Huntsville fire crews kept busy with fire and snowmobile accidents

The Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department was kept busy this past weekend with three separate calls for help.

On Saturday evening, crews from Lake of Bays Stations 20 and 30 assisted EMS with a snowmobiler that was injured, after hitting a pressure crack on the ice, near Grassmere Resort Road.

Early Sunday morning, crews again assisted EMS with a snowmobile collision that happened near Limberlost Road and West Oxbow Lake Road in Lake of Bays. Three people were taken to hospital with injuries.

On Sunday morning shortly after 10am, crews from Huntsville Station 1 responded to a reported structure fire on Maws Hill Road. Upon arrival crews found the structure was fully involved after trying to access the property down a snow-packed trail using a UTV. The building was a total loss and the cause of the blaze remains under investigation. The building was not occupied at the time.

Hospitals Board Seeking New Directors and members

Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) is calling for people to apply to be volunteer members of its Board of Directors or community members of a standing board committee.

Applicants for either position must meet eligibility requirements, reside, be employed or be listed on a municipal voters’ list or tax roll in the Muskoka or East Parry Sound geographic area, and be 18 years of age or older. Previous experience on boards with similar scope and challenges would be an asset. A police criminal record check is also required.

In addition to attending monthly board meetings, board directors must be able to devote at least 15 hours per month for meeting preparation, committee work, and other events for a three-year appointment.

Applications are also being accepted for community members of standing board committees, such as Resources, Governance, Strategic Planning, and/or Quality & Patient Safety. Applicants must attend the standing committee meetings and provide a time commitment of approximately three to five hours bi-monthly for a one-year appointment.

The application deadline for both a board member and community member is Monday, March 21, 2016 at 4 p.m. Apply online today by visiting the MAHC website . Only those applicants chosen to be interviewed will be contacted.

Still not sure if this opportunity is right for you? Join MAHC for an information session on March 7, 2016 at 6 p.m. to learn more about becoming a board member. Please register through the Board Liaison at (705) 789-2311, ext. 2342 or by email at

Bracebridge OPP investigating violent break & enter in Mactier

Police are investigating a violent break and enter that occurred at a Mactier residence in Georgian Bay.

They say it happened at 9pm Thursday, when unknown suspects entered the residence and after an encounter with the homeowner, stole a gun safe containing firearms.

The homeowner suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported to a local area hospital for treatment.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact the OPP at (705) 645-2211 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800- 222-8477. You can also submit your information online at if you have any information on this crime or any other crime.

Crime Stoppers does not subscribe to call display and you will remain anonymous. Being anonymous, you will not testify in court and your information may lead to a cash reward of up to $2,000.

Accused in Maasland murder case was in financial straits, court hears

Todd Howley needed money, and, according to evidence presented at his murder trial this week, was in desperate financial straits in the months leading up to Paul Maasland’s death.

Howley has plead Not Guilty to the murder of Maasland, a Toronto investor who was funding his budding Algae fuel technology back in 2009-2010.

Emails exchanged between the pair from Sept. 2009 to late June 2010 which illustrate the nature of their business arrangement were read in as evidence Thursday.

Maasland’s badly beaten body was discovered August 30th 2010 at a public boat launch off Morrow Drive in Bracebridge. By that time he had funded Howley’s enterprise to the tune of $70,000, but was himself facing financial strain due to the investment.

Maasland’s money was required to keep Howley’s tech in development and the emails speak to the self described situation Howley found himself in, as unplanned equipment purchases and payments added up.

On April 5th 2010, for instance, Howley suggested in an email to Maasland that a funding instalment would be welcome as soon as was possible.

“Sooner the better,” he wrote. “I have to make multiple payments asap.”

A subsequent email exchange with Maasland found Howley stating he really needed to get his bills paid and also referred to bill collectors showing up at his home.

By mid-June 2010, according to the emails, Howley’s project was proving to be a real money drain for the investor.

There had been warnings of this as early as late April, when Maasland had told Howley via email that “this is as far as I can go” in reference to an $18,000 funding instalment.

An email sent to Howley on June 15th 2010 seemed to show Maasland really feeling the pinch.

“Hi Todd,” wrote Maasland, “doesn’t look like I’ll be able to make the advance.”

By that time court has heard Paul and his wife Lee Stanton were having to cut back on their own personal expenditures due to the financial situation with the project and that Stanton wasn’t too pleased about it.

It was also around this point that Maasland suggested other revenue generating avenues to Howley, but according to the emails, these were nixed by the entrepreneur.

In one email, Howley wrote that if “an Ohio deal” couldn’t go through, (a deal he was in favour of but which Maasland had suggested there’d be difficulties with) then he personally would have to finish his own home and sell it to creditors.

Concluding his testimony about the emails, Huntsville OPP Detective Constable Luc Dumont of the Muskoka Crime Unit said police had made efforts to find an individual who Howley had suggested, in the emails, was interested in buying some of his product.

According to Dumont, a mutual legal assistance treaty request for more information about this individual’s gmail account was made with Google after attempts to contact him via the email address proved fruitless.

Court ended there Thursday, but Dumont continues testifying next week.

Jurors have also been told they’ll see more video evidence next week – one segment is referred to as ‘the Toyota video’ which is security camera footage shot at a Toyota dealership near Howley’s Wyecroft Road rented warehouse space in Oakville.

The Crown contends Maasland was killed at the warehouse by Howley on August 29th 2010 – outside security camera footage of the rear loading dock area at the warehouse shows the comings and goings of a vehicle, while still images taken from the video show a person walking towards and entering the warehouse.

OPP Special Constable Gerald Lanna, with the Forensic Video Analysis Unit, testified that police brought back ‘a seized vehicle’ to the warehouse to shoot footage which could then be compared with the vehicle captured by the loading dock camera.

Defence lawyer Breese Davies questioned this aspect of his testimony.

“You don’t know if police actually acquired it (‘the seized vehicle’) from Subaru as opposed to (it being) the Maasland vehicle (which was seized in the police investigation),” she asked.

Lanna confirmed he didn’t know.

Paul Maasland drove a blue 2009 Subaru Forester and the Crown contends it’s his vehicle depicted in the footage, which was captured on August 29th and 30th 2010, right around the time he is said to have disappeared.

(Photo is of the accused, Oakville businessman Todd Howley)

Bracebridge Ice Cream Shoppe attempted robbery trial continues

The Bracebridge Ice Cream Shoppe attempted robbery trial resumes March 23rd.

The case dates back to August 16th 2014 at the start of the noon hour.

That’s when OPP were called to the Shoppe, located on Manitoba Street in Bracebridge, about a knife-wielding man who had entered the store and demanded money from an employee.

The employee backed away from the suspect who then fled on foot – there were no injuries to anyone and no money was taken by the suspect.

At the time, the suspect was described as wearing a grey/black baggy hooded sweatshirt that covered over his face. Police made an arrest later the same day.

Court staff say the accused, 22 yr old Connor Taverner, has plead Not Guilty to all the charges he’s facing. They include: one count of Robbery, two counts of Disguise with Intent and one count of Attempt/Accessory to Robbery.

The trial resumes March 23rd in Huntsville court at 10am.

Three Orillia men charged after break-in at old Muskoka Centre property

Three Orillia men have been charged after breaking in to the old Muskoka Centre property in Gravenhurst.

Bracebridge OPP were called about some suspicious activity at the end of Muskoka Road North this morning at 3:30am.

A neighbour first noticed the activity and responding officers arrested four men inside the fenced complex stealing material from inside one of the buildings.

Police have charged 27 year-old Gaston Gagnon, 53 year-old James Mountney and 41 year-old Jeffery Temple all of Orillia, each with Break and Enter and Possession of Property Obtained by Crime. The fourth man was subsequently released.

The accused men will appear before the Ontario Court of Justice in Bracebridge on tomorrow to answer to their charges.

Driver hospitalized after snowmobile goes through ice on Fairy Lake

This morning just before 11am Huntsville OPP along with Muskoka EMS received word that a snowmobile had gone through the ice on Fairy Lake near Scotts Point Road in Huntsville.

Witnesses saw two snow machines out on Fairy Lake and one had gone through the ice. The driver, a 16 year old from Huntsville managed to get himself up on the ice and roll toward the second snowmobiler, who went back and picked him up. He was eventually transported to a local area hospital.

Staff Sergeant John Graham of Huntsville OPP detachment advises “although we have had some colder weather recently, this does not mean that our local lakes are frozen enough to venture out on motorized vehicles. Take a minute to assess the ice conditions before you venture out”.

Staying off the ice altogether is the only sure way to prevent snowmobile tragedies from occurring on our waterways this winter. No ice is safe ice.

Knife assault case adjourned until March 1st in Bracebridge

A 27 year old Georgian Bay man made a brief appearance in Bracebridge court this morning facing a charge of assault with a weapon.

Kyle Stephens is accused of using a knife to assault a victim in Georgian Bay Township yesterday.

Stephens remains in custody at this time. His case has been adjourned until March 1st.

He has also been charged with failing to comply with an undertaking that he stay at least 50 metres away from 11 Young Street in Mactier; and stands further charged with failing to comply with an undertaking that he abstain from the consumption of alcohol or  other intoxicating substances.

Further details once they become available.

Man gets 45 day prison sentence for driving with a suspended license

A 31-year-old Bracebridge man has been handed a 45-day sentence for driving while his licence was under suspension.

Bracebridge court has heard that on July 11th, 2015, the man was pulled over after turning on to Woodridge Street in Bracebridge after a patrolling OPP officer noticed he was driving a grey Ford pickup while his licence was under suspension for unpaid fines.

A search of the vehicle later turned up 12.26 grams of marijuana which was in a clear plastic baggy in a blue tote bag at the back of the truck. Court heard that pot was also found in a used cigarette container.

Judge JD Evans found the man guilty of driving while under suspension and possession of pot.

Defence lawyer Robin Bellows said her client had faced previous drug charges, but that he had completed a 4 and a half year methadone program and been sober for three years.

“It’s unfortunate that we see him before the court (now) for a more minor drug,” she said, adding that there were tryable issues which had not been pursued in the case in relation to who’s pot it actually was.

The man owns a local roofing and framing business for residential properties, has two employees & rarely drove either of the business’s two work vehicles, explained Bellows.

He showed remorse in court for what had happened.

“I’ve done a lot of growing up over the past 4-5 years,” he told Judge Evans. “There’s no excuse for what I’ve done – I knew I shouldn’t be driving.”

Evans ruled he must pay a $500 fine for the pot possession, plus a $150 victim find surcharge.

He received the jail time for the drive while under suspension, which he is to serve intermittently on weekends to allow him to keep working.

A further six month driving suspension looms for the man and a probation term is also in effect which stipulates no drinking or non prescribed drug taking during the sentence.

Brian Coldin’s arson case to be addressed March 22nd in Bracebridge

High Falls Chalet Inn’s owner Brian Coldin will have his arson charges addressed in court on March 22nd.

Coldin was in court Tuesday when the date to set a pre-trial was decided. The adjournment gives him time to hire a lawyer for the case.

In total he’s facing two counts of arson for the purpose of fraud, two counts of arson damage to property, two counts of fraud, a charge of counselling to commit an indictable offence, possession contrary to an order, careless use and storage of a firearm and two counts of possession of stolen property.

The matters stem back to September 2015, when police say they concluded a 4 month investigation into a series of structure fires that occurred in the area of Brodie Crescent and Fallsview Road in Bracebridge dating back to 2010.

A publication ban’s currently in place on details that were heard during his bail hearing.

Coldin’s girlfriend, 33 yr old Leslie Dixon will address her charges next on March 22nd too. They include two counts of possession of stolen property and one count of unauthorized possession of a weapon.

Coldin has a 13 year history of troubles with local police and neighbours in the High Falls area.

He was the subject of a W5 episode years ago called ‘The Town Without Pity’.

It can be viewed here

Several people charged with drunk driving this past week in Muskoka

Several people charged with drunk driving offenses this past week in Muskoka.

On Friday, police responded to a complaint from a homeowner on Raymond Road in Muskoka Lakes Twp at 5:35 p.m. regarding two trucks pulling trailers at the end of her driveway, one of which appeared to be stuck.

Police investigated and as a result, arrested and charged both drivers with alcohol related offenses.

60 year-old Rodney Hammond of Orangeville and 40 year-old Jason Hammond of Gravenhurst have each been charged with Impaired Operation and Over 80.

They’ll appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Bracebridge on March 15th to answer to their charges.

Upon their arrest, they each received an immediate 90 day driver’s licence suspension and further had their vehicles towed and impounded.

Then on Sunday morning, OPP responded to a traffic complaint that came in from a motorist travelling on Highway 118 in Bracebridge at 10:30 a.m.

Police located the vehicle shortly afterwards on Winhara Road and conducted a traffic stop.

In that instance, police arrested and charged 49 year-old Randolph Francis of Burlington with Impaired Operation and Driving with More than 80 mgs of Alcohol in his blood.

He’ll appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Bracebridge on March 22nd.

The accused received an immediate 90 day driver’s licence suspension and further had his vehicle towed and impounded.

Guelph woman hospitalized following snowmobile collision with tree

A snowmobile collision in Huntsville sent a Guelph woman to hospital over the weekend.

On Saturday at 5:48pm OPP attended the scene.

Police say the snowmobile was travelling southbound on Trail D102B in the area of Britannia Road when it struck a rock and then veered into a tree.

A 28-year-old Guelph woman was transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

No charges were laid against the operator of the snowmobile.

In Northern Ontario on Saturday, two people died in a head on snowmobile crash near Searchmont, north of Sault Ste. Marie.

Both drivers, one 59-year-old male from Sault Ste. Marie and a 45-year-old male from Michigan died from their injuries at the scene. No names have been released pending notification of next of kin. The investigation into the crash is continuing.

Save the Bala Falls drops land lease appeal against Muskoka Lakes Township

The group protesting a hydro plant at north Bala Falls will not take its land lease case against the Township of Muskoka Lakes any further.

Just three days after being ordered to pay court costs, Save the Bala Falls has abandoned its decision to appeal, as shown in court documents obtained by Muskoka News Watch.

On Wednesday, Justice Tom Wood ordered the group to pay $29,584.91 in court costs to the Township, adding the group’s legal action was not “public interest litigation.”

Bala FallsOn January 17, Save the Bala Falls filed intent to appeal, contending Wood erred in law and fact in regard to eight items in ruling against awarding them an injunction to stop any lease deal.

In his written decision denying the group an injunction, the justice stated he found the Save the Bala Falls argument flawed and that the Township lease would be in the interest of the municipality. In his decision was released on December 24, 2015, Wood stated:

“In conclusion I find that the Township of Muskoka Lakes has the authority to enter into the proposed lease, that it has exercised that authority in an appropriate manner, and that on balance to do so would be in the interest of the municipality. The application is therefore dismissed.”

Related Articles:

February 17, 2016, MNW: Judge orders Save Bala Falls to pay township Muskoka Lakes to cover court costs

January 27, 2016, MNW: Approved lease keeps park open to public

December 24, 2015: Bala Falls Update: Judge rules against Save the Bala Falls bid to stop lease

Bala Falls update: Judge rules against Save the Bala Falls bid to stop lease

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). Or, you can advertise your business and service, too. Your support is needed and appreciated. Thank you!

Man charged following two vehicle collision in Huntsville

A Strong Township man has been charged after a collision sent a woman to hospital in Huntsville.

On Tuesday at 12:15pm, Huntsville OPP responded to the collision, which involved two vehicles in the area of Highway #60 and King William Street in Huntsville.

An eastbound Chevrolet Uplander was rear-ended by a second eastbound vehicle. The female driver of the Uplander received non-life threatening injuries resulting from the collision and was transported to a local hospital.

Robert Stumpf of Strong Township was charged with careless driving section 130 of the Highway Traffic Act.

Jurors hear DNA evidence at Todd Howley murder trial

The Todd Howley murder trial being held in Bracebridge has now heard about DNA evidence which was collected at several locations following Toronto investor Paul Maasland’s death.

On February 12th, Forensic Scientist Kimberley Sharpe with the Centre for Forensic Sciences biology section testified about blood/DNA samples collected from Maasland’s Subaru Forester, the Muskoka Falls boat launch where his body was found and the warehouse where Howley conducted work into an Algae biofuel technology Maasland was funding.

Shoes seized at the warehouse were one of the first areas of evidence to be addressed.

“Blood was detected on the shoes and samples were taken for DNA analysis,” Sharpe told jurors, adding that “either (Maasland) is the source of that DNA or a coincidence has occurred.”

The chance of it being from a random, unrelated person, she said, was “1 in 650 million.”

As jurors heard, DNA is a complex subject and in other aspects of this case, it has served to complicate things.

For instance, DNA was also identified at the warehouse on the floor in the washroom. Here it was determined not to be Maasland’s, but another technically unidentified individual.

One possibility for its source was a relative of Howley’s – identified by Defence lawyer Breese Davies as his wife’s sister’s partner.

Court heard  he was there only once and that he cut himself accidentally on the day in question. Davies tells Muskoka News Watch he was there to help Howley move items to another location.
This individual was excluded from all other DNA profiles gathered in the case.

More testimony was about another section of warehouse floor that contained DNA – here again, Maasland’s profile couldn’t be excluded as a possible source.

But Defence co-council Owen Goddard pointed out it could also not be determined when this DNA first appeared.

Maasland, he suggested, could have cut himself anytime in summer 2010 and shed several drops of blood. Sharpe had to admit this was a possibility.

The Crown contends Maasland was killed by Howley at the warehouse on August 29th, 2010 and that his badly beaten body was transported in his Subaru Forester to Bracebridge where it was dumped. No DNA that can be said to be Howley’s was found in the Forester, but that which can be said to be Maasland’s was – in both the interior and on the exterior of the vehicle.

Shifting to the boat launch where Maasland’s body was discovered on August 30th 2010, Sharpe addressed forensic swabs taken from a pair of blue knit gloves found near the body.

DNA swabs taken from inside a glove

The swabs were collected from inside one of the gloves and it was determined Howley’s profile couldn’t be excluded as a match.

“He is either the source of the DNA or a coincidence has occurred,” said Sharpe, adding that the chance that it was DNA from an entirely random person was “1 in 1.7 billion.”

However, the Defence showed that DNA can be transferred onto items in many ways, including sneezing, coughing and touch.

“Your DNA can wind up where you’ve never been is that right?” asked Goddard.

Sharpe admitted this could happen.

Jurors heard that if an object containing DNA at one location is touched by another person and then that person touches objects at another location, some of the original DNA could be spread to the new location. This is referred to as tertiary DNA transfer.

The question of direct, indirect and tertiary DNA transfer is an important one when it comes to evidence, court heard, when weighing factors in the case.

Complicating things further is the fact that the gloves are of the type in which there is no way to determine which way they were worn. Technically there is no inside or outside, pointed out the Defence, so how the DNA ended up on or in them remains an open question.

The case resumes this coming Monday.

*photo is of the accused in the case, Todd Howley

Related Articles:

February 5, 2016: Mystery letter with alleged Maasland murder details sent to Bracebridge OPP

January 28, 2016: Chilling crime scene details revealed at Bracebridge murder trial

January 27, 2016: Murdered investor was thrilled at seeing businesses succeed

May 11,  2011, The Star: FBI arrest Oakville man in Muskoka murder

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). Or, you can advertise your business and service, too. Your support is needed and appreciated. Thank you!

Port Sydney man facing charges following grow op raid

A Port Sydney man is facing charges after a raid on a Severn Township grow op.

On February 12 at 2:15 p.m., police executed a search warrant at a Brady Drive residence where they found and dismantled the indoor cannabis marijuana production operation.

55 yr old Ivan Donkov of Port Sydney has been charged with Cultivation of Cannabis Marihuana, Possession of Cannabis Marihuana for the Purpose of Trafficking, and Possession of Cannabis Marihuana.

33 yr old Ismailov Pizhev of  Toronto, has been charged with Cultivation of Cannabis Marihuana, Possession of Cannabis Marihuana for the Purpose of Trafficking, and Possession of Cannabis Marihuana.

Both parties were released on a Promise to appear in Orillia court on March 29th.


Judge sentences man for nearly 8 yr old assault on cabbie

A former British Columbia resident has finally been sentenced for a brutal assault he committed on a cab driver nearly 8 years ago.

This week 28-year-old Ryan Sherwood plead guilty to assault and mischief charges in Bracebridge court after the outstanding matters were transferred to this jurisdiction.

Crown Attorney Ted Carleton said the incidents began in Vancouver on the 12th of April 2008 at 3:49am, when Sherwood was a passenger in a Yellow taxi cab company vehicle.

Sherwood was in the front passenger seat after two other fares were dropped off and requested he be taken to a 4th Avenue location and then on to somewhere else.

After arriving there the driver told Sherwood he owed $20.15 and asked him how he was going to pay. Sherwood said by MasterCard, but the card was declined and he ended up giving the cabbie $7 in a mix of bills and change.

Still, the driver complied with Sherwood’s request to be taken to yet another location where it was again pointed out he’d underpaid by $13.

Court heard that Sherwood protested by saying he had paid the full $20.
The car was parked and it was at this point that Sherwood punched the driver between 10 and 15 times in the head.

An off-duty police officer was parked behind the cab at the time and witnessed the commotion in the vehicle. He immediately laid on the horn.

Court heard the driver fell out of the vehicle while Sherwood ran down West Broadway with the off duty officer giving chase.

Sherwood ended up outside a residence where he tried to open a parked car – the officer yelled, telling Sherwood to step away from the vehicle. Instead, Sherwood started to kick it.

A canine unit was called and within half an hour Sherwood was found behind the residence and arrested.

The cab driver victim was taken to hospital diagnosed with a headache – court heard he suffered abrasions and pain in his jaw and teeth.

There were also dents and scratches in the passenger side door panels of the cab – an estimated $2,500 in damage was done to the vehicle, which was a 1997 Volkswagen Golf.

Somehow the assault and mischief charges went unresolved in the court system until now.

Sherwood, who grew up in Owen Sound is currently serving a 3 and a half year sentence for break and enters and failing to comply with probation.

Defence Lawyer Tricia Cowie told court that the assault was committed by a then 20 year old man who has struggled with a serious cocaine addiction in his life.

Sherwood showed remorse for his actions and suggested the addiction was just taking hold around the time the assault happened.

“Punching someone in the head is never acceptable”

He told Judge Robert Gattrell:

“I was just a kid when this happened 8 yrs ago and my life was spinning out of control,” adding “Punching someone in the head is never acceptable.”

Carleton noted that cab drivers must be protected by the courts as they are a segment of society which is particularly vulnerable to these types of assaults.

Sherwood was handed a three month sentence for the assault, which is to start after his current sentence is up. On the mischief under $5,000 charge he was sentenced to one month, which is to be served concurrently.

He is also prohibited from owning a weapon for five years and must provide a sample of his DNA to authorities.

Judge orders Save the Bala Falls to pay Township $29,584.91 to cover court costs

A Bracebridge judge has ruled that the website group SavetheBalaFalls.Com will be ordered to pay the Township of Muskoka Lakes $29,584.91 in legal costs which the Township incurred during a recent court action brought about by the group.

Save the Bala Falls.Com (STBF) had sought an injunction preventing the Township from leasing or selling three parcels of land to Swift River Energy Ltd (SREL), the company behind the controversial plan to build a new hydro facility at Bala Falls, on two grounds:

The first was that the leasing of one of the parcels by the Township to SREL didn’t comply with a section of the Municipal Act and portions of the Township’s own policy; the second being that the lease constituted a bonus to SREL and as such was prohibited under section 106 of the Act.

In his decision, delivered Tuesday February 16th, Justice TM Wood states that the Township was successful on both grounds and seeks costs on a partial indemnity basis.

Wood ruled that Save the Bala Falls is not entitled to immunity from costs in this case.

According to Wood, the group took the position that it was a ‘pubIic interest litigant’, but he wrote that the case should stick to the issues at hand, namely whether or not the Township had violated sections of the municipal act or its own planning policies in negotiating and or entering into a lease with SREL.

He added that even if the public interest net were cast more broadly to encompass the stated objective of STBF – to save the Bala falls – “the issue would remain a narrow one, of interest at best to that portion of the Bala population who might agree with the views of the individuals behind the Save the Bala Falls website.”

Wood stated that Save the Bala Falls is a non-share capital corporation which has no membership and that its activities appear to be directed by a few individuals.

He wrote that it’s primary objective, as stated in its articles of incorporation is “the establishment and operation of a conservation association for the primary purpose of uniting all persons interested in the conservation of the waterfalls in Bala and maintaining the natural beauty for the island between them.”

Woods ultimately concluded it was not ‘public interest litigation.’

SREL had also sought costs from STBF, but Judge Wood ruled that a cost award in favour of SREL was not appropriate. Wood ruled that the company’s participation in the case ultimately added little to the issues placed before the court and had no bearing on the outcome. “It should bear its own costs,” wrote the judge.

Wood writes that a cost award in the Township’s favour “will go some ways towards reimbursing its taxpayers for defending the action.”

According to the judgement, the Township sought partial indemnity costs in a total amount of $29,584. 91 of which $24,393.60 represents fees, $11,300.00 disbursements and the balance HST.

“There will be an order that Save the Bala Falls pay costs to the Township of Muskoka Lakes on a partial indemnity basis fixed at $29, 584.91 including HST,” wrote Wood.

Man who claims medicinal marijuana use fined for possessing 0.95 grams in Gravenhurst

A man who claims he uses marijuana medicinally has been fined in Bracebridge court for possessing 0.95 grams of cannabis.

56 year old David Browning’s case was heard Tuesday by Justice Robert Edward Gattrell.

On December 11th at 11:20am in Gravenhurst, OPP patrolling Hwy 11 clocked a Jeep motor vehicle going 118km in a 90 zone.

An officer made a traffic stop and could detect the strong odour of fresh marijuana.

Browning, who was the driver, produced a cigarette pack for the officer – it contained three rolled joints. He was arrested and released, while others who were in the vehicle at the time also received charges.

Court heard that Browning, who is a North Bay resident, has no legal prescription for the drug, but claims he is using it medicinally and that he is in the midst of applying so he will one day be able to use it legally.

Crown Attorney Peter Heath requested a fine of between $300 and $400 in the case, suggesting that it becomes a public safety issue when drugs are found inside vehicles that are being driven.

Defence lawyer Bruce Thomson maintained there was no pot smoked in the vehicle at the time of the incident and no burning marijuana odour either.

Browning showed remorse for the situation on his own behalf.

“I’d just like to apologize,” he told the judge. “I should have had my (medicinal marijuana) card a long time ago.”

Browning is a former materials handler who worked for GM for 30 years. He now suffers from chronic pain due to a spinal cord injury.

Referencing marijuana again, Browning told Judge Gattrell that “it’s a lot better than morphine or OxyContin.”

As he was also charged with speeding that day, he was handed a $135 fine for that charge. On the possession charge Browning received a fine of $300 plus a $90 victim fine surcharge.

He has 120 days to pay the fines.

Black History Month made official in Ontario

Ontario passed legislation today to formally recognize February as Black History Month on an annual basis.

The legislation — which received support from all parties — gives Black History Month official status in law, ensuring that the uniqueness, vitality and continuing contributions of the Black community in Ontario will be celebrated for generations to come.

Ontario first proclaimed February as Black History Month in 1993 to mark the 200th anniversary of a law banning the importation of slaves into Upper Canada. Since then, Black History Month has continued to be celebrated but has not had official status.

49 accidents in one weekend on Muskoka area roadways

There were 49 accidents on area highways this past weekend. Fortunately, none involved serious injuries.

The Bracebridge OPP is reminding the public to drive according to the changing road and weather conditions and is offering the following reminders:

  • Reduce your speed and increase your following distance
  • Engage headlight systems fully to increase your visibility
  • Eliminate distractions in your vehicle
  • Allow yourself extra time to arrive at your destination
  • Give snow removal equipment extra space
  • As always, travel should include your emergency roadside kit, extra clothing, a full tank of gas and making sure your cellular phones are fully charged.

A final reminder: you can use and follow the OPP on various Twitter accounts for updates on road closures as you travel throughout the province.

District attempting to establish commercial flights at Muskoka Airport

The effort to establish commercial flights into the Muskoka Airport to foster tourism growth and economic development moved forward this week.

It happened via the hiring this week of InterVISTAS by project partners RTO12 and the District of Muskoka to help these organizations obtain aviation security screening designation at the airport.

“This is the first step in making the dream of having passenger airlines land in our region a reality,” said James Murphy, executive director of RTO12, the regional tourism organization also known as Explorers’ Edge. “After a thorough vetting of responses to our Request for Services that was posted this past January, we are very pleased to announce that InterVISTAS has been selected to determine what is needed to meet Transport Canada and Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) requirements, and to ultimately get these planes here. Without Transport Canada and CATSA’s blessing, the project can’t happen, so we are relying on the industry experts at InterVISTAS to help us achieve this mandatory airport readiness.”

InterVISTAS was selected for many reasons, added Murphy, including the company’s consultant work with Transport Canada and CATSA, and their similar work with a coalition of Tourism Jasper, Edson Airport and surrounding communities.

“The District of Muskoka is very excited to work with Explorers’ Edge and InterVISTAS to further explore the opportunity to bring scheduled service to the Muskoka Airport,” said John Klinck, Chair of the District Municipality of Muskoka. “The airport is a very valuable asset for our region and we are eager to harness its potential to grow Muskoka’s economy.”

“InterVISTAS is pleased to be supporting Explorers’ Edge and the District of Muskoka to obtain security screening services at Muskoka Airport,” said Solomon Wong, Executive Vice President of InterVISTAS Consulting. “Commercial scheduled air service that provides connectivity to a region not only is an important economic and tourism driver, but can also enhance the quality of life for the community.”

Bracebridge lawyer receives 12 month driving ban, stiff fines following drinking and driving related convictions

A Bracebridge lawyer has received stiff fines and a driving prohibition following convictions on drinking and driving related charges this week in court.

On Tuesday, 51 year old John Sharkey pleaded guilty to Over 80, driving with open liquor and not having the correct license plate for a vehicle.

The charges stem from incidents that occurred on the 16th of January. An OPP officer conducting routine traffic patrol on Taylor Road in Bracebridge saw a red Hyundai being driven by Sharkey heading eastbound at 3pm.

The officer did a license plate query and discovered the plate belonged on a blue 2001 Ford Focus instead. Sharkey was pulled over at 3:02pm, court heard. There was an open case of Pilsner beer in the back of the vehicle and an open can of Pilsner in the centre console. Two other empty cans were found later inside of the console as well.

Court heard Sharkey had trouble finding his license when asked to by the officer and that he had bloodshot & glossy eyes. The officer also detected the odour of alcohol, said Crown Attorney John Sotirakos.

The Crown said Sharkey told the officer he had one beer with lunch. He provided a breath sample in an approved screening device and registered a fail.

Two subsequent readings were obtained later at the Bracebridge OPP detachment following his arrest which read 180 and 167 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood respectively.

The registered owner of the red Hyundai was tracked down and she confirmed she had recently sold the vehicle to Sharkey – the plates he had on the vehicle were from an older car of his that had recently died – Defence lawyer Peter Ward confirmed this with the court saying that they weren’t from an illicit source.

Sharkey has no prior record save for a Highway Traffic Act offence in 2011 for speeding 15km over the speed limit, court heard.

Ward said his client was facing difficulty in his personal life at the time of his January arrest and that it may have included “a hint of depression.”

The Judge found Sharkey guilty of all three offenses and fined him $1,200 plus a $360 victim fine surcharge for the Over 80, a set fine of $140 for the wrong license plate offence and $175 for the open liquor. He is also prohibited from driving a vehicle for 12 months.


Derelict Bracebridge landmark gets reprieve from wrecking ball

A historic landmark for some, a safety threat for others, an old gas station building at the north end of Bracebridge has been given another month to stand.

landmark Lone Pine Cabins
Photos by Dick Smyth

The 86-year-old Lone Pine Gas Station building at 1994 Manitoba Street is in derelict condition, asserts the Town of Bracebridge. The front is close to collapsing and the building’s missing a wall. It was slated to be demolished starting tomorrow (February 16) but the Town has decided to hold off to allow the owners a chance to see if the building can be fixed.

Stressing what’s left of the structure is unsafe, the Town has asked for safety fencing to be put up immediately to protect the public, and the owners now have until March 15 to submit a permit application to bring the building back up to the Ontario Building Code.

Landmark Lone Pine building in the same family for 86 years

Originally, the demolition was slated for today, February 15, but owner Bonnie Bartlett asked that it not happen on Family Day. Built in 1928, the gas station has been passed down through the Yearley family to Bartlett, who is determined to save the building her father and grandparents once lived in, pumped gas from, and from which they welcomed people to the former Lone Pine Cabins. Today the Town approved Bartlett’s request to delay demolition to give her time to assess the feasibility of repairing the building in accordance with the Ontario Building Code.

Bracebridge landmarkA source to Muskoka News Watch claimed some residents were planning to protest and try and block the tear down that had been scheduled for tomorrow.

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Woodstove ashes blamed for fire today in Huntsville

Discarded woodstove ashes have been blamed for a fire today at a home in Huntsville.

Just before 1 pm, the Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department responded to a reported fire at a home on ‎West Browns Road. Crews found fire in a wall that had extended in from the outside.

The homeowner discovered the fire after seeing smoke in the basement of the residence.

The fire department determined the cause was improperly discarded woodstove ashes, and damage is estimated to be $15,000. The home had working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

The Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department would like to remind residents to put their woodstove ashes in a covered metal container‎ and keep them at least 20 feet from any combustible surfaces. Dispose of them only after they have had time to completely cool.

Photo submitted by The Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department

Letter allegedly containing details of Paul Maasland murder released to Muskoka News Watch

An anonymous letter sent to Bracebridge OPP in the days following the discovery of Toronto investor Paul Maasland’s body, a letter that purports to contain details of his murder, has now been made public.

Today Muskoka News Watch obtained a copy of the letter through the Bracebridge Crown Attorney’s office. Its contents can be read by viewing the photo shown later in this article.

Todd Howley, a business partner of Maasland’s, stands accused of First Degree murder in the case, a charge to which he has plead Not Guilty.

During the opening statements of the trial, the Crown stated that portions of the letter were later found on a computer seized at Howley’s place of business, a warehouse located at 2390 Wyecroft Road in Oakville.

Fingerprints of the accused not found on letter

Defence lawyer Breese Davies reminds that Howley’s fingerprints were not found on the letter, but other fingerprints were: some were related to individuals working at the Bracebridge OPP detachment who opened the letter, while other fingerprints remain a mystery to this day.

The Defence has yet to address the letter in court during cross-examination.

Maasland’s body was discovered at a public boat launch on Morrow Drive in Bracebridge on August 30, 2010.

The letter, in its entirety, is shown in the photo below. It was received by the Bracebridge OPP on September 10, 2010. It has not been confirmed or proven in court who wrote and sent the letter.  Note: The letter refers to Paul Maasland as Paul Stanton. Lee Stanton is Paul Maasland’s wife.

LetterPicture web

The trial resumes on Monday, February 22nd.

Watch for an update about recent DNA testimony in the case this coming weekend on

Related Articles:

February 5, 2016: Mystery letter with alleged Maasland murder details sent to Bracebridge OPP

January 28, 2016: Chilling crime scene details revealed at Bracebridge murder trial

January 27, 2016: Murdered investor was thrilled at seeing businesses succeed

May 11,  2011, The Star: FBI arrest Oakville man in Muskoka murder

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Bracebridge resort owner found guilty of harassing OPP officer

UPDATE: The accused in this case will next appear in court for sentencing on April 8th in Bracebridge Court.

PRIOR: High Falls Chalet Inn owner Brian Coldin has been found guilty of criminally harassing a Bracebridge OPP officer.

The charge stemmed from an incident at the Bracebridge OPP detachment on August 6, 2013.

On that day, Coldin failed to leave the outside entryway of the detachment after being told to do so by an officer who at the time was conducting a Controlled Drugs and Substances Act investigation.

Coldin previously convicted of assaulting same officer

Coldin had arrived at the property on unrelated matters and had engaged the officer by accusing him of not having told the truth in court in connection with a previous incident in 2009, in which Coldin had been charged and convicted of assaulting the same officer.

On Aug 7, 2013, Coldin was also charged with willfully obstructing the officer in execution of his duty, but that charge was dismissed in court due to lack of evidence.

The ruling in the case came down January 29, 2016.

Justice CM Harpur has also found Coldin guilty of breaching a probation order dated January 12, 2012 which stipulated he keep the peace and be of good behaviour

The case was heard between December 1, 2014 and November 20, 2015 in Bracebridge Court.

Sentencing is to occur on March 14th.

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

Bracebridge man must repay Ontario Works money after pleading guilty to fraud

By Matthew Sitler

A 64 year old Bracebridge martial arts expert has to pay the District back after he didn’t declare the $90,000 he had when he and his wife applied for Ontario Works (OW).

Declaring assets is required under the social assistance program, court heard on Tuesday of this week in Bracebridge.

The man, who drives a bus for a living, pleaded guilty to fraud in front of Judge Cecile Applegate. A charge against his wife was dropped.

At the time of the OW application, July 4th 2013, he was asked if he had disposed of any assets in the last 12 months & the answer had come back no.

Crown Attorney Ted Carleton said it was learned a year later that he had in fact taken out $90,000 from a bank in Pennsylvania.

The couple had purchased a new home in Bracebridge, said Carleton. Both were working part time jobs and reporting that income.

“He knowingly obtained assistance to which he was not entitled,” said Carleton.

The defence chalked it up to the man’s not fully understanding the OW process at the time.

Upon learning he owed $4,700 back to the District Municipality of Muskoka, he started repayments of his own accord.

The man is a martial arts expert in Kung Fu with 50 years experience.

As of Tuesday, he still owed $3,577.36

Judge Applegate indicated he had earned extra credit in her eyes due to his early plea of guilt and for beginning repayments upon his learning of the situation.

“These types of assistance are here for families in need,” she reminded him. “When you take out of the pot and you are not truly in need, you take away from those who are.”

The man was placed on 18 months probation during which time he is to repay the full amount of money that’s still owed.

Five Muskoka athletes compete at 2016 Special Olympics National Winter Games

Five athletes from Muskoka who are part of Team Ontario will be taking part in the 2016 Special Olympics National Winter Games in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.

The locale will host Canada’s largest sports and humanitarian event of the year from March 1st to 5th, with over 800 athletes competing from across Canada.

The Games are a qualifier for the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria.
With over 200 athletes, the Games in Corner Brook will see the largest contingent of participants from Ontario to-date, competing in seven sports – Alpine Skiing, Figure Skating, Curling, Speed Skating, Cross Country Skiing, Snowshoeing and Floor Hockey.

Five Muskokans to compete in Special Olympics

Within Team Ontario, the 5 athletes from Muskoka will compete in Cross Country Skiing and Floor Hockey and will showcase to the nation the outstanding abilities, courage and drive that continues to demonstrate the spirit of Special Olympics. The athletes from Muskoka include Amber Bucholtz, James Clarke, John Groenevelt (competing in Cross Country Skiing) and James Belanger and Martyn Taran competing in Floor Hockey.

Special Olympics Ontario is part of a dynamic worldwide charitable organization dedicated to promoting active lifestyles for people with an intellectual disability through the power of sport.

The organization is building communities of acceptance and inclusion for all people.

For more information and results on Team Ontario please visit:

About Muskoka News Watch – consider donating to keep your Muskoka info flowing: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on reader donations. If you like being informed, please press the Donate Button (you can use Credit Cards or Debit). Or, you can advertise your business and service on Muskoka News Watch, instead. Your support is needed and appreciated. Thank you!

Fine, probation for woman after impersonating sister in Gravenhurst

A Garson, Ontario woman has been handed 12 months probation and a $1,000 fine after she told a police officer she was her own older sister.

On Tuesday, 33-year-old Leighana Jenkins plead guilty to obstructing a police officer by providing a false name and driving while under suspension.

Bracebridge Court heard that on October 18th 2013 at 9pm, Jenkins was driving a van on Bay Street in Gravenhurst when she was stopped by the OPP. She had been a G2 Class driver, but had lost her license in 2008 due to an unpaid fine.

The day she was stopped she was still without her license and on her way to visit her sister.

Crown Attorney Ted Carleton said she told the officer she didn’t have her license with her and provided the name of her older sister when the officer asked her for identification.

The older sister was a G1 Class driver at the time and there was a familial resemblance between she and Leighana, court heard. Thinking Leighana was the sister, the officer issued an offence notice to Jenkins for not having an accompanying driver with her in the vehicle – a main stipulation of the G1 Driving Class.

She had to leave that night in a taxi.

Eventually the older sister became aware of the offence notice she had been issued and Leighana admitted what she had done.

The older sister’s conviction was undone via an appeal of the notice and court heard Leighana paid her sister’s fine, which was around $300.

A warrant was sought for Leighana Jenkins and she was arrested December 18th 2015 and released under a recognizance with a surety after spending two days in jail in pre trial custody.

The mother of five has no prior criminal record.

Defence lawyer Robin Bellows says Jenkins’ December arrest had already meant serious consequences for her client.

“I feel terrible about what I did and it was completely wrong,” Jenkins told Judge Cecile Applegate, adding that “my kids need me and I’m all they have.”

Impersonating sister a despicable thing to do, says judge

The judge sent Jenkins a stern message: “That’s a pretty despicable thing to do to your sister,” she said. “I mean, here’s a person you’re supposed to be looking out for.”

Applegate suspended the passing of sentence in the case, but placed Jenkins on 12 months probation for the obstructing police charge. She also ruled she must complete 20 hours of community service.

For driving while disqualified charge, Jenkins has been ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

Upon her arrest in December, her license was suspended a further six months.

Former Huntsville official sentenced to serve six months in community

By Matthew Sitler

A former Huntsville economic development officer will serve a six-month sentence in his community for what his lawyer called a ‘fleeting moment of misjudgement’.

67-year-old John Finley was in Bracebridge Court Tuesday where he plead not guilty to a perjury charge, but guilty to the related charge of swearing a false affidavit.

The matter stems back to 2007 when Blackbird Boats, a wooden boat making company, rented space from the Town of Huntsville at 215 Main Street.

The company eventually got into arrears with the Town, court heard, owing the municipality $17,185 in back rent payments.

As a result, they were asked to leave the premises as other renters were wanting to fill the space. At a later point the Town wanted to sell the building too.

But after they left, court heard that a router machine Blackbird still owned remained at the location and that it was worth $98,000.

The Town eventually sold the router for $6,500 to a man from Collingwood without getting an appraisal or informing the machine’s owners. Instead of putting the money towards the rent that was owed, it was put towards the Mayor’s charity golf tournament.

Fast forward to 2009-2010 and Blackbird’s owners still wanted to know what was being done with their router.

In October 2010, an OPP press release about the missing machine was put out; subsequent police investigation led them to learn about the sale.

In the meantime, court heard the Town sued Blackbird for the owed rent while Blackbird countersued over the missing router.

Finley was charged after he swore an affidavit that stated that Blackbird or someone secured to same removed the router from the premises – a statement Crown Attorney Ted Carleton said Finley knew not to be true.

According to Carleton, the affidavit read that “the plaintiff believes that the subject equipment was removed either by agents and employees of the defendant Blackbird Boats, it’s principals or a party secured to same.”

A fleeting misjudgement

Court heard that Finley has worked tirelessly throughout his career on behalf of his community and that this action was totally out of character for him, amounting to something his lawyer John Shime characterized as “a fleeting moment of misjudgement.”

Letters praising Finley, with one describing him as a man of “great kindness, honesty and integrity” were read out in court.

Finley was given a six-month conditional sentence, three months of which he must serve under house arrest with various conditions. The remaining three months of the sentence only includes the stipulation that he must obey a curfew between the hours of 12am to 6am.

He was also ordered to complete 30 hours of community service.

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

Nipissing University to close Muskoka campus doors at end of June; public meeting called for March 22

Nipissing University is closing its Muskoka Campus in Bracebridge sooner than expected.

The Town of Bracebridge learned today that Nipissing University has decided to accelerate the closure and end all academic programming offered in Muskoka as of June 30, 2016. When the University first announced it would close the campus, it was unclear how long it would offer courses in Bracebridge, although they were doing the last intake of new full-time students in September 2015. In the past, courses have also been offered the summer.

This decision was made at a closed session meeting of Nipissing’s Board of Governors held February 5, 2016. It was at this same meeting that the Town of Bracebridge and numerous members of the Bracebridge/Muskoka community encouraged the Board to reconsider the previously announced closure based on a request coming from Nipissing’s Academic Senate.

“We are very disappointed with the decision that was communicated through the Vice-President’s office. Once again, the University’s Board of Governors has completely ignored the interests of the community,” said Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith.
Nipissing University Public Meeting
Tuesday March 22, 2016
7:00 p.m.
Auditorium, Bracebridge Sportsplex
The Town is calling for public input into other potential uses for the Nipissing facility at a public meeting originally planned for March 10 but now going ahead on March 22.

For more information follow the link below for the entire release from the Town today and correspondence between the Town and Nipissing University.

Media Release:

Related Articles:

June 5, 2015, MNW: Nipissing Muskoka Campus to close

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Practice Home Fire Escape Planning This Family Day

With the multiple fire losses experienced over the last year, the Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department is urging families to practice their home fire escape plans and ensure all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working as part of Family Day this weekend.

Simple steps for home fire escape planning include:

  • Develop a home fire escape plan and discuss it with the entire household
  • Show everyone two ways out of each room, if possible
  • Check that all exits are unobstructed and easy to use
  • Determine who will be responsible for helping young children, older adults or anyone else who may

    need assistance

  • Choose a meeting place outside, such as a tree or a lamp post, where everyone can be accounted for
  • If there is smoke, get low and go under the smoke to the nearest safe exit
  • Call the fire department from outside the home, from a cellphone or neighbour’s home
  • Once out, stay out. Never re-enter a burning building



    Make and practice a home fire escape plan

    “When a fire occurs, people may only have a few seconds to escape,” says Fire Chief Stephen Hernen. “We are urging people to develop and practice a home fire escape plan so that everyone knows what to do when a fire occurs. You must have working smoke alarms in the home as part of the plan. This will ensure people get the early warning needed to escape.”

    It’s the law to have working smoke alarms on every storey of the home and to have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms outside all sleeping areas.

Snow trail groomer goes through ice on pond south of Trout Lake

The North Bay Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) today (February 7) responded to a call of a groomer going through the ice on a portion of a groomed trail.

A volunteer was grooming on ‘D’ Trail approximately 1.5km South of Trout Lake on a pond when the ice let go.  The groomer sunk to the bottom of the pond and snowmobilers came to the assistance of the driver.

The driver was taken to the highway, met by an ambulance, and brought to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The South Short/Restoule Snowmobile Club has fenced off the area with red snow fencing.

The OPP would like to remind everyone of the dangers of the lakes during the winter months.  Ice conditions can change very quickly and it’s not worth risking your life. Please be sure of your path.

All snowmobile trails closed in Muskoka Lakes

The Muskoka Lakes Snow Trails Association has announced that all trails in the Muskoka Lakes region are closed due to warm weather and rain creating unsafe conditions. And that’s not the only problem, says Association president Rene Leenaars.

He says the rain and warm weather have exposed a lot of rocks and large rock surfaces on hills where a snowmobile could lose control going up or down, making it too dangerous a situation to open trails in even a “Limited” condition.

Secondly, he says “there are a number of landowners who have closed off the trails over their property to us in protest to the provincial governments proposal to pass Bill C100 and C118 (The Trails Act) in the next parliamentary sitting. They feel their rights are being violated with this new legislation and this issue will have to be clarified as soon as possible.”

Some trails closed for rest of season

He explains for these trail closures, there are some re-routes but there are still sections that sledders cannot get around with a re-route. According to Leenaars, that means unless something major changes, trail C102D from Brandy Lake to Glen Orchard where it meets C114 heading south to Bala, and C114 South to Bala will be “Closed” for the balance of the season.

The association is asking snowmobilers to please respect the landowners’ wishes and to not travel on these sections for any reason. “We do not need them to get upset with people violating their wishes and having them possibly close the trails permanently,” warns Leenaars.

As for trails that are unaffected by the landowner issues, the Association will advise the public as soon as possible as to when other trails will be in ride-able condition again.


Update: Snowmobiler who died trying to save others on Georgian Bay identified

(Update February 6, 11:10am) OPP have now identified the snowmobiler who died trying to help others last night on Georgian Bay as 48-year-old Brent David Fisher of Innisfil, Ontario.

As a result of this investigation, the OPP have charged one of the other snowmobile operators with driving while impaired. The accused has a court date in Midland on February 18, 2016.

Original post follows:

A 48-year-old man died last night trying to help other snowmobilers who broke through the ice on Georgian Bay. The victim’s identity is being withheld pending notice to next of kin.

According to the Southern Georgian Bay Detachment of the OPP, four men were travelling together on two separate snowmobiles when one machine broke through the ice on the east side of Methodist Island near Victoria Harbour.

The operator of the second snowmobile stopped to help and also went through the ice after getting off his snowmobile. Three of the four males made it safely to shore. One of them died while trying to help the other snowmobilers.

Police received the call at about 6.42pm that a snowmobile had entered the waters of Georgian Bay in Tay Township. Tay Fire and Simcoe Paramedics also attended the scene with police.

The investigation is continuing.

This latest fatality comes on the heels of a plea by the OPP and the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) for snowmobilers to stay off the ice. Last weekend, three snowmobilers died on frozen waterways: one in Haliburton and the other on Go Home Lake in Georgian Bay Township.

Related Articles:

January 30, 2016, MNW: Update: Go Home Lake snowmobile crash victims identified; Haliburton victim identified

Mystery letter with alleged Maasland murder details sent to Bracebridge OPP

By Matthew Sitler

In the days following the discovery of Paul Maasland’s body, Bracebridge OPP were sent a mysterious letter purporting to contain details about his murder.

It’s the latest revelation at his alleged killer’s murder trial in Bracebridge Superior Court.

Oakville businessman Todd Howley stands charged with first degree murder in his former business partner’s death and he has plead not guilty.

This week, testimony has centred mainly on police discoveries at Howley’s place of work – a warehouse located at 2390 Wyecroft Road Unit 7 in Oakville.

That’s where Howley worked on an algae biofuel technology that Maasland funded to the tune of $70,000.

Maasland’s body was discovered partially wrapped in garbage bags at a Morrow Drive boat launch in Bracebridge on August 30th 2010.

The Crown alleges that Howley killed Maasland at the warehouse, then drove the body in Maasland’s car to Bracebridge to be dumped.

Maasland had planned to be at the family’s island cottage on Lake Muskoka the weekend in question, but he disappeared around the time he was to have met with Howley for a meeting August 29th.

Court heard that it was September 4th 2010, when Howley was first called by police, asking him to visit their Burlington OPP detachment the following day for an interview.

He agreed to, but before he went, police say he was at the Oakville Town Centre on September 5th buying a new pair of shoes and insoles.

Later at the warehouse, a black/green garbage bag would be found containing a pair of shoes which OPP Ident Officer Brenda Thomas says were of interest:

“The soles of (these) shoes looked like the pattern found on a garbage bag recovered from (Maasland’s Subaru),” she told court.

The police search of Howley’s warehouse started in earnest September 18th. Police sprayed luminol throughout the building in the hopes of exposing blood traces, as the location was the last spot Maasland’s Subaru had been seen via CCTV footage prior to his death.

Court has yet to hear the results of the blood tests, but several spots were swabbed there – both inside the building and out back at a loading dock.

Several items were also seized by police during the search, including a computer.

Parts of mystery letter found on computer from Howley’s warehouse

It was during a subsequent forensic examination of the computer’s contents that portions of the anonymous letter were allegedly found. The letter had been sent to police in an envelope from the Stoney Creek area sometime between September 7th at 5pm and September 8th at 5pm. The envelope had arrived bearing a 2010 Vancouver Olympics commemorative stamp displaying a curler. A set of similar type stamps were discovered in the warehouse office – but the stamp on the envelope wasn’t from that set. What did the anonymous letter say? It’s details have yet to be addressed in court.

In other testimony, the Defence has shown Howley’s fingerprints were never identified on any of the primary murder evidence, be it the garbage bags that wrapped Maasland’s body or the letter and its envelope. Fingerprint tests of the envelope/letter came back negative, meaning no one could be identified through a database match either.

Police also seized shelving units and other material at two Hamilton addresses after police documented Howley moving the items there from the warehouse while he was under secret police surveillance.

During testimony, Officer Thomas said a wall at the warehouse had appeared to to have been wiped clean, but here the defence produced a photo showing that a shelving unit had been up against the wall at some point, raising the possibility the change in sheen on the wall portion may have been due to the shelf.

Howley’s second meeting with police happened September 18th, 2010.

On that day he was informed police were about to search six areas of interest, including his properties and vehicles.

A Detective Sgt. Smith reportedly told Howley that police “would soon be arresting him and charging him with Maasland’s murder” and that he should “start to get his affairs in order.”

Before he left this 2nd interview, police asked him for his shoes.

Then, just two days later, Howley took a cab over the Rainbow Bridge from Niagara Falls Canada into the States. He had nothing but the clothes on his back and no work visa.

Howley wouldn’t return to Canada until May 10th 2011 following his FBI arrest at a hotel in Dalton, Georgia.

A report from that time appearing in the Rome News-Tribune, states that “forensic evidence recovered from Maasland’s body and car reflected metal filings and five different types of plastic filings on them consistent with metal and plastic filings found on the floor of the rear area of Howley’s business building in Oakville, Ontario.”

Bracebridge OPP seek potential peeping Tom

Bracebridge OPP are still searching for a man who is suspected of taking pictures through a window at a home on Hawn Road in Bracebridge.

On Wednesday February 3, 2016 just after 6am resident of Bracebridge was the washroom in her house when she noticed a cellphone flash outside of the window.  She attempted to see who it was but was unable to see the person.  A quick look around by her husband found that footprints to the window, led back out to the road.

Members of the Bracebridge detachment, Muskoka Crime Unit, the Scenes of Crimes Officer (SOCO) along with the Central Region Canine Unit attended the area of Hawn Road to help in the investigation.

Bracebridge Ontario Provincial Police are seeking the public’s assistance in locating this male. Anyone who may have seen anyone walking in the area of Hawn Road in Bracebridge is asked to contact Bracebridge OPP or Crimestoppers.

Boat operator banned from driving following impaired incident in Windermere

A Bracebridge man is prohibited from driving for a year after he was found guilty of operating a boat while impaired by alcohol.

On Tuesday, Judge JD Evans also ruled that 42-year-old William P. McCarthy must pay a $1,500 fine, plus $450 victim fine surcharge in addition to being placed on 12 months probation.

The charge was laid September 5th in Muskoka Lakes Township after people called police to report a man who they suspected was drunk.

Crown Attorney Mike Ventola said McCarthy was on his boat that day at the Windermere Marina at 4pm.

Ventola said responding officers observed him exhibiting signs of impairment by alcohol, including slurred speech and being unsteady on his feet.

Breathalyzer readings double the illegal limit

Two subsequent breathalyzer readings showed 358 and 353 mg of alcohol in 100 ml of blood respectively.

Ventola noted the extremely high readings to be “double the statutory aggravating amount set out in the Criminal Code.”

Court heard that McCarthy, who is in the construction business, had been dealing with a number of issues at the time of the incident – his father had passed away and a seven-year relationship he’d been involved in had recently dissolved.

He showed remorse before the judge, saying he was “very sorry.”

Lucky to be alive, says judge

But Evans then asked him if he felt lucky to be in court:

“Those readings… people die with readings that high,” said the judge.

McCarthy’s driving prohibition covers both cars and boats.



Pregnant woman gets 30 days for 22nd parole breach

A pregnant Bracebridge woman will spend the next 30 days in prison after continually ignoring court orders.

20-year-old Cassandra Stengel was sentenced Tuesday.

She appeared in the Bracebridge courthouse prisoner’s box already in custody for her latest breach, which was an order not to associate with her boyfriend Shane Ketelaar.

Stengel broke the order January 31st when she was found with Ketelaar and others at 15 Depot Drive, Community Living-South Muskoka, in Bracebridge’s north end.

It was the 22nd time she’d ignored a court order.

22nd parole breach

“You have demonstrated absolutely no respect for court orders,” Judge JD Evans told her, adding that it was she who kept putting herself in these positions.

Stengel admitted that this period has been “very stressful” and that she has “a lot of things” she has to keep working on.

Defence lawyer Robin Bellows told court that any prison sentence would seem like double for her client at this time given that she is already 26 weeks pregnant with the child due May 11th.

Evans ordered that Stengel must also pay a victim fine surcharge in the amount of $100. She’ll be returning to court March 1st to deal with other matters she’s facing.

In the meantime, Bellows says Stengel is in the midst of coordinating things for she and her pending child during this difficult period.

“She’s trying to work with the Children’s Aid Society on a plan for when the child comes into the world,” said Bellows.



90 days for Bracebridge courthouse window smasher

By Matthew Sitler

A Bracebridge man’s been sentenced for once again smashing windows at the Bracebridge courthouse.

23-year-old Brandon Righetti appeared before Judge JD Evans Tuesday afternoon and it was a case of déjà vu.

Evans handed him 90 days behind bars for breach of probation and smashing the courthouse’s front door windows on January 27th — he’d smashed the windows there before this past September.

This time it happened just after midnight and defense lawyer Robin Bellows characterized the crime as a plea for attention.

After breaking the glass, court heard he also left his address written down on some paper so police would know where to find him.

Righetti had been handed a 90-day prison sentence for the September crimes, too, and that sentence had been completed in December.

In his own words, Rhigetti told Evans he wants to do court ordered community hours at the local Salvation Army or a church. This request didn’t fall on deaf ears.

Besides the prison time, Evans ordered that he must complete 48 hours of community service. He’ll also be placed on two years probation following the prison sentence, during which he must keep the peace.

Judge Evans asked him what problem he had with the Bracebridge courthouse, given the nature of his crimes.

“I guess I want to make the courthouse the place where I take out my anger,” he replied.

Defense says window smasher acted out of desperation

Bellows told court Righetti had been staying at an unclean hotel, living off $40 a month for food.

“It’s winter, it’s Muskoka, it’s an act of desperation,” she said.

Upon hearing his sentence, Righetti head butted the glass in the prisoner’s box at least nine times. Court had to be paused until he could come back later after he’d calmed down.

In light of this, Evans ordered that Righetti undergo a medical examination immediately upon his return to prison.


Huntsville woman becomes Vice President of World YWCA

Katie Ungard of Huntsville has been newly appointed as a Vice President to the Board of Directors of World YWCA. During the Geneva YWCA World Council in October 2015, Ungard was one of two Canadians elected to the Board of Directors.

Throughout her life Ungard has shown an interest and commitment to global and women’s issues. While studying at the University of Guelph she was a member of the sexual health team at the Wellness Centre and involved with the World University service of Canada and its Student Refugee Program. Following her undergraduate work she went on to complete a Master degree in Environmental Studies from York University. She is presently working for Pollution Probe as a project manager.

Ungard was hired by YWCA Muskoka as a Youth-Eco Intern in 2010. She undertook a community based research project on Women and the Environment surveying and meeting with women from across the District of Muskoka.

Her work resulted in the co-production of a 20 minute documentary with filmmaker Virginia Hasting, “Fairly Foul” which premiered at the 2nd Women in Film Festival in Muskoka.

Ungard YWCA
Katie Ungard. Photo submitted by the YWCA.

She also gave several presentations starting with her alma mater, Huntsville High School, and a speaking engagement to the Ontario Green Party.

Following Ungard’s internship, she was nominated to the YWCA Canada Board. Ungard has served as vice chair of the Board of Directors of YWCA Canada, and sat on various committees: including as chair of the YWCA Canada International Cooperation Committee, as a member of Young Women Leadership miles fund committee and the board HR committee. She also co- chaired the communications committee for the Young Women’s Engagement Taskforce and co- chaired the communications and programming committee for the first North American and Caribbean Young Women’s Leadership Conference in 2013, in Bridgetown, Barbados.

In 2013, she was the keynote speaker at Women of Distinction in Muskoka and spoke about the value and importance of Mentorship.

Exciting to see young women in top YWCA leadership roles, says Lin

“We are very proud of and excited for Katie in her new role. It’s particularly exciting to see young women in top leadership roles throughout our movement as the World YWCA has launched its goal to engage 100 million young women by 2035. She is inspiring the generations coming behind her.” says Executive Director, Hannah Lin.

YWCA Muskoka champions positive change for women and girls. For more information about YWCA Muskoka, call 705-645-9827. YWCA Canada is the country’s oldest largest multi-service women’s organization. With 32 member associations operating in more than 400 districts and communities across the country, our Turning Point Programs for Women address personal safety, economic security, and well-being. YWCA Canada is a member association of the World YWCA which unites 25 million women and girls worldwide and spans 125 countries.

Featured Photo shows Katie Ungard (at left) at World Council. Submitted photo.

Towns of Bracebridge and Huntsville put forward new two-site hospital plan

A special Joint Meeting of the Town Councils from Bracebridge and Huntsville was held tonight to explore a new proposal to present to the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (NSM-LHIN) and Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) regarding the health care system that will service residents of Muskoka and the entire MAHC catchment area in the future. The suggested new plan would potentially see the creation of local health hubs or a “Campus of Care” that allows for co-location and better integration of multiple services on a single campus that includes the local hospital as an “anchor program”.

For a number of years, the Towns of Huntsville and Bracebridge, the District of Muskoka and other area communities have been actively involved in promoting the provision of sustainable funding for MAHC and the continued delivery of vital hospital services at both the Huntsville District Memorial Hospital and the South Muskoka Memorial Hospital in Bracebridge.

Towns say one site plan out of step with current provincial and municipal planning

Most recently, Bracebridge, Huntsville and other area communities, including East Parry Sound, have been directly engaged in responding to the May 27, 2015 decision of the Board of MAHC regarding the recommendations from their Master Program/Master Plan Ad-Hoc Steering Committee for the preferred model of health care service delivery in the future. The Steering Committee recommended the concept of one centrally-located acute care hospital as the model for long-term hospital services for the area serviced by MAHC.

The MAHC proposal immediately raised a number of concerns from local citizens and politicians alike, which led the NSM LHIN to establish a Task Force comprised of the LHIN, MAHC, the District of Muskoka and a number of municipal leaders to review the process that MAHC pursued to select its preferred option and determine if alternate options could be considered.

Although the municipalities acknowledge that MAHC has undertaken extensive work to develop its pre-capital planning submission, in a release today the municipalities state they are aware that there have been many changes in both policy and the financial situation of the Province that will affect MAHC and the NSM LHIN. As well, the Task Force has provided the Municipalities the opportunity to share their planning strategies and objectives.

The Towns believe that these changes and new perspectives impact the appeal of the options considered by MAHC, and specifically move the two-site “hybrid” option, one that maintains core services at both sites while minimizing duplication of other services in a “differentiated centres of focus” model, to the preferred option.

Moreover, the municipalities feel that the single site option runs counter to current Provincial and municipal urban planning legislation, policies and strategies; and that it is inconsistent with the stated direction of the Province, as well as emerging best practice models that call for better integration and coordination of health care services at the community level.

Municipalities offer new integrated plan to keep hospitals in both communities

As a result, the municipalities have developed a new proposal for consideration by MAHC and the NSM-LHIN. The municipal proposal is based on the creation of local health hubs or a “Campus of Care” that allows for co-location and better integration of multiple services on a single campus that includes the local hospital as an “anchor program”.

In addition, the municipalities believe that maintaining hospital services within the two communities can be cost-effective and would eliminate unnecessary costs required to create and maintain a new hospital in a remote, unserviced location.

In summary, the municipal Councils received a recommendation to endorse a two-site model for hospital services, one that maintains core services in each community, while creating differentiated centres of focus for other services to optimize efficiencies where possible. The Towns view this as the best solution for the communities because it:

  • Provides better patient care and is more aligned with community expectations regarding access to care;
  • Allows for increased capital and operating cost efficiencies across the continuum of primary and secondary care;
  • Aligns with municipal plans and leverages existing infrastructure investments most effectively and avoids a significant and potentially unaffordable capital outlay at a time when the Province is financially strapped;
  • Reflects stated Ministry of Health directions that call for increased integration and coordination of services and aligns with emerging best practice models in rural communities;
  • Allows for early implementation of operational improvements across the 2-sites, thereby enabling MAHC to realize near-term efficiencies and achieve operating cost benefits; and
  • Avoids the creation of pressure to “urbanize” a new area of Muskoka, which, in turn, would threaten the long-term economic viability of the Towns of Huntsville and Bracebridge.

The municipalities hope that the members of the Task Force representing Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) and the NSM-LHIN will consider the recommendations set out in the proposal as a framework for the development of a mutually acceptable long-term hospital service plan for the area serviced by MAHC.

The municipalities look forward to further talks with representatives from the NSM-LHIN and MAHC to further review and evaluate the proposal. To see the full presentation made at tonight’s meeting, click here.

Related Articles:

January 30, MNW: Health ministry wants to know more about one hospital plan for Muskoka, towns meet about keeping two

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