Muskoka makes’s top green locations in Canada list

Muskoka has made another top list, this time highlighting the region for its reputation as a leader in green initiatives.’s travel blog cite’s the district in its 17 Greenest Cities in Canada list.

The article is a part of Expedia’s Eco-Travel: Environmentally Conscious Tourism series.

Check it out to see why:

2nd Class Action meeting scheduled re: Spring Flooding

The legal requirements for a $900 million Class Action lawsuit against the MNR over the 2016 Spring flooding is moving forward this week in Toronto.

Another public meeting on the issue has been scheduled for this coming Sunday in Muskoka.

WHAT: A group of concerned Muskoka region residents have joined together to file the lawsuit against the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to recover the cost of property damage from the spring 2016 flooding.

WHO: Residents with properties on Lake Muskoka, Lake Joseph and Lake Rosseau that suffered property damage during record breaking spring 2016 flooding are working together to file the suit. Residents that suffered property damage are urged to attend the meeting. Property owners who are concerned that spring flooding will continue should also attend.

WHY: The suit takes the position that the Ministry of Natural Resources was negligent and mismanaged water levels throughout the Muskoka watershed leading to extensive flooding and property damage. The suit contends that the damage was largely avoidable and that the water levels in the Muskoka watershed were not managed as required by the Muskoka River Water Management Plan.

WHEN: Sunday, September, 18 at 9:30 a.m.

WHERE: Port Carling Community Centre, 3 Bailey St, Port Carling, ON P0B 1J0

Another 34 acres preserved by Upjohn Nature Reserve, north of Bracebridge

Muskoka Conservancy celebrates Thanksgiving gift of 34 acres to protect as part of the Upjohn Nature Reserve and Conservation Easement.

Feature article by Cathy Kuntz, Photos by Tom McCabe

A canvas covered in bright reds, yellows and oranges set against the bluest of blue sky. Leaves twirling silently to the ground in a still, fall forest.

The scene is a lush pond surrounded by a mixed forest, perfectly decked out in its finest colours for Thanksgiving. It’s a 34 acre piece of land that is in the process of being placed under protection as a conservation easement by landowners, Guy and Sandra Upjohn. This property is treasured by its owners. Part of what makes this property both extra special and environmentally significant is that it’s located next to the 114 acre property the Upjohns donated to the Muskoka Conservancy as a nature reserve in 2011.

To learn more about the Upjohn Nature Reserve as it is today, click here

Woods of Upjohn
Woods of Upjohn

Located north of Bracebridge, the land was originally owned by the Crown. In 1882 it was partially cleared as a homestead and farmed until 1950. The Upjohns purchased it in 1969 and began the process of reverting it back to forest. Nature has done most of the work but the Upjohns, from the very beginning, understood their role as stewards and eagerly took on that responsibility.

“We’ve thought of it as a place where we would preserve the forest and natural habitat,” says Guy Upjohn. “We made trails down to the pond and to the back of the pond. It’s a nice little relaxing place to be.”

“We used to walk the trails almost daily,” he says. “We enjoy the birds and animals and keep the trails clear. There’s no running water, no hydro and it has an outdoor privy. It’s a big change from living in the middle of Toronto.”

The couple may call Toronto home but their hearts are also in this part of Muskoka as well Muskoka's Signaturesmallas in Algonquin Park, where they own another piece of property on a lake.

The Upjohn property has been designated as environmentally significant by Environment Canada’s Ecogift Program, which gives it an additional layer of protection. It contains a diverse habitat that is home for a variety of plants, animals and amphibians. Sandra has compiled an extensive list of species they’ve seen over the years.

“The conservation easement protects the northern part of the pond where there is a heronry that has been occupied the past two years,” says Bill Dickinson, Muskoka Conservancy volunteer. There are two or three hatchings every year. There are also wood duck boxes out in the pond that are being used.”

“The southern part of the property has very good biodiversity with mixed forest, little balsam pockets and mid tolerant species like yellow birch and hemlock. Additional species include Indian cucumber root and dwarf ginseng have been found. There are a few seepages where amphibians like salamanders make their home.”

“We would be puttering about doing something and a moose would walk by,” Upjohn says. “There was a time when Sandra was picking berries and noticed a bear across from her doing exactly the same thing. She retreated rapidly. Those kinds of experiences have been invaluable to the family.”

Three generations of Upjohns continue to enjoy the property. It’s been a place where Guy and Sandra have been able to share their love of nature with son, daughter and grandsons.

“A conservation easement is a covenant with a private landowner to put, on paper, their commitment to retain the ecological values of the property,” says Dickinson. “They retain ownership but there are specific values that must be protected forever. By signing this paper, they commit land to the dynamic equilibrium of nature forever.”

The Muskoka Conservancy currently protects almost 1900 acres including 21 Nature Reserves and 11 Conservation Easements. The area of protected land continues to grow as people, like the Upjohns, understand the importance of preserving ecologically significant areas.

Thanksgiving mushroom hike

“This Thanksgiving weekend we’ll be hosting a mushroom hike on the Upjohn Nature Reserve, the first property donated by Guy and Sandra,” says Kristie Virgoe, Executive Director of the Muskoka Conservancy.

“The Upjohn Nature Reserve and Conservation Easement is such a special place,” she says. “With this new donation almost completed, I think it is only fitting that we say, to Guy, Sandra and their family…Thanks for Giving!  Their vision and dedication to protecting Muskoka will impact all of us for many generations.”

For more information about the mushroom hike and the Muskoka Conservancy, please call 705 645 7393 ext 200 or visit

Feature article by Cathy Kuntz, Photos by Tom McCabe

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Muskoka Olympian Dara Howell takes Gold in slopestyle

Dara brings home the Gold, Kim Lamarre, Bronze, in slopestyle event: Their wins give Canada even greater lead at Sochi

February 11: 8am: “I think that’s the best run I’ve ever done,” an ecstatic Dara Howell told reporters after her winning slopestyle run in the finals, held 4am this morning. Over a Dara Howell Feb 11hundred people gathered at the Muskoka Ski Club at Hidden Valley Highlands ski area to watch Dara, including many generations and relatives of the Howell family. Dara posted an 88.8 on her first run in the semi finals that started at 1 am and in her final run, she scored at 94.2

What’s Up Muskoka reporter Chris Occhuizzi was there with the emotional crowd. Read his account here in The Toronto Sun

Not only are Muskokans swelling with pride and Canada thrilled to have such a strong lead now in the overall media count, there are many other reasons why Dara’s win is so poignant and resonates across the Canada and the world of freestyle skiing. Sarah Burke of Squamish, B.C. trailblazed the sport of freestyle skiing and fought long and hard to have the event included in the Olympic Winter Games. She was a favourite to win gold at these games but her dream was cut short when she died in 2012 after a training accident in Utah. Skiiers who wanted to honour Burke by wearing Sarah Burke stickers on their helmets were told by the International Olympic Committee that the stickers would not be tolerated as they would be considered a political statement. Burke’s mother, Jan Phelan, was at the Sochi slopestyle site to see Burke’s legacy in action.

In an interview with CBC after today’s win by Dara, Huntsville’s hometown girl spoke about Burke:  “Earlier this week I said I wish a Canadian would win a gold medal, and it would be for Sarah. To be that person, I didn’t expect it and you work so hard for it, it’s truly amazing. I know she would be proud and happy and I just want to keep pushing this sport and pushing myself and doing what I love to do and I know she would honour that.”

Dara Howell has started off an exciting and historic day for women in sport. As well as the first slopestyle event, the first women’s ski jump competition also takes place in Sochi today.

ORIGINAL POST January 29, 2014: Midnight start won’t stop Huntsville from cheering on Dara Howell

Olympic cheerfest starts Feb. 10 at Midnight at Hidden Valley; Dara’s slopestyle events begin at 1am

Posted January 20, 5:40pm:  It’s not often we get a hometown girl realizing Olympic dreams and we can all cheer on slopestyler Dara Howell from the comfort of the Muskoka Ski Club on February 10.

The only catch is that her freestyle ski event will be happening midnight our time. So grab a nap and some java and join the crowd at Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area to cheer this talented 19-year-old on. The ski area has issued an invitation for those who want to join them in watching Dara make her bid for Olympic Gold in real-time.

Schedule of Dara’s Olympic Events:

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Dara Howell of Huntsville competing in Olympic Slopestyle event
  • Ladies’ Slopestyle Qualifiers start at 1:00 a.m.
  • Ladies’ Slopestyle Finals start at 4:00 a.m.

Local ‘Cheer Dara On’ Details:

  • This is a FREE family-friendly event.
  • Time: From midnight February 10 to 5am February 11.
  • Where: Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area, Members’ Lounge
  • What: CBC Olympic coverage will be on the big screen; there will be activities for kids (make a sign to cheer on Dara!), and complimentary snacks. A cash bar will also be available for a limited time.

RSVP not required, but if you plan to come, organizers ask that you please join our Facebook event page by clicking here (or email if not on Facebook).

Organizers suggest you wear a Dara Howell shirt (available at Algonquin Outfitters), and sport Olympic colours (red, black & white!) and/or Olympic mitts to show your support.

Photo provided by Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area and Canadian Freestyle Ski Association.


New Muskoka Watershed Chair and exploring the link between environment and economy

How environment can drive economy focus of February 6 event; Muskoka Watershed Council welcomes Dr. Peter Sale as Chair; Robert Bateman to be keynote speaker for Muskoka Summit on the Environment

New Chair for Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC): Marine ecologist and noted author of Our Dying Planet, Dr. Peter Sale, has officially stepped in to Patricia Arney’s

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Dr. Sale with outgoing Chair Patricia Arney. Photo by Lyndsie McGregor

shoes as Chair of the Muskoka Watershed Council. Arney has completed her two-year term with the Council, which champions environmental stewardship in our region.  The change in leadership happened at the Council meeting held on Friday, January 24, during which Sale presented Arney, a Bala resident, with a certificate of appreciation in recognition of her commitment and dedication. (Arney has been involved with the MWC since 2001 and Sale joined the Council in 2010). Lou Guerriero has also been elected as Vice-Chair. He first joined MWC in 2004 as a representative for the Town of Gravenhurst.

The Environment is Good for Business Event Feb. 6: Do you have to choose between a healthy environment and a strong economy? Experts agree that Muskoka’s economy can serve as a perfect example of how they can go hand in hand. On Thursday, February 6, economic and planning consultant Rob Milligan will explore the opportunities that exist as a result of the environment–economy connection.  Milligan, who is also a member of the Muskoka Watershed Council, is the keynote speaker at the annual Bridges to Better Business event put on by the Muskoka Small Business Centre. It happens at the Rotary Centre for Youth in Bracebridge. To learn more and register, please click here or call the Muskoka Small Business Centre at 706-646-9021 (remember to tell them you read about it here at Muskoka News Watch!). The day also features a panel of businesses with close connections to the environment, and an afternoon series of popular speed mentoring sessions, where attendees can get business advice from experts on a whole range of topics.  For more information or to register for this important event, contact Muskoka Small Business Centre at 705-646-9021 or visit

Plans well under way for 2014 Muskoka Summit on the Environment: Resolving the Environment-Economy dichotomy is also the theme for this year’s Muskoka Summit on the Environment in May. Keynote speaker for this event is renowned Canadian wildlife artist, naturalist and conservationist Robert Bateman. He heads up a great line up news about muskoka, muskoka events, muskoka news, muskoka, environment, summit, watershed, save the bala falls, lake muskokaof speakers who will look at creative approaches to closing the gap between economic and environmental considerations.

So far, speakers for the event include:

  • Robert Sandford, Director of the Western Watersheds Research Collaborative and a leading thinker on the impact of climate change on freshwater resources.
  • Elena Bennett, from McGill University, who studies the connection between ecosystem services and human well being.
  •  Terre Satterfield, an anthropologist at UBC, whose work focuses on culture and justice as they influence environmental values.
  •  Daniel Simberloff, from the University of Tennessee, is a leading terrestrial ecologist and expert on the biology of invasive species.
  • Peter Victor, from York University is an economist who works on environmental issues.

The two-day summit will feature presentations by each of these experts and will wrap up with a panel discussion hosted by CBC’s Paul Kennedy (to be broadcast afterward on Kennedy’s award winning program, Ideas). Registration is now open for the Muskoka Summit on the Environment, happening May 8-9 at the Rene Caisse Theatre in Bracebridge. To learn more, visit the Summit site by clicking here.