate;

One can excuse a new council for taking time to learn the ropes in their first year in office, however, after nearly four years the situation should have shown more improvement;

  • Excessive energy and debate is regularly allotted to matters over which the Township has no jurisdiction;
  • Often a “staff report” is called for when a simple council decision could have been made and perhaps not delay a taxpayer’s request by at least a month;
  • Council’s decisions have also resulted in a significant number of appearances at the Ontario Municipal Board, heritage designations, law suits and court proceedings all of which have been costly;
  • There has been a significant exodus of staff, particularly in the senior management levels;
  • Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 5.38.39 PM
  • Some members of council tend to micro-manage matters which should be the prerogative of staff.  Staff recommendations are often disregarded, and many decisions are deferred to future meetings;
  • No affordable housing has been approved for the Township, exacerbating the already evident need.After one year in office, a newly elected councillor resigned his seat because he “did not enjoy participating on Council as he had expected to”;

Mayor Alice Murphy; Some Accomplishments:

  • Created a budget advisory committee which utilized the expertise of local residents and ratepayer representatives;
  • Held town hall meetings in Port Carling, Windermere and Walkers Point as promised;
  • Championed the fight to “Save the Bala Falls” but to date only delay has been accomplished;
  • Raised the awareness of heritage within the Township.

Some Disappointments

  • Information provided to the MRA by Township staff indicates that Reserves have been notably reduced:
  • The Mayor promised to introduce a pro-active business style of leadership, based on her corporate experience; unfortunately, in our opinion, this style is inappropriate in a municipal setting;

The Mayor has disregarded municipal protocols and procedural by-laws;

  • Meetings that she chairs are often chaotic and excessively long.  At times, members of the public and staff alike have left council meetings in frustration. Even if she is not chairing a meeting, the Mayor will often act, interject and try to conduct the meeting as if she were;
  • Senior Staff and staff turnover has been alarming.  Among those who have left the Township’s employ due to sudden or early retirement or job opportunities elsewhere are the following:

2 Chief Administrative Officers;

2 Treasurers;

A Director of Planning;

A Director of Public Works;

A  Director of Parks and Recreation and Facilities;

A  Deputy Fire Chief;

A Senior Planner;

A  Planner, and

A By-law officer.

In the MRA’s opinion, this might suggest that the existing working atmosphere and the continual interference with staff responsibilities are having a negative impact;

  • The Mayor promised to improve transparency, having fewer closed sessions.  The MRA has  observed that this is not the case;
  • It is the MRA’s opinion that the Mayor continues to micro-manage matters that appear to suit her agenda;
  • The Mayor promised not to get bogged down in law suits or endless OMB proceedings.  However, it is apparent that expensive and time consuming legal matters continue;
  • The Mayor’s resistance to appropriate development in the Township has tarnished the relationship with the building and development community;
  • Swift River Energy Limited (SREL) has filed a suit against the Mayor personally and the Township for incidents related to SREL carrying out exploratory work at the Bala Falls;
  • The optics of the Mayor’s excessive commitment to thwarting the hydro project continues to be questioned by many, as a conflict of interest, due to the proximity of the Mayor’s cottage to the Bala Falls.

Conclusion : In the view of the MRA, the present council has some very capable representatives around the table. However, due to the overwhelming influence of Mayor Murphy, their true qualities were often overlooked and/or smothered. There is no doubt, in the MRA’s opinion, that Mayor Murphy is persistent and passionate. She seems to prefer, however, to do most things her way giving little regard for the opinion of others.

In our opinion, it appears evident that there has been excessive time, energy, and taxpayer dollars spent by this council dedicated to a single issue – the stopping of the Bala Falls hydro project, to the detriment of the rest of the Township.


It is the MRA’s opinion that Mayor Murphy’s leadership style, is contrary to the prudent management of the future growth of our Township and is not consistent with the direction that the Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association believes the Township should and needs to take.



Gravenhurst man faces child porn charges after police search Gravenhurst home

Gravenhurst man faces child pornography charges

Published September 11, 4.10pm: Members of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Child Sexual Exploitation Unit, (OPP) Technological Crime Unit and the Bracebridge OPP Detachment have arrested and charged a Gravenhurst man following a six month child pornography investigation.

On Tuesday (September 9, 2014),  police executed a search warrant at a Gravenhurst home after receiving information that an individual was accessing and in possession of Child Pornography. As a result of the investigation, one computer and related computer equipment pertinent to the investigation was seized.

Charged is 36-year-old Lyle Clayton Fitchett with two counts of Possession of Child Pornography and one count of Accessing Child Pornography.

Fitchett appeared for a bail hearing yesterday and was released with conditions. He is scheduled to appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Bracebridge on September 30, 2014.

The investigation is continuing.

Watershed Conditions Statement about Water Safety for regional rivers issued

Watershed Conditions Statement issued today for Muskoka and Moon Rivers

Published Sept. 10, 4.33pm: The Ministry of Natural Resources – Parry Sound District is advising area residents that a Watershed Conditions Statement – Water Safety is in effect for the following river systems within the District:

  • Muskoka and Moon Rivers;
  • Magnetawan River;
  • Seguin River;
  • Lower Pickerel River;
  • Black River;
  • Boyne River

Water levels and flows in local lakes and rivers are currently higher than what is normally expected or experienced at this time of year due to the large amount of rainfall received over the previous weeks.

Residents and those visiting the area are advised to be aware of current watershed conditions, exercise caution while around waterbodies and maintain close supervision of children and pets.

Higher than normal lake water levels and river flows are expected to continue into next week before subsiding to more seasonal conditions.

MNR is closely monitoring the weather and developing watershed conditions. Further updates to this Watershed Conditions Statement will be issued prior to its expiry date should conditions warrant.

Description of Weather System
The weather forecast for the remainder of this week is for daytime high temperatures in the range of 13-15 degrees Celsius with single digit nighttime temperatures. The current forecast is calling for up to 40mm of rain tonight (possibly more in localized areas where thunderstorms are severe) and an additional 10-15mm possible through Monday September 15th .

Description of Current Conditions
Forecasted rainfall will cause lake levels and river flows to rise.

Though flooding is not a concern at this time the continuing wet weather across local watersheds will increase the potential for higher runoff into lakes and rivers than what is typical for this time of year.

Expiry Date: This message will expire Monday September 14, 2014; 5:00 pm

Terminology: Notification Levels

WATERSHED CONDITIONS STATEMENT – WATER SAFETY: indicates that high flows, melting ice or other factors could be dangerous for such users as boaters, anglers and swimmers but flooding is not expected.
WATERSHED CONDITIONS STATEMENT – FLOOD OUTLOOK: gives early notice of the potential for flooding based on weather forecasts calling for heavy rain, snow melt, high winds or other conditions
FLOOD WATCH: potential for flooding exists within specific watercourses and municipalities
FLOOD WARNING: flooding is imminent or occurring within specific watercourses and municipalities.

Township and Hannas Landing ink zoning agreement ahead of OMB hearing

Correction and Update: Muskoka Lakes Councillors did not receive the entire deal package late Friday (a week after it was signed) as previously reported by MNW. The agreement part of the package (the Minutes of Settlement) were not attached to the Zoning Bylaw provided to them Friday. As Councillor Jean-Ann Baranik said, “I would have preferred to hear from Township, not the media, that the agreement had been signed last week.” Councillors received the agreement part of the package yesterday, Monday, Sept. 8. Musk Lakes Hannas Lndg Minutes of Settlement, Aug. 29, 2014

Deal leaves little or no room for public say on Hanna’s Landing zoning

Published September 5, 11:30pm: Unless things somehow change drastically between now and September 22, the re-zoning deal is done for Hanna’s Landing, a development that’s sparked controversy in Port Carling for several years.

Last Friday, the lawyers for the Township of Muskoka Lakes and Hanna’s Landing Inc. signed what are called Minutes of Settlement [ Musk Lakes Hannas Lndg Minutes of Settlement, Aug. 29, 2014 ]. Attached to the minutes is a site specific zoning bylaw agreed upon for the development on the Indian River.

Featured image: Site of Hanna’s Landing on Indian River and Mirror Lake

The deal was reached through private negotiations between external planners and lawyers for the Township and the developer only (without the other concerned parties – the Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) and Rick Spence). The agreement means the Township’s issues do not need to be heard at an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing on September 22.

It also means there is no longer any requirement for broader public comment.

The OMB, however, may still hear from the MLA, represented by the association’s political and land use chair, Anne McCauley. Even if an agreement is reached before September 22 among all parties, she says she will still attend the OMB hearing so MLA members will know their association has seen the issue through.

Spence, a neighbour of the Hanna’s Landing building site, may still present his issues as well. Another five hearing participants can also make statements at the hearing day. (Note: Participant status at the OMB differs from Party status in that Parties to the proceedings must prepare lists of their issues and be prepared to retain expert witnesses to defend their positions. Parties normally retain legal counsel as well but they are free to present their case on their own.) For the Consolidated Issues List prepared for the September 22 OMB hearing, please see References and Related Articles.

Jeff Goldman, a principal of Hanna’s Landing, is pleased with the outcome of the negotiated agreement, but would not provide details, saying:

“It’s only fair that the other parties should have an opportunity to have their questions addressed before reading about the terms of the settlement in the media.”

Jeff Goldman, Hanna's Landing, Port Carling
Jeff Goldman

“I also believe that an explanation to the media and to the public should come from Township officials and elected representatives rather than from us, the developer.”

On hearing some members of Township Council had not yet seen the final agreement, Goldman asked, “How can Council members reply to questions from their constituents about the settlement if they don’t have copies?”

When asked yesterday, Councillors Ron Brent and Don Furniss said they couldn’t comment other than to say that they, too, had not yet been informed that any deal was done. Earlier today, Councillor Jean Ann Baranik also expressed surprise that she had not been informed a deal had been finalized and signed a week ago. [Note: Just before press time, Muskoka News Watch learned that all Councillors received the documents today that were reportedly signed last Friday].

Township Planning Director David Pink confirmed yesterday that the minutes of settlement and zoning bylaw had been sent to Spence and the MLA.

OMB still needs to approve agreement
Whether or not the MLA and/or Spence give their blessing to the joint Township-Hanna’s Landing deal as it stands, the OMB still needs to approve it – and any revised Minutes of Settlement should the Township and Hanna’s Landing agree to make changes requested by the MLA and Spence. If they don’t agree to the deal, the MLA and Spence can still go to the OMB with their issues and would now be arguing against the Township – a somewhat déjà vu moment as the MLA and Spence went up against the Township about issues related to the development site prior to 2010.

McCauley says a meeting between all parties is tentatively scheduled for next week. She points out the zoning bylaw documents she has received are ‘without prejudice’*, explaining that means the bylaw can still be changed.

How Hanna’s Landing ended up at the OMB, again

The proposed zoning bylaw for Hanna’s Landing came before Council in May 2013 after first coming to Township staff in March. It was discussed again on August 15, 2013 (after a meeting to work out issues with Hanna’s Landing that Goldman says included Councillors Ruth Nishikawa, Brad Burgess, Alice Murphy, and Planning Director Pink). At the August meeting, Township staff recommended again that a proposed zoning application be circulated for comment to the public and statutory agencies as per the usual public input process. The MLA’s Anne McCauley, despite noting her association still had issues with the bylaw, also spoke in favour of circulating for public comment. But Council opted to defer a decision for another few weeks.

By August 22, 2013, the developer claims there was still no word from the Township on what to do with the application. Tired of waiting any longer, it concluded Council had “neither the ability or inclination to handle the application within the prescribed process,” so it appealed to the OMB to render a decision.

Sources say that as a result of the new settlement with the Township, Hanna’s Landing Inc. will be able to build a few more units (unconfirmed and reportedly less than 30). It has not been confirmed if that would be more units than what the developer might have been allowed to build if Township had agreed to circulate the proposed zoning bylaw for public comment a year ago (August 2013).

In August 2011, when the OMB upheld the Official Plan (and Port Carling boundary expansion) which paved the way for Hanna’s Landing to move ahead, Murphy called the ruling a victory as it left a door open for further consultation and broader participation in plans for Hanna’s Landing.

The upcoming OMB hearing is scheduled for September 22 at the Township office in Port Carling. The Board could rule that day or issue a decision at a later date.

*Note: Muskoka News Watch has obtained a copy of the Minutes of Settlement and Zoning Bylaw and can not find a reference to without prejudice. We will be seeking clarification. To read the agreement reached between the Township and Hanna’s Landing Inc, click here: Musk Lakes Hannas Lndg Minutes of Settlement, Aug. 29, 2014

References and Related Articles:

Reference: Consolidated Issues List – OMB Decision and Order, issued April 3, 2014

January 2014, MNW: Hanna’s Landing OMB date set for September

January 2014: Timeline of OMB appeals related to Port Carling development/boundary expansion

September 5, 2014: Breaking News: Township and Hanna’s Landing sign zoning deal

About Muskoka News Watch – consider donating to keep your Muskoka info flowing: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you like being informed, please toss a few dollars our way using the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page (you can use Credit Cards or Debit). Your suppor is needed and appreciated. Thank you!

Breaking News: Muskoka Lakes Township and Hanna’s Landing sign zoning deal

Township now on side with Hanna’s Landing heading into OMB hearing; other parties not included in negotiated deal, but meeting expected soon

Published September 5, 10:45am: Three weeks before they would argue in front of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), the Township of Muskoka Lakes and the developers of Hanna’s Landing in Port Carling have found common ground.

Last week, lawyers for the two parties signed papers saying they have reached agreement on a zoning application for Hanna’s Landing on the Indian River near Mirror Lake. Negotiations did not include two other opposing parties – the Muskoka Lakes Association and one of the development’s closest neighbours – Rick Spence of Port Carling. However, a meeting with all four parties is expected to go ahead next week.

The agreement, negotiated over the past few weeks, means the zoning application does not need to be circulated for broader public comment now. That’s according to Hanna’s Landing principal Jeff Goldman. Watch for more details from Muskoka News Watch later today.

Thursday the last day on the job for Muskoka Lakes by-law officer

Muskoka Lakes Township by-law officer heading to new job in Kitchener

Published September 2, 8pm: The Township of Muskoka Lakes is saying goodbye to its second by-law enforcement officer in two years. Ryan Konrad is moving on to a full-time position as a Fire Prevention Officer with the City of Kitchener.

“This is an exceptional opportunity for Ryan, offering him the focus and career development opportunities that he desires,” says Township Fire Chief Richard Hayes. “Ryan has been a tremendous asset to us in helping develop a solid foundation for the services we provide,” continues Hayes. “His input will aid us in moving forward with a quality Emergency Service.”

Chief Hayes adds Konrad has a personal connection with the fire department in Kitchener. Konrad’s last working day in Muskoka Lakes will be Thursday, September 4, and his first day at work in Kitchener will be September 15.

Konrad had been dividing his time between by-law enforcement and fire safety. At the time of Konrad’s appointment last October, the Fire Chief suggested Council could appoint three part-time deputy by-law officers from within the fire department as a back up for when the primary by-law officer was unavailable. Council turned down the recommendation and Chief Hayes and Deputy Chief Harry Baranik have handled any back up bylaw enforcement. Examples of bylaws enforced include dealing with burning complaints, especially when there is a drought.

Konrad joined Muskoka Lakes in October 2013 following the departure of the township’s first part-time by-law officer, Trevor George, who said he’d originally been looking forward to the full-time position. He withdrew his application in September 2013 citing “interference from Council” as the reason why he changed his mind. George had been hired in September 2012.

Regarding other bylaw matters, Muskoka News Watch asked about statements from citizens who say Deputy Chief Baranik has been ticketing boats at the Torrance dock. Baranik says he has never in his lifetime issued a ticket for a boat. There have been instances this summer where the by-law officer (Konrad) has attached letters on boats left for long periods of time to inform owners about the by-law requirements – but reportedly not one single notice of offence has been issued at the dock in Torrance.

How do by-law complaints work in the Township of Muskoka Lakes? A system is set up that most by-law complaints are directed through the Emergency Management/By-Law Enforcement office. After an initial assessment and possibly an investigation, the complaint is redistributed to the department with oversight jurisdiction (e.g., property standard complaints may be redirected to the building department or the planning department). If the matter is to proceed to a judicial process, the Emergency Management/By-Law Department helps with the court preparation if required.

About Muskoka News Watch: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you appreciate us keeping you informed, consider tossing a few dollars our way via the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page. Or tell advertisers that want to target Muskoka that Muskoka News Watch regularly attracts over 10,000 visitors each month.

Related Articles:

Man charged in morning crash into rock cut on Hwy 11 near Gravenhurst

Driver faces careless driving charges after car crashes into rock cut south of Sparrow Lake

Published September 2, 12:30pm: The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) of the Bracebridge detachment has charged a male driver as a result of a crash on Highway 11 in Gravenhurst this morning.

Police responded to a call of a vehicle crashed into a rock cut in the ditch of Highway 11 Northbound South of Sparrow Lake Route D, Gravenhurst at about 8am. The two occupants of the vehicle had minor injuries. No other vehicles were involved.

The driver of the vehicle has been charged with careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act.

A section of the right lane of Highway 11 Northbound just North of Mitchell Road and South of Sparrow Lake Route D was closed for a short period to allow for clean-up of vehicle fluids. The left lane of Highway 11 Northbound and both lanes of Highway 11 Southbound remained open to traffic.

Rural Economic Developers meeting in Huntsville at Deerhurst Resort

Community Futures conference draws over 200 economic development minds to Muskoka

Published September 2, 8:30am: More than 200 delegates working in rural and small town economic development are meeting at the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville this week. They’re attending a conference of the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations (OACFDC). The members of the association represent 61 Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDCs), located in small towns and rural areas across Ontario.

These CFDCs offer free business counselling and provide loans to entrepreneurs, as well as working on community economic development projects and local strategic planning. Volunteer directors and staff alike will be attending the conference from September 3 to 5.

The host of this year’s conference is Muskoka Futures, also a Community Futures Development Corporation. “We are delighted to be working with David Brushey and the staff and the board at Muskoka Futures,” says Association Executive Director Diana Jedig, “They have done so much to make us feel welcome and showcase Muskoka.”

In addition to various business topics, there are workshops on engaging and retaining youth in rural communities, tourism and social enterprise. As well, there are two mobile workshops: On Thursday, some delegates will travel to Axiom Audio and The Lake of Bays Brewing Company, and on Friday, they will visit the town of Huntsville to learn about Event & Sport Tourism.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Taking Care of Business” and the opening ceremonies on September 3 will feature greetings from OACFDC President Denis Bérubé, Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty and District of Muskoka Chair John Klinck.

There are two local speakers:  Lisa Tomassoni of Fanotech Enviro Inc. will talk about her business’s recovery from flood damage and what part Muskoka Futures played in that, while Mary Storey of the Muskoka Steamship and Historical Society will provide an interesting look at Muskoka’s past.

Keynote Speakers are Dara Howell of Huntsville, a Canadian Freestyle Skiing Olympic Gold Medalist, and Lucas Wilson, an Illusionist and young entrepreneur. Also at the conference is a plenary session on “Effective Public Relations Planning”.

An “Ignite” session will be held, where five different speakers will present 20 slides each, on unrelated topics, with only 20 seconds per slide to talk about them. Speakers in the Ignite session include:

  • Molly Ross, Creative Muskoka and the Innovative Rural Communities : “Igniting Innovation”
  • Jennifer Schnier, Township of Georgian Bay: “Internet Sucks!”
  • Graham Porter, Thumbprint Education: “Crowd Sourcing the Classroom”
  • Matt French, Muskoka Lakes Winery: “From Bog to Bottle”
  • Denise Deschamps & Carmen DeMarco, FedNor: “French it up!”

The conference closes on Friday night with an Awards Gala. One CFDC will be honoured for a successful initiative in Community Economic Development, while two businesses will tie for Entrepreneur of the Year. The entrepreneurs have been chosen from several nominees, all successful businesses that received loans and counselling from CFDCs. In addition, the members of the OACFDC voted on a Members’ Choice Award.

A study by the Conference Board of Canada shows that for every $1 that CFDCs invest in Ontario communities, the local economy experiences a lift of $4.22. CFDCs in Northern Ontario (including Muskoka Futures) are funded by Industry Canada through FedNor, while CFDCs in Southern Ontario are funded by FedDev Ontario. They operate as not-for-profit corporations. Decisions are made locally by volunteer Boards of Directors working with managers and staff in each office.

Portage in protest followed by one woman vow to protect trees and occupy Bala Falls

Update September 3: Peggy Peterson vows she’ll stay until land safe from proposed Bala hydro build

Published September 3, 11:45am: Peggy Peterson, also known by her nickname, Muskoka Lorax, was in good spirits this morning after her first overnight camping on District of Muskoka and Crown land beside the north Bala dam.

The Huntsville woman says she’s there to protect the trees and water. Peterson says she was invited to join the protest by the Wahta Mohawks held last Thursday (see story below)  PeggybyBannerIMG_0035 and that’s when she decided to camp on the site until the Williams Treaty people arrive. Specifically, she has mentioned that the governmental Duty to Consult about the development on the site was never fulfilled with the Chippewas of Georgina Island.

Peterson has put up a makeshift fence on the District portion of the land. She adds she plans to hold a daily press conference at 4pm each day she is on the site.

From Portage In to Tent In: Wahta Mohawk portage protest followed by one woman call to occupy Bala Falls

Published September 1, 11pm: A Wahta Mohawk protest to protect an allegedly historic portage at the Bala Falls brought out about 80 people on Thursday to watch as canoes crossed Highway 169 — and today a tent was set up in a bid to Posters on bridge occupy bala falls portageallegedly start an occupation movement. On Facebook, Peggy Peterson, a tree activist from Huntsville who uses the nickname “Muskoka Lorax”, announced she was giving her first ever press conference today at 4pm at the dam site. She promised to post signs reading “Swift Energy Company You Shall Not Pass.” Peterson also promised to return tomorrow to declare the trees on the site a “Sacred Grove and under her protection until the William Treaty protectors can get there.” Peterson claims there have been no consultations with the First Nations and the Crown site is Treaty Land.

Occupy Bala Falls, Wahta MohawksPhotos submitted to Muskoka News Watch (MNW) show posters and a tent set up, but observers said no one appeared to be there. As of 11pm, the tent and signs were still there but there was still no sign of anyone actually on the Crown land site, and there are no further details. The MNW portage-in story follows.


Portage-In Protest draws canoes and crowds

A Wahta Mohawk protest to protect an allegedly historic portage at the Bala Falls brought out about 80 people on Thursday (some of them representing Wahta with many other supporters from the Save the Bala Falls protest group, while others said they were just curious bystanders). Traffic on Highway 169 was stopped for only 20 minutes as about a half a dozen canoes were carried across the highway from Moon River to Lake Muskoka. [Photos by MNW]

Chief Philip Franks and Wahta Council say the hydro plant proposed for the Crown land immediately beside the north Bala dam will eliminate a historic portage for the First Nation – and that the federal and provincial governments did not fulfill their “Duty to Consult” about use of that land (an allegation at least one provincial agency disputes as reported on Moose FM).

As the protest picked up steam, some people started chanting, ‘save the Bala Falls,’ which was quickly changed to ‘save our portage’. The day before, the spokesman for the stop the hydro plant protest group, Save the Bala Falls, had emailed supporters asking them to be there, but reminding them: “This event is about the Bala Portage, so no red T-shirts and no signs. We’re there to support the Wahta and the Bala Portage.”

Problems with the audio system made it hard to hear Chief Franks speak to the issue. Still, the protest message was clear: the Wahta Mohawks do not want a proposed small hydro project to proceed until the two governments’ “Duty to Consult” has been fulfilled. The protest, entitled the “Portage-In” event was announced on August 27, three days after Chief Franks sent letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (on August 24) stating that:

“a new hydro-electric generation facility, proposed to be constructed on the Bala Portage, which is between the Moon River and Lake Muskoka, would eliminate the traditional and historic portage that the Wahta Mohawk and other First Nations have used for generations.”

Furthermore, the Wahta Mohawks say they want to restart the environmental assessment process and stop the District and Township of Muskoka Lakes from issuing permits “until it can be shown that the governmental duty to consult has been fulfilled.” A full explanation of the Wahta Mohawks position can be viewed at

Ministry says consultation did occur

As reported on the Muskoka radio station, The Moose, an official for the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) says the Wahta Mohawks were consulted during the environmental assessment and screening process. Documentation in the Ministry of Environment approved environmental screening report show Wahta received responses to concerns identified by Wahta in 2008. The environment assessment process continued for another six years until January 2013, when the Ministry gave the environmental assessment its seal of approval. Read “Green light for Bala Falls Hydro plant”

Keep reading for more background followed by a timeline relating to this issue

Where does that leave portaging and portaging heritage in Bala?

There’s no doubt the debate will continue as to the actual site of the portage (or what remains of it) noted by David Thompson during his brief Muskoka survey in 1837, as well as the portage route used by the Wahta Mohawks in 1881.

Since Thompson’s time there have been dams and a channel blasted out to create the south Falls, a railway, and road and a highway added, so it’s hard to know exactly what actual steps may or may not have been taken on the land remaining between the north and south Bala Falls (a man made island).

Consider the opposing positions: the courts have called it an alleged historic portage, and the developer refers to a ‘purported’ portage, while the Township of Muskoka Lakes referenced the Thompson’s portage in its court case to prove a portage existed. It has also presented heritage attributes of Tooke’s Landing (now the Moon River Dock) as being a put in for, quote: “early settlers and visitors portaging by canoe, hence the name ‘Portage Street’. This evidence could give credence to Portage Street as a historic alternative to the Thompson portage. The Wahta Mohawks, meanwhile, say the portage on the Crown land nearest the dam is the real route of their particular passage.

During the Divisional Court (and later Court of Appeal) legal actions by the Township, the court heard there were several alternate, and potentially safer access routes than on the Crown land site, and the justices stated evidence was lacking to support the Township’s position.

Presently, Alice Murphy contends the primary portage is the one that comes closest to the concrete wall of the dam on the Crown land. She also asserts this potential route – although access to that land is blocked by the MNR due to safety reasons – is the safest and/or the only truly public route (according to an interview on Hunter’s Bay Radio).

Alternate portage route in Bala, Bala's Mill Stream above Waterpower Generation plant
2 of 14 ‘portage celebrants’ paddling Mill Stream July 27

During that interview, she stated the Portage Street portage was not appropriate as it crosses private land, and she also defied anyone to portage using the Mill Stream under the highway bridge (shortly afterward, a group of paddlers did just that to stage what they called a “portage celebration” event.).

As part of an investigation into portage routes by Golder Associates (and paid for by Swift River Energy Limited (SREL), Golder concluded that historic routes would more likely be on the land owned by the

SREL portage route diagram, Swift River Energy
Portage route diagram (Source: SREL. For the full Golder report on portage routes see

Township of Muskoka Lakes (between the Crown land and the south Falls). In its report, the company pointed out what it refers to as a ‘purported portage’ along with two portage routes that it says could have been used even when the previous hydro generation plant was in place (including the one just north of the present south Falls that may be the oldest route and the one noted as a portage by Thompson).

Portaging possible in Bala: The good news is that portaging remains possible in Bala despite the controversy over the land between the north and south Bala Falls. Just this summer, some Pinecrest campers crossed over the highway where a new sidewalk and

portaging in bala, bala portage, news about bala, Wahta protest
Portage starting from Mill Stream under highway to Moon River dock on River Street – a portage celebration July 27

stoplights are to be installed by the District of Muskoka on the request of the Township. Anyone using that route will have to walk along the sidewalk (a walk which could have been averted if the Township had gone with the originally proposed sidewalk location directly across from Portage Street). Canoes can then be carried down Portage Street and put in easily at the Township dock on Moon River. The Mill Stream is another alternate that removes the need to cross Highway 169 completely. During times of low flows, such as summer, using the Mill Stream is an easy, short route between Moon River and Lake Muskoka.

Timeline of the portage issue

  • 1837: Explorer-cartographer and British-Canadian fur trader David Thompson notes a Bala portage in his diaries during his 1837 Muskoka survey.
  • 1873: Control dam built at north Bala Falls. Later in the 1880s another dam and channel created the south Falls.
  • 1881: Wahta Mohawks travel to territory west of Bala.
  • 2004: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) issues a call for Expressions of Interest to develop the north Bala Falls as a hydro site.
  • 2012: While Save the Bala Falls had previously expressed concerns about safety, (including for portaging), the group’s contention about a historic portage appears to have first been raised in Spring 2012 in reference to Thompson’s portage (as per the lobby group’s website).
  • In August 2013, The Township failed in its bid to get the Divisional Court to declare, among a list of eight requests (including one to block building of a hydro plant), “that the portage connecting the Moon River and Lake Muskoka for persons travelling on those waters (referred to in the file as the “Portage”) has existed and exists.” Among the Township’s evidence was an affidavit by the Township’s heritage consultant that referenced a passage from a book about the Wahta move to the territory near Bala in October 1881 (eight years after the first Bala dam was built). That evidence included a reference to a retelling of the Wahta Mohawks passage through Bala that refers to travel by train to Gravenhurst, and then by steamship to Bala and portaging below Moon River and proceeding by scow to Red Rock.
  • A new Chief and Wahta Council were elected in March 2014 (as such, they may not have been involved in discussions prior to the environmental assessment process approved in 2013).
  • In July 2014, the Township had a second day in court to appeal, but the Court of Appeal of Ontario upheld the Divisional Court decision. Township of Muskoka Lakes Mayor Alice Murphy then requested the township Trails Committee report back to Council with a potential alternate portage route. It’s not known if that report will be received at Council before the upcoming election in October.
  • August 28, 2014: Wahta Mohawks join with stop the hydro plant protestors to protect what they claim to be their traditional and historic portage route.

Written by Norah Fountain with files from Norman Fountain

About Muskoka News Watch – consider donating to keep your Muskoka info flowing: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you like being informed, please toss a few dollars our way using the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page (you can use Credit Cards or Debit). Thank you!

Municipal Election: Political science major Steven Klinck kicks off his Gravenhurst campaign

Klinck chooses Labour Day for his official campaign kick off; seeking Ward 1 Council post in Gravenhurst

Published September 1, 4:50pm: Steven Klinck today kicked off his campaign officially today for election to council representing Gravenhurst’s Ward One. Klinck filed his nomination papers in June but now the real work begins: he announced his official campaign kick off by press release today.

In a release he stated he believes “the time has come for a youthful voice that fosters new ideas at the Gravenhurst council table.”

Steven says he is “saddened by the continuous exodus of our town’s youth to greener pastures in their quest for meaningful employment opportunity”. If elected, he commits to tackle this issue at every opportunity. To start, Steven will propose to the mayor and council that a Youth Advisory Committee be established in the Town of Gravenhurst.

Steven also acknowledges the revitalization evident within the Ward One business community, and he would be honoured to advocate for further economic prosperity.

As a life-long resident of Gravenhurst, Steven, has extremely strong ties to Gravenhurst’s Ward One and the Muskoka area. Out of personal choice, and contrary to his campaign advisors, Steven adamantly refuses to clutter the “Gateway to Muskoka” with unsightly election signs. The 22-year-old is presently completing a four-year honours degree in Political Science at Laurentian University.

Scroll Down to See all Nominated Candidates in Gravehurst

As of August 15 2014, the following nominations have been filed:

Office: Mayor
Nominated Candidate Date Filed Contact Information
Paisley Donaldson May 12, 2014 705-689-5659,


Office: Ward 1
Nominated Candidate Date Filed Contact Information
Heidi Lorenz May 26, 2014 705-687-2944,
Steven Klinck June 4, 2014 705-305-9282,


Office: Ward 2
Nominated Candidate Date Filed Contact Information
 Larry Beard  August 15, 204  705-687-2539,


Office: Ward 3 Councillor
Nominated Candidate Date Filed Contact Information
Bob Colhoun May 9, 2014 705-689-8763,
Dave Pinder June 5, 2014 705-327-9515,


Office: Ward 4 Councillor
Nominated Candidate Date Filed Contact Information
John S. Wilson April 28, 2014 705-687-4062,
Randy Jorgensen July 11, 2014 705-687-7137,


Office: Ward 5 Councillor
Nominated Candidate Date Filed Contact Information
Jeff Watson May 16, 2014 705-687-0490,
Ian McNaughton August 29, 2014 705-394-7770,


Office: District Councillor
Nominated Candidate Date Filed Contact Information
Rosemary King January 16, 2014 705-687-0770,
Joe Donoghue WITHDRAWN – August 27, 2014 705-345-1045,
Sandy Cairns May 23, 2014 705-687-4401,
Sylvia Purdon June 9, 2014 705-645-0789,
Paul Kelly June 20, 2014 705-687-5605,