Barbara Pogue of Bracebridge a Senior of the Year

Posted Sept. 25: Bracebridge resident Barbara Pogue has been awarded the Ontario Senior of the Year Award from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.

The Ontario Senior of the Year Award recognizes seniors, who after the age of 65 have enriched the social, cultural or civic life of the community, without thought of personal or financial gain. Their achievements can be made in a variety of fields including community service, voluntarism, education, and humanitarian activities. An independent selection committee reviews all the nominations and selects the recipients.

Pogue started volunteering in Public Schools in 1966 where she helped sustain library programs by bringing likeminded individuals on-board to ensure the library’s were maintained and continued to operate when the school board could not afford to hire a librarian. For the last 15 years every Tuesday and Thursday you can find Barb at Bracebridge Public School (BPS) where she helps the teachers with signing out and shelving books, book repairs, and working with the students. Her volunteer position is integral at BPS as her work in helping to manage the library allows the teachers much more time to focus on the children with their reading and comprehension skills.

Pogue also volunteers at the South Muskoka Memorial Hospital contacting people by phone to remind them of their appointments, serving tea and coffee to patients and assisting them to their cars, and also helping the nursing staff with various important tasks.

Pogue says she has spent more time volunteering in her life than at paid work. In a press release, the Town of Bracebridge states Pogue "should 'be an inspiration to us all."


Bala Falls Hydro Plant one step closer to final approval

Posted Sept 24, 4pm: Plans for a hydro plant beside Bala Falls moved closer to gaining full approval from the Ontario government today. The Ministry of Environment's Assessment and Approvals Branch today approved the updated environmental report by Swift River Energy Limited for the proposed North Bala Falls facility. Emails from the Branch have been sent to 66 people who objected to the environmental amendment submitted in May by the would-be plant developer. Those objecting were requesting the province insist on an environmental review or an individual environmental assessment. The emails (see copies below) state those requests have been denied.

But that doesn't mean the plant is a done deal yet. Individuals who filed these requests in this round of the approvals process now have another 15 days (plus 5 days after the date follow up letters were mailed) to appeal the province's decision. Ministry officials have confirmed that makes the appeal deadline October 15. The Minister of Environment will then review any appeals and issue a decision as to whether to confirm the Appeal Branch Director's decision or request changes to her decision.

To see a copy of the province's letter that went out to citizens objecting to the hydro plant, click here.

To see a copy of the letter informing Swift River of the decision, click here.

Early morning fire destroys Torrance cottage

Posted Sept 19, 1:30pm: Firefighters believe a faulty lamp is to blame for sparking a fire that consumed a cottage on Whitings Road in Torrance this morning. No one was in the cottage at the time (around 2am). Township of Muskoka Lakes Fire Chief Richard Hayes estimates the loss at $350,000 for building and contents. Firefighters from Bala,Torrance and Walker's Point along with the Marine 9 unit responded to douse the fire at 1058 Whitings Rd. Hayes reminds cottagers they should unplug all appliances and lamps before closing up for the season.

Bridge to be named after fallen Bracebridge OPP officer

Posted Sept 18: 9am: Bracebridge OPP officer Andrew J. Potts died in a tragic accident on Muskoka Road 169 but he will be remembered forever on the Cedar Lane bridge in Bracebridge. The Cedar Lane bridge is to be dedicated on Saturday to the memory of Potts who was killed in the line of duty in 2005.

An OPP release states a formal dedication ceremony will be held this Saturday, September 22 at 2pm. The ceremony is open to the public and is being held at the Turner Centre at 120 Taylor Road in Bracebridge.

All are invited to come honour the memory of Potts who died on July 20, 2005 on 169 near Hardy Lake (between Walker's Point and Torrance) when his police cruiser struck a moose. He and fellow officer Matt Hanes were responding to a call just after 2 am.

Police ask that everyone park at St. Dominic High School at 955 Cedar Lane. From there a shuttle bus will provide transportation to and from the Turner Center.


OPP Officer Andrew J. Potts Badge #9549

Cab crash in Gravenhurst leaves two with serious injuries

Posted Sept. 17: 10.43am: A taxi driver is in critical condition and an expectant mother is now stable in hospital in Toronto after a serious car crash in Gravenhurst Saturday night. They have not yet been identified by name, and police from the Bracebridge OPP detachment are asking if anyone saw the accident at Pinegrove Street and Fairview Drive late Saturday night to contact the OPP at (705) 645-2211 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477

Police say the driver and pregnant passenger’s injuries resulted from a serious single car crash involving a local taxi cab at the intersection at 11:30pm Saturday. They believe the driver may have failed to stop at the posted stop sign, travelled through the intersection and ended up in the southbound ditch. The vehicle was so badly damaged that the occupants had to be extricated from it. The OPP were assisted by the Muskoka Ambulance Service (EMS) and the Gravenhurst Fire Department (GFD).

After both people were taken to South Muskoka Memorial Hospital, the passenger was air lifted to Toronto Sunnybrook Medical Centre for further treatment. She is reported in stable condition. The driver, who may not have been wearing his seatbelt, was taken by ambulance to Toronto St. Michael’s Hospital. He is listed in critical condition.The investigation continues.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact the OPP at (705) 645-2211 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.



Meet the new operators of Bala’s Burgess hydro plant: KRIS Renewable Energy

Sept 15: MNW in conversation with Ian McDonald, Chairman, KRIS Renewable Energy:
After living so close to the Burgess 1 Generating Station in Bala for 40 years, Moon River resident Ian McDonald decided he might as well bid to run it. Now he will. McDonald is one of four businessmen owning equal shares in KRIS Renewable Energy, the company selected by the Township of Muskoka Lakes through a competitive bid process to operate the Township’s hydro plant and dam on Bala’s Mill Stream. The other principals in KRIS Renewable Energy include: Kerry Knoll, also a Moon River property owner; KRIS President and CEO Robert Levesque and Sylvain Cyr. Both Levesque and Cyr are with Csc Electrique Inc. of Saint-Jerome, Quebec. KRIS is an acronym representing the first letter of each shareholder’s first name.

How Burgess 1 came up for lease
After Algonquin Power decided to end its $1,000-a-month lease arrangement with the Township (the lease was to end July 2011), it recommended Csc take over. In March 2011, Levesque outlined Csc’s proposal to Township Council, adding he would like to see efficiency at the existing plant increased from 50% to 85% (which would also increase profits). Council later decided it should hold its own formal Request for Proposal (RFP) process opening the opportunity up to more potential operators. That RFP was issued in February 2012. In August, Mayor Alice Murphy announced a new company that included local investors — as well as Csc — as the successful bidder. Recently, Township confirmed the new company to be KRIS Renewable Energy and Muskoka News Watch interviewed KRIS Chairman McDonald today about the new venture, what changes might occur at the plant and about his own business background.

Q&A with KRIS Renewable Energy’s Ian McDonald
Q: What relation does KRIS Renewable Energy have to the company that Algonquin Power recommended? Is it a subsidiary or completely new company?

A: “KRIS is a new start up. My longtime partner Kerry Knoll and I have extensive experience in the mining business. The two other principals (Cyr and Levesque) will do the design and manufacturing for the plant.”

Q: What connection do you and your partners have to Muskoka?
A: “I’ve been in Muskoka since 1972 [McDonald is the son of Vivienne McDonald who ran the antique store next to the Bala Bay Inn for several years] and my home is just downstream from the plant. I’ve been looking at that plant since my mother had our house. I also bought the bush lot right beside it so I own property on both sides of the plant (one property on the River Street side and the other at the end of Portage Street).

Kerry, my business partner, has come up to Bala to visit me for a long time and he bought his own cottage on Moon River five years ago.

The Csc partners work on a consulting basis. We’re making all decisions together, but they’re the engineers on the project. They make small micro turbines and will do the design for the Burgess plant.”

Q: Is there any further opportunity for local investors to get involved?
A: “Not really. It’s not very big. It’s not a pie – it’s a cupcake, so you can’t cut it too big.” (Note: the plant is expected to generate 320 KW).

Q: How much work needs to be done to get the Burgess plant running again?
“We won’t run it with the old turbines. The original turbines are 95 years old so we’ll put in two new ones. These are low head turbines that don’t have a lot of backpressure. After all, there’s not much water. We expect to generate two cubic metres a second [for each turbine].”

Q: How long do you estimate your construction period to be?
“The old turbines will come out over the winter and the new ones will be manufactured over the winter. We expect installation could happen in a few weeks but we don’t want to install them while ice is there, so we’re anticipating a start up possibly in April or May. We’ll hire the present local operator, Bob Healey, who also lives on the river.”

“We’ll do a responsible job and as long as we do the job properly this project will be seamless for everyone. After all, you can’t use the power locally, and it doesn’t generate enough to do that anyway.”

Q: How much do you expect to invest to get it to start up condition?
A: “About one million [dollars]. That’s what our budget anticipates but nothing is ever exact, nothing is.”

Q: What lease arrangement have you agreed to with the Township? Is it similar to the previous agreement? In that deal, Algonquin paid $1,000 a month to lease Burgess, and if more power and revenues were generated, it was to pay a portion more to the Township each month.

A: “The Township will receive 10 per cent of our revenue or $1,500 per month — whatever is higher based on the renevenues/power generated. You have to understand that we’re not finalized with Ontario Hydro for our rate. That will take another three months.”

Q: The Township building housing the plant isn’t in great shape. Do you have plans to improve it or is that up to the Township?

A: “We’re going to put a new roof on it so it will look better. The retaining wall that goes around it is right on the rock. The township does own the building but we’re doing the roof, etc.. We have a long lease and we’ll own the turbines we put in but the Township has the first right to buy those back.”

Q: Is there a plan to deal with the trash and build up at the intake that has often happened at this plant (This question follows up on a story posted in July about what the mess at the intake not being dealt with — it’s been an ongoing problem and of course, prior to your selection as the operator).

A: “You know, we thought that would be easy to fix. But once we went in to clean it out, there was another mess just four hours later. We’re going to try and do a better job and stay on top of it.”

Q: What experience do you bring to the project?
A: “Kerry and I have been partners in private mining companies for 30 years and we started our first public company in 1987. Some of those mining companies have been taken over (gold mining company Glencairn Gold became B2 Gold and Wheaton River became Goldcorp, for example. Another company that we’re no longer with is Thompson Creek, which mines molybdenum. Thompson Creek was the largest privately owned mining company in the U.S. We also operate Canada Lithium, the 6th largest lithium mine in the world and are Co-Chairmen and Directors of Stonegate Agricom Ltd. Stonegate is developing a phosphate mine in Idaho.  The little Burgess dam is our one hydro asset.

Q: Where will the KRIS head office be?
We’ll operate it out of our offices at 401 Bay Street, Toronto. And we’ll be working at getting a web site up.

MNW Note: The Burgess 1 Generating Station has reportedly not generated any hydroelectric power since July 2011 and the Township has lost revenue from the plant for at least nine months. We wish the new operators well and hope for a speedy and environmentally safe return to operation in early 2013.


Dock on Bala’s Moon River docked from heritage designation list

Update September 12: It's official. The Township of Muskoka Lakes has removed the Bala dock on Moon River from its list of proposed heritage designation sites. The Township announced it would do so at a Conservation Review Board pre hearing conference last Wed, Sept. 5, and has now forwarded a letter confirming that intention to the Review Board. There are no details on why the Township changed its mind for this site while the other sites remain on the list (see story from Aug. 8 below). Next steps: The Township is to meet with all those objecting to proposed heritage designation sites in Bala to share information and those contacted say they are hoping that meeting will happen with all objectors together instead of separately. A second Pre Hearing Conference (which is closed to the public) is to happen sometime in October with the actual hearing scheduled for January 2013.

August 8, 11am: What might be in, what might be out? A pre-hearing about proposed heritage sites in Bala next month could determine which sites might eventually be included in a Bala Heritage District as proposed by the Township of Muskoka Lakes Heritage Committee.

The provincial Conservation Review Board will hear objections to the proposed sites during a pre-hearing in Port Carling on Wednesday, September 5.

There are six properties in Bala that the Township wants to designate as heritage sites. They include the Portage Landing, the Shield parking lot, the cenotaph, the Moon River and Bala docks and the Bala Museum. The latter has been earmarked for potential designation for several years now.

Presently the Township is trying to get each site designated separately, yet the Heritage Committee would eventually like to see an entire heritage district be designated for Bala, a possibility that Councillor Ruth Nishikawa has said paves the way for the Township to seek grants related to heritage districts.

Pre-hearing conferences (PHC) are mandatory for all matters that come before the Conservation Review Board and can result in a mediated settlement of disputed properties. The PHC is not open to the public — only parties invited to the hearing can attend. If disputes are not resolved at the PHC, a formal hearing will be needed. If the PHC does resolve a site dispute, the party disputing the proposed site must file a withdrawal notice so a site can still be considered for designation.

Four properties in Muskoka Lakes have received heritage designations in the past, including St. Joseph’s Community Church, Burgess Memorial Church, the township’s municipal office in Port Carling and the Women’s Institute building in Glen Orchard.

The ‘Queen’ came back — to Torrance

Updated Sept 17: Congratulations to Queen for a Day – Crystal Neal did an amazing job as the stand in for Her Royal Highness. Hope to get some pics up soon.

Updated Sept 12; A few more details on what to expect when Torrance relives the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II in 1959: The Queen will arrive by motorcade and stop at the Torrance Community Cnetre for a flag raising and High Tea at 2 pm. British ditties and other fun songs will be sung by a harmonic trio ( in Victorian dress. Then the Queen 'walks'. She will stroll up Torrance Road to Queen's Walk Road where there will be more announcements and possibly comments by dignitaries. In 1959, the Queen got out of her motorcade to stroll from the top of Queen's Walk Road down to the train station where she boarded a train heading west. She'll do more of a walkabout this time to see what she missed. Back at the Torrance Community Centre, MuskokaBella takes the outdoor stage at 4 pm. to sing hits that topped the charts in 1959 in both the U.K. and North America. MuskokaBella sings four part harmonies, sometimes in Acapella. The Bellas of MuskokaBella are Deb Tilson and Sue Gurr of Bala, Diane Harrop of Gravenhurst and Norah Fountain of Torrance (Norah's mother Loretta was pregnant with Norah when the Queen arrived so she can 'sort of' claim she was there!). Don Edwards on ukelele and Ray Bonnah on keyboards join MuskokaBella to round out that portion of the entertainment. Then it's Jack Hutton and Friends (Darryl Hollingsworth and John Livingstone on trombone) followed by DJ Stefan spinning the rest of the evening. High Tea offers usual high tea fare, such as dainty sandwiches and tea and scones. The Torrance Firefighters will take over the grill for dinner. Cmon out – the event is free and will be a fun time for all.

Artifacts from the actual day: Also on display will be the dress that Janet Payne wore when she gave flowers to the Queen and the dress worn by the Mayor's wife. There will be footage of the 1959 event, pictures, articles and more.


Updated August 28: Yes, you heard right: the Queen is returning to Torrance on September 15! In 1959, Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II walked from what was then 169, and is now the main street of Torrance (Torrance Road), down to the train station to board the train and continue her visit out west. The section from the highway to the train was the only paved street in Torrance at the time (Queen's Walk Road).

Since this is the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, it seemed fitting for Torrance to mark the occasion and re-enact that famous visit, and the Township of Muskoka Lakes was able to secure $6,000 through the Canadian Heritage Queen’s Diamond Jubilee fund. Here's what we know so far…

Save the Date September 15.
Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebration in Torrance September 15. The Township of Muskoka Lakes invites everyone to a re-enactment of the Queen's arrival in Torrance in 1959. The village of Torrance will welcome back Queen Elizabeth II (or at least her not so official stand in) followed by a British street party. For details, and to share the invitation, download the invitation PDF by clicking here.

Details: Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebration

Where: Torrance Community Centre

When: Saturday, September 15, starting 2 pm. Bring a lawn chair. After the re-enactment of the Queen's arrival, a Street Party is planned through to 8 pm.

Where you there in 1959? Bring your stories. The girl made famous in the photo giving flowers to the Queen will be there to curtsey once again, plus other surprises. Includes British tea, the Queen's arrival plus street party including music from 1959 by MuskokaBella and another group to be announced. Watch this space for updates on details as they become available.

Muskoka Corridor 11 Bus Service Runs Sept 24-December

Update Sept 9: The Bus and Rate Schedule for the new Corridor 11 Bus can be downloaded by clicking here. The new public bus starts rolling September 24 and if there's enough ridership, it may continue to provide service when this trial run wraps up in December.

Posted Sept. 7, 5.50pm: Muskoka is getting a new bus service — on a trial basis — starting September 24 – the Corridor 11 Bus from Hammond Transportation.
The Corridor 11 Bus will run twice a day, Monday to Friday, from Huntsville to Barrie and back, making stops along the way in Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Washago and Orillia. It will run on a trial basis until December. While the new bus line is owned and operated by Hammond Transportation, the pilot project received encouragement from many agencies across Muskoka.
“Hammond Transportation is excited about introducing a new bus service to Muskoka," says Greg Hammond of Hammond Transportation, "however, without support from other organizations, like the District of Muskoka, we wouldn’t be where we are today – about to launch an exciting new transportation initiative. The committee members involved in getting this project off the ground have done a great deal of work over the past 18 months, including important background research. We’ve consulted with both Soldiers Memorial Hospital in Orillia and the Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie to ensure the Corridor 11 Bus schedule will meet the needs of Muskokans. We’ve also been in touch with Georgian College to look at student enrolment and were pleased potential ridership there is substantial. We hope the Corridor 11 Bus will be well utilized so we can maintain and even possibly grow the service n the future.””
The Corridor 11 Bus is a three month pilot project that will run until December 2012, and possibly longer depending on demand. Routes, pricing and scheduling will be evaluated at the end of the project. The District of Muskoka, one of the agencies involved in the project, feels the service will be a great benefit to their clients.
“Historically, Muskoka has been underserviced in terms of transportation and many of our clients struggle finding reliable and affordable transportation for essential services such as medical appointments or to educational opportunities. With the Ontario Northland train service ending this month, the Corridor 11 Bus service will be even more essential,” says Rick Williams, Commissioner of Muskoka Community Services.
An official launch of the Corridor 11 Bus will take place on Wednesday, September 12 at the Nipissing University Residence Building at 125 Wellington Street in Bracebridge from 1 pm to 4 pm.
Seats on the Corridor 11 Bus can be booked by calling Hammond Transportation at 705-645-2583 or tickets can be purchased directly from the driver. For more information on prices, scheduling and pick-up and drop-off locations, and to find out who was involved in the Corridor 11 Bus project, go to

New operator to start Burgess Hydro Plant back up on Mill Stream

Updated Sept 6, 7.30pm: Muskoka News Watch plans to have the first interview with KRIS Renewable Power available very soon. Thanks to the company's Chair for emailing us today. Watch this space for news about the company's plan for getting the Burgess hydro plant up and running again on the Mill Stream in Bala.

Sept. 5, 1.45 pm. KRIS Renewable Power was the winning bidder selected by the Township of Muskoka Lakes to operate the Burgess Hydro Plant on the Mill Stream in Bala, according to the Township. No formal announcement has been made, but at an August town hall meeting, the Mayor announced an operator had been selected and that the company was a public and private joint venture including two members of the community. Township staff said they were expecting a media release on or around the lease commencement date of September 1 from the company. The agreement with the company will reportedly increase the monthly lease payment to a minimum payment of $1,500 a month (up from the previous $1,000 paid by Algonquin Power when they operated the generating station. That lease was to officially end by July 2011 but the company reportedly continued to make lease payments to the Township until the end of 2011. It's not been confirmed if the hydro plant has produced any power since last summer. Three companies put in bids to be the station's operating company when the Township started its Request for Proposal process in February. Muskoka News Watch has repeated its request to Township for contact information for KRIS Renewable Power.