Update: Body of missing Gravenhurst man found June 1

Update: The body of 39-year-old Matthew Scott was found early today (June 1). He was reported missing Thursday. There are no further details about Scott’s death. Our condolences to the Scott family.

Posted May 31, 4:20pm. A Gravenhurst man has been reported missing and Bracebridge OPP want to know if anyone has seen him or knows where he might be.

Gravenhurst, missing, Muskoka, OPP
Scott Matthew missing since Thursday

They’re asking the public to help find 39-year-old Matthew Scott (see picture) who left his home on Barkway Road yesterday (May 30) at about 7am. He hasn’t been seen since. Scott was riding a yellow mountain bike and was heading in the direction of Ben Lake Road. A concerned family member called police when he did not return home. Scott was carrying a black backpack and was last seen wearing an orange sweatshirt. It’s believed he didn’t have a cell phone with him.

Description of Matthew Scott:

  • White male, 39 years old
  • Height: about 6’ 1”
  • Weight: about 200 Ibs
  • Complexion: light/fair
  • Hair colour: Gray, length short
  • Eye colour: Green
  • Was last seen wearing a Orange Sweatshirt
  • Believed to not have a cell phone with him

Anyone seeing Scott is asked to call Bracebridge OPP.



Pedestrians struck in Huntsville, woman and granddaughter recovering from injuries

Grandmother and granddaughter struck by car in Huntsville

Updated May 30, Posted May 27, 3.49pm: OPP in Huntsville say a woman and her granddaughter were allegedly hit by a car turning onto Main Street from Centre Street just before 3pm on May 27. They were taken to hospital by Muskoka EMS and the young girl was moved to a hospital in Toronto. It’s reported she may need facial surgery.

Centre St from Caroline St to Main St in downtown Huntsville was closed while Central Region Technical Traffic Collision Investigation Unit helped the OPP investigation into the accident.

All streets were reported open again by 530 pm Monday night.

A 21-year-old woman from Mountain, Ontario has been charged with failure to yield to pedestrians.

Update: effort to rebuild Bracebridge home gets Rotary boost & now a golf fundraiser

Update May 31, 4.35pm: Lions Golf tourney will help raise $ for Bowers’ rebuild

A portion of monies raised from the Annual Charity Golf Tournament held by the Bracebridge Lions Foundation will be going toward the Bowers Flood Relief Project. Lions Secretary Cathy Walker told MNW the Bracebridge Lions are hoping more golfers, foursomes and hole-sponsors will join the tournament on June 13th to help support this cause (see post below for the story on how the April flood destroyed the Bowers home on Muskoka River). Tournament Details:

  • When and Where: June 13th at the South Muskoka Curling and Golf Club
  • Includes: BBQ lunch, dinner and valuable give-aways throughout the day.
  • To register, call 705-646-2394 or email bracebridgelionsclub@gmail.com

You can also contact Lion Nick Roche 645-2286 or Lion Ed Rynard 645-5257 to sign up or to learn more. The tournament kicks off with the BBQ lunch between 11AM and 12:30, followed by a shotgun start at 1pm on June 13. The decision to earmark some of the tournament funds comes on the heels of a generous donation by the Bracebridge-Muskoka Rotary Club to help the Lions get the Bowers back in their home by fall (see story below).

Local Rotary Club delivers $12,500 cheque in flood aid for Bowers’ rebuild

Posted May 27, 2:30pm: The Bracebridge-Muskoka Lakes Rotary Club this morning joined the effort to help rebuild the flooded home of Theresa and Woody Bowers.

Club President Leslie McCann (centre of photo) and Rotarian Cathryn Willard (far right)

Muskoka flood, Bracebridge, Huntsville, Muskoka River, Black River, Rotary, Flood Relief, Bracebridge Lions, Bracebridge-Muskoka Lakes Rotary
Rotarians help out. Photo by Rotarian Mike Guiry. Woody Bowers (left of Leslie McCann in centre of photo, Cathy Walker and Cathryn Willard right)


presented a cheque for $12,500 to the Bracebridge Lions Club at the Bowers’ residence with the Bowers in attendance. The Bracebridge Lions, along with the Salvation Army Flood Relief team have been leading the charge to rebuild for the Bowers, who had no flood insurance (See original MNW article here: After the flood: Bracebridge community hopes to raise the roof for flooded out family) .

“The gala the Rotary just held and our other fundraising allow us to give back to our communities,” says McCann, “and this effort is just one example of the good we can do.” ”

Lions Secretary Cathy Walker adds the donation will make a huge difference in the goal to get the family back in their home by September and Rotarian Cathy Willard says she hopes others will come forward to help make that goal a reality.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:  Individuals can donate to the cause by contacting the Lions Club or make a direct donation by visiting Toronto-Dominion Bank branch 21122 in Bracebridge to make deposits in to account # 522-2695.

To join the house raising effort, email the Bracebridge Lions Club via walkerfc1@sympatico.ca, check out the rebuild Facebook page created by construction coordinator Frank Drinkwater or contact Renee Lefebvre, the head of the Salvation Army Flood Relief Team at grosbeaks@hotmail.com.


FLOOD LOST AND FOUND – Comment to post your lost and found items

MNW LOST AND FOUND – FREE LISTING (and a correction)

Lost something the flood? Or did something wash up at your dock? Trade info here and maybe we can help put people back together with their belongings. If you have found an item you see described here, reply to the person who posted the Lost comment on the site as well as to them directly. If they miss their email, we will work to alert them to the fact their missing item may be found!

How it works:
Comment using the comment below and your full name and email will appear. Describe the item lost or found and add your phone number or other contact. If you do NOT want your email to appear, just note that and we will remove your email info. We will also post your item in this space.

HAVE A PHOTO OF YOUR ITEM? Please submit it as a jpg file as we can not display a PDF (although we can provide a link to download a PDF). Thank you!

Posted May 25: FOUND – One Hot Tub Cover: One hot tub cover, grey in colour, square in shape. Can be picked up near Port Carling at 2757 hwy 118w. If it’s yours, come get it or email info@muskokanewsarchive.com

CORRECTION (original retraction posted May 23): MNW is not perfect. We accepted a submitted photo of a cottage that was surrounded by water and appeared to have an area of floor affected by the flood event. The owners have asked us to issue a correction on the photo (done immediately upon notice). In actual fact, their cottage was built to be higher than possible flood waters and was unaffected by the event. MNW regrets posting the photo.


Update: Driver dead after tractor trailer rolls into Gravenhurst house

Update Posted May 27, 8pm: The OPP today identified the driver of the tractor trailer as 53-year-old Alan Birch of Acton.

Posted May 24, 5.55pm: A man is dead after a tractor trailer slammed in to a house in Gravenhurst this morning. The accident happened just after 10.30 am at the corner of Sharpe Street and John Street. In a report from the Bracebridge OPP, police say the 54-year-old driver (since identified as 53-year-old Alan Birch) was in serious medical distress and was pronounced dead at South Muskoka Memorial Hospital. The name of the driver has not been released until his next of kin are notified.

According to reports at the scene, police say the driver was in the process of backing the tractor trailer into an unloading dock when he apparently became incapacitated. The truck rolled down toward a house, and travelled through the four way stop before it hit the side of the house.

No one in the residence was injured, but both the tractor trailer and house were damaged.



MNR blocks public use of Burgess Island at North Bala Falls

Ministry sends notice: public land use at North Bala Falls restricted

Updated Post May 25 2.30pm (Updated to include site specific information).

Posted May 24, 5.37pm: The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is alerting the public it is stopping public use of Crown land at North Bala Falls – specifically Burgess Island on the south side of the North Bala Falls.

Muskoka, Bala Falls, Portage, Heritage, hydro, green energy, MNR, flood
During flood, Township blocked off Burgess Island. MNR says it will restrict public use of this site.

This is the site of a planned hydro plant and the site the Township of Muskoka Lakes asserts is a traditional and commonly used portage route. In a bid to protect the site and stop the hydro plant, the Township has launched a Judicial Review against the MNR, expected to be heard in Divisional Court in Toronto on June 28.

In a letter sent to the Moon River Property Owners’ Association (MRPOA) and posted on the association’s web site on May 24, the Ministry says it has issued a Notice under Section 28(1) of the Public Lands Act prohibiting public use of the land at the North Bala Falls dam. The notice was also sent to the District of Muskoka and the Township of Muskoka Lakes.

North Bala Falls Dam May 20, 2013
North Bala Falls Dam May 20, 2013. The notice sent out by MNR restricts use on the other side of the falls. This picture shows the north side of the North Bala Falls, an area visited often by residents and tourists.

Quoting from the letter dated May 21: “Posting the site under Section 28 will address public safety concerns by restricting incompatible uses that may pose a public safety risk. MNR will be posting signs on site outlining the land use restrictions which are now in effect.”

The letter was signed by Dan Duggan, A/District Manager, Parry Sound District. Other than posting signs, at press time, it was unknown how the MNR might enforce the restrictions). The restrictions which are meant to stop any recreational activity, or as the MNR puts it, “incompatible uses that may pose a public safety risk.”

Fences Feb 9
Fences Feb 9 on the Burgess Park (north side) of the North Bala Falls.

Earlier this year (in early February), and in consultation with the Township about aesthetics, the MNR erected fences on the shoreline on property near Purk’s Place and on the north side of the falls to discourage people from jumping into the water just above the falls.

Related Stories: Portage route unsafe: Ministry of Natural Resources, Bracebridge Examiner May 23, 2013

The Fight for Bala Falls; Is taking the province to court taking things too far, MNW May 22, 2013

Famous Miss Canada III raceboat on way home to Muskoka for the summer

Miss Canada III heads home (May 23) to her birthplace in Gravenhurst; reunites with Miss Canada IV

Update Posted May 23: On the road and soon to be on the water. Miss Canada III left Clayton NY Antique boat museum, Antique boat america. Clayton, Miss Canada III, Gravenhurst, Muskoka, marine heritage, raceboattoday bound for her birthplace of Gravenhurst. Here’s a brief video clip of the start of her journey. Full story below.

Posted May 22, 145pm: The former world champion raceboat Miss Canada III starts her journey home to Muskoka tomorrow. She’s on loan from the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York to the Muskoka Boat & Heritage Centre (Grace & Speed). She will be the centerpiece of the Centre’s “Race Boat Glory, Muskoka Legends Live On” exhibit. In this video, you can see her getting ready for her official photo opportunity tomorrow morning. Watch video.

“We are so pleased to send Miss Canada III to Gravenhurst,” says ABM curator Emmett V. Smith.

Miss Canada III, antique boats, raceboats, Gravenhurst, Muskoka, marine heritage, Clayton
Miss Canada III cockpit, photo by Harry Wilson

“Being the boat that brought a major trophy to Canada in 1939, she holds an importance place in Canadian racing history. She came from Gravenhurst, and it is important that she be displayed there.”

Smith adds the excitement around the restoration of Miss Canada IV provides the perfect time for Miss Canada III’s visit to her birthplace, “where the story of Harold and Lorna Wilson can be appreciated like nowhere else.” Miss Canada IV is the feature boat at this year’s Antique & Classic Boat Show, July 4-7, at Muskoka Wharf. These two historic “Miss Canada” champions proudly represented Canada in races throughout North America. It is a rare opportunity to see both of these grand ladies together.

About Miss Canada III: Designed by Douglas van Patten and built in 1938 by Greavette Boatworks in Gravenhurst, Miss Canada III was described by Motor Boating Magazine in the 1938 Detroit Gold Cup Race as being

Antique boat museum, Antique boat america. Clayton, Miss Canada III, Gravenhurst, Muskoka, marine heritage, raceboat
Getting ready to leave, photo courtesy ABM

“Beautifully handled and the most perfect running boat.” Miss Canada III was widely regarded to be in an elite class of hydroplanes. In Clayton, Miss Canada III has been on display alongside iconic raceboats such as Dixie II and Chrysler Queen as part of the “Quest for Speed” exhibit in the Antique Boat Museum (ABM) there. After spending decades in obscurity following the end of her racing career, Miss Canada III was restored by racer Bill Morgan at his shop on Lake George, NY.

Miss Canada IV on first test run day May 10
Miss Canada IV on first test run day May 9

He later donated the boat to the ABM in 1991, along with a foundational collection of other raceboats.

Meantime, Miss Canada IV will be on Lake Muskoka again this week for further tests until this Friday, when she returns to Tom Adams’ shop for her final varnish and paint work.

See more pics of Miss Canada IV’s first day back on the water under Celebrate Muskoka on Muskoka News Watch.

Readers: Please share this story with friends and take note of the Donate button at the top right of our MNW home page. You can help keep our journalists writing and bringing you fresh Muskoka coverage. MNW is also your one stop spot for all Muskoka media outlets. You can Donate to keep the stories coming by using the Donate button at top right of the MNW home page.






The Fight for Bala Falls: Is taking the Province to Court taking things too far?

How hard can you poke the bear before it pokes back? I think we’re about to find out.

Opinion by Norah Fountain posted May 21, 2013: Once asked how much effort she was willing to put in to the Stop the Hydro Plant fight at Bala Falls, soon to be Mayor Alice Murphy indicated she was willing to do ‘whatever it takes.’ For many, that was the right answer, and today Murphy will tell you she is simply fulfilling her mandate: to do everything in her power to stop construction on Burgess Island (aka Portage Landing), a site directly across from her property.

There’s no faulting Murphy for doing what she said she would do, but now even some of her supporters are wondering if they got more than they bargained for.

Personally, I worry about what price we might pay for her persistence. I’m not just talking money: there are other ways our community might feel some pain from the pseudo Machiavellian approach adopted by our Mayor. Loss of all access to Bala Falls, for example, would be a huge and painful loss.

 But wait a second, isn’t access what she and Council are fighting for? In court, no less?

Indeed, taking on the province legally is a bold step – and to face off in court poses some interesting possibilities. In my opinion, Township Council has an argument (maybe not a case, but only the outcome of Council’s day in court will determine that decision) and certainly the Public Lands Act can be interpreted in a number of ways. So the lawyers will likely question the affidavits from both sides, point to what’s written in the Act (and play up the nuances they deem fit to support their side) and the side that provides the most compelling argument wins.

But again, at what cost? Access is a big part of the case before Divisional Court to be heard in late June, and reading the details of the Township’s argument gave me pause because it started to sound somewhat familiar. In a previous post I listed all that the present Council is seeking from this legal action, and other than the specific request to make Burgess Island (aka Portage Landing) declared a portage and a permanent injunction against development there, I realized some of what Council is requesting now sounds similar to what the previous Council asked for by way of a resolution sent to the Province back in 2005.

If you’re up for it, take a trip back in time with me…

On hearing Bala Falls was on the list as sites for development in 2004, then Councillor Stewart Martin (now deceased) began investigating what Council could do to protect Bala Falls as the community had come to know it. On January 5, 2005, the Council moved to protect scenic flows and public access for traditional uses by way of a resolution sent to the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR – the same ministry the present Council is now questioning in Court).

At that time, the Council did not threaten to take the province to court about it, or spend a lot of money on it. Instead, that Council did what it could as a municipality by communicating its concerns to the province. It also entertained discussions with the developer for what was known as “Option 2”, an option that was considered to protect the recreational and heritage attributes of the area and not block the Moon River frontage (the present “Option 1” blocks access). That Council chose to work within its mandate to do what it could to protect access to the Falls. Big mistake, as it turned out, because that decision sealed Council’s fate: only the newest Councillor, Ron Brent, was voted back in at the next election as the lobby against “Option Two” (and truly, any option) was so strong. It was apparent the Save the Bala Falls strategy was to fight against “Option Two” in the belief that the “Option 1” position (which would block access to the south side of the North Falls) was not financially viable (as argued publicly by would-be mayoral candidate Murphy at a Save the Bala Falls open house). Other Save the Bala Falls lobbyists also argued there was not enough room to build on such a small space.

Why dredge up what’s truly stale water over the bridge now? Collateral damage, that’s why. Due to the combative approach taken primarily by now Mayor Murphy (and by association the Councillors, some of whom say they can’t stop her), the various agencies engaged in this combat are reportedly fed up. Minor irritants that pile up become major. Examples:

  • The accusatory Tweets bombarding politicians. Here’s a tip Mayor: If you want your Twitter account to represent your personal views, say so in your profile statement. It’s that easy. To not do so and continue to Tweet fight as @MayorMurphy suggests your vitriolic comments reflect the thoughts of Muskoka Lakers. They do not. Please make that clear, and then you’re free to complain about Ontario politicians not following you back or to question the legality of provincial ministry actions all you want. After all, you are free as an individual to be as embarrassing as you wish in 140 characters or less.
  • The recent personal attacks on our MPP.  Sources say Murphy recently complained about Norm Miller to Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak, allegedly making comments about Miller’s effectiveness to Hudak which, no surprise, made it back to Miller, of course, and somehow got leaked along the way.
  • The slamming of  provincial Liberals followed by a potential flip flop in political loyalty. In what appeared to be a ‘if you can’t fight ’em, why not join ’em’ spirit, the Mayor announced she had joined the Liberal party (on one of the last dates – if not the last date – possible to be potentially involved in the provincial leadership decision). Her bid to become a leadership delegate failed when she didn’t garner enough votes from the local riding membership. And her praise of Kathleen Wynne has diminished somewhat since Wynne became Premier (Not to mention taking the Province to Court…that’s bound to put a strain on the relationship).
  • The whining that came out of Muskoka Lakes during the flood event. No, she’s not the only one to question the effectiveness of the MNR and the Muskoka Water Management Plan but to constantly question ongoing efforts at the height of the flood and to suggest that profit was a motive for flood control (or lack thereof) was downright cheap looking next to other local Mayors working so collaboratively with such agencies. Oh, and there’s that court thing again – the timing of her assaults on MNR was, well, untimely?

Surely all the accusatory attacks against politicians and the agencies can’t be helping Muskoka maintain or build better relationships. Most recently efforts are under way that include our Mayor to reopen the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund to Muskoka. I would think sitting down at a table to try and gain benefits for Muskoka while you’re constantly bombarding provincial authorities with accusations – along with taking legal action against them – is not exactly conducive to collaboration.

Just how often can you poke the bear before it swats back, hard? And who will get hurt?

If you’ve hung in here with me this long, you’re about to learn something. And it’s not good news (at least not in my opinion). Muskoka News Watch has learned the MNR has alerted the Township that it plans to attempt to prohibit access at Bala Falls to people who want to play in the waters there. People like me. I like to splash in the Falls, and have scuba dived below them. I spent so many happy days as a teenager hanging out on the rocks there. I don’t know how the MNR will carry out its plan in the name of safety. It’s their land after all. But it’s our playground, too.

Anybody who truly gives a ‘dam’ about what happens at the Bala Falls should think really hard about what really concerns them about a plant there. I think some people, on both sides of the debate, are making this more about winning than the best interests of the community. For me, I support green energy (and acknowledge power as part of Bala’s heritage) but the lack of access to the Falls given the original power plant plan was (and still is) a problem for me. That’s why I publicly supported Option Two (which would leave both sides of the Falls free). In August 2011, I made a delegation to council to save Option Two and ‘Save the Falls’ at the same time. I said if Option One went ahead, it would be their legacy, their ‘mess’. Now I call it ‘Murphy’s Mess’, and if my sources are correct, it’s about to get messier.

I hope I’m wrong.

Readers: To comment on this editorial and all stories on MNW, please submit both your first and last names and email so we know you are real. Comments then are posted with first name only and do not include your email or website unless you indicate you want your website to show.

Did you know you can donate to Muskoka News Watch? Keep our journalists writing and bringing you fresh Muskoka coverage. MNW is also your one stop spot for all Muskoka media outlets.

Muskoka Lakes vs. Ontario Update: Highlights of the Township’s case against MNR

The next long weekend starts with our Township in Court: Here’s an overview of what it will argue

Posted May 17, 8.15pm: Muskoka News Watch (MNW) now has the details of the Township of Muskoka Lakes’ legal action against the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The Township has a court date in Toronto June 28 to try and stop the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources from leasing Crown land in Bala for a hydro plant. There were few details of the Township’s legal action when MNW first published the story on April 18 (See Hydro Wars: Muskoka Lakes Township vs Province in Legal Battle http://muskokanewsarchive.com/opensession/hydro-wars-muskoka-lakes-township-vs-province-in-legal-battle/ ).

Right on the heels of MNW was Moose FM with an exclusive interview with Muskoka Lakes Mayor Alice Murphy who confirmed the Township was taking legal steps to protect BalaFallsWideApr30beforebarriersportage rights that would be affected by the proposed hydro plant at the Bala Falls. The Moose also reported that the proposed plant developer, Swift River Energy Limited (SREL), had asked to be a party in the proceedings. That’s all any one in the public knew until now — although two Township councillors have confirmed they have not seen correspondence from the MNR that was included in the legal application filed by the Township.

What’s included in Township’s case against the MNR? Files accessed by MNW through the Divisional Court clearly outline what the Township hopes to achieve in its Judicial Review application (a judicial review is a legal procedure that takes the form of an application the reviews decisions of government bodies) filed by lawyer Harold Elston (with the Collingwood law firm retained by the Township).

What the Township Wants:

  1. a judicial review to be heard on an urgent basis
  2. a declaration that the portage connecting the Moon River and Lake Muskoka for persons travelling on those waters (referred to in the file as the “Portage”) has existed and exists over the public lands owned by the province (land identified in the file as Burgess Island)
  3. an order prohibiting the obstruction of or interference with the Portage by the Minister of Natural Resources or any person with an interest in the Crown lands
  4. A declaration that less than 25% of the lands fronting on the Moon River between the Bala Falls and Ragged Rapids are public lands AND an order that the frontage of the Crown Lands on the Moon River to a depth of six metres (referred to as the Moon River Frontage) shall be set apart for recreational and access purposes
  5.  An order prohibiting the obstruction or interference with the Moon River Frontage
  6. An interim and permanent injunction prohibiting the issuance by the Minister of a Crown Lease to authorize the construction of a waterpower generation facility and a Water Power Lease Agreement authorizing the occupation of the power generation facility
  7. The costs of the legal proceedings; and,
  8. Any further relief as counsel may advise and that the Honourable Court may appear just.

Highlights of the Grounds for the Application

  • The Township received notice on March 12, 2013 that the MNR was issuing a Crown lease to authorize the construction of the hydro plant
  • The Township has serious concerns about the threat posed by the proposed power generation facility to the use of the Portage and the Moon River Frontage by the public
  • The Public Lands Act provides that “any person travelling on waters connected by the portage has the right to pass over and along the portage with the person’s effects….and any person who obstructs, hinders, delays or interferes with the exercise of such right of passage is guilty of an offence
  • The Township has identified and surveyed the Portage, a route that beings on the municipally-owned Portage Landing on Moon River and continues across the Crown Lands
  • The Public Lands Act provides that where there is less than 25% frontage of public lands on a body of water… all public lands fronting (and to such depth as the Minister considers appropriate) shall be set apart for recreational and access purposes
  • The power generation facility will permanently and irreparably obstruct, hinder, delay or otherwise interfere with the exercise of the right of passage over and along the Portage and the use of the Moon River Frontage by the public for recreational and access purposes
  • The use of the Portage was first documented in 1837 by explorer David Thompson and this uses continues to this day
  • The Portage represents an important theme in Ontario’s history
  • Final approval of the power generation facility and execution of the Crown Lease and Agreement is likely to involve a failure of justice

The grounds document also lists affidavits as documentary evidence from five people (Township CAO Chris Wray, surveyor John Hiley, one Bala resident, Save the Bala Falls spokesman Mitchell Shnier, and Catherine Nasmith, who was retained as a heritage consultant during the Conservation Review Board hearing about Bala heritage designations).

Some of the documentary evidence included letters written in 2012 from the MNR to Mayor Murphy that expressed public safety concerns about promoting a portage and directing public use to what it called a ‘potentially hazardous area’. The letters referred to meetings in September and October 2012 and also points out that the federal Transport Canada had concluded in 2010 that there are alternate routes that provide the public with passage in the area of Bala Falls other than the portage route the Township was promoting. In one letter, the MNR tells the Mayor that the MNR is reviewing its option to apply a section of the Public Lands Act that gives the MNR authority to prohibit, control or govern the use of the lands, CAMPERS-20130506-00659including access as a portage route (MNW only has portions of those letters, but you can read them by clicking here: MNR Correspondence).

Another letter included as evidence was a copy of a 2011 Freedom of Information (FOI) request from the Township to the Ministry of the Environment asking for all records from December 2010 onward that were authored by the Minister of Environment, SREL, and any other federal or provincial ministery or body. The FOI sought records of meetings, phone calls, all correspondence, minutes, and all paper or electronic documents.

Finally, there were also pictures included in the evidence file that showed canoeists who appeared to be from Camp Pine Crest landing on the Township’s land and walking up toward the highway with their canoes on Crown Land. In light of the court file affidavits that speak to the YMCA’s portage routes, YMCA Vice-President of Camping & Outdoor Education John Schmitt responded the Y was not aware the MNR considers the portage unsafe.  “Staff will be informed to use the safest route,” says Schmitt, “by accessing through the ‘parkette’ on the north side of the channel which avoids the steep embankment.” He adds the Y was also unaware it was being referenced in the Judicial Review.

The Township’s case will be heard in Divisional Court at Osgoode Hall in Toronto on June 28, 2013.


After the flood: Bracebridge community hopes to raise the roof for flooded out family

Wilson Falls Road home destroyed, volunteers vow to rebuild

Posted May 14, 11.30pm: A Bracebridge family hit hard by the spring flood is devastated after their home was destroyed, but neighbours and volunteers with the Bracebridge Lions Club and Salvation Army

Lion Cathy Walker points to water level on outside of home during height of flood. Homeowner Robert Bowers at right
Lion Cathy Walker points to water level on outside of home during height of flood. Homeowner Robert Bowers at right

are pitching in to help and vow they will rebuild the home for Robert and Theresa Bowers.

When the Muskoka River overflowed its banks and swamped properties on Wilson Falls Road in April, the water rose as high as the window sills at the Bowers’ home. Yesterday Robert (who is also known as Woody) opened the doors to what’s left of his house so media and others could see just how bad the damage was. It was an emotional tour, but the Bracebridge Lions Club felt it necessary for people to remember that while the water levels are going down, the damage from the flood remains.

Along with the Salvation Army flood relief team, the Lions are eager to start rebuilding the Bowers’ home from the ground up in hopes they can get a roof over the Bowers’ heads by Labour Day.

Frank Drinkwater shows how high water was inside kitchen
Frank Drinkwater shows how high water was inside kitchen

Construction experts say there’s no point trying to salvage what’s left standing of the house right now.

A rebuild will take money, and a bank account has been set up so that anyone can donate to the rebuilding fund. Much to the Bowers’ dismay, the couple discovered their property insurance wouldn’t cover the flood damage.

HOW TO DONATE: Visit the Toronto Dominion Bank branch 21122 in Bracebridge to make deposits in to account # 522-2695.

To join the house raising effort or to find out how you can help in other ways for the Bowers and others affected by the flood, contact Renee Lefebvre, the head of the Salvation Army Flood RelieftTeam at grosbeaks@hotmail.com. bowersinsideFor the Bowers’ rebuild, Frank Drinkwater is the construction coordinator and to reach members of the Bracebridge Lions Club, email bracebridgelionsclub@gmail.com

Related article from the Bracebridge Examiner:

Muskoka unveils new resource centre for families in need

Nest Family Resource Centre opens May 22 in Bracebridge

Posted May 13, 3.30pm: Macaulay Tree House Day Nursery is proud to announce the grand opening of The Nest Family Resource Centre at 10 Armstrong Street in Bracebridge. The goal of theNestMay13the centre is to provide eligible families across Muskoka with a variety of supports, low cost infant consumables and good quality used children’s clothing, toys and other equipment. The District of Muskoka has provided support for this initiative and will continue to look for other ways to help support families and also expand service to other areas in Muskoka.

An overwhelming supply of used clothing, toys, books, infant and baby gear has already been donated by our generous community members and local sponsors, and continued support will be crucial going forward.  While everyone is welcome at the centre, families who meet the eligibility criteria, based on income, will have the opportunity to apply for membership to receive further discounts.

According to Sandra Rogers, Executive Director for Macaulay Tree House Day Nursery, “The Board of Directors is really pleased to provide this service to the community of Muskoka and is grateful for the overwhelming support already received from volunteers and local businesses.”

“This is a very important initiative for our client families. It will allow them to access necessary items at a lower cost and receive a range of supports they might not otherwise be able to, or feel comfortable, accessing. The Nest will be an inclusive and welcoming space where we hope families will come together and find ways to support one another,” says Rick Williams, Commissioner of Community Services for the District of Muskoka. “The other important aspect of The Nest is that it will provide an opportunity to engage community members and clients alike in a volunteer capacity. They will be able to learn valuable skills while giving back to the community at the same time.”

The Nest Family Resource Centre will be celebrating with a Grand Opening celebration and ribbon cutting on May 22, 2013 from 4 pm to 6 pm.  All families are welcome to attend to enjoy cake, refreshments, entertainment and to discover all that The Nest has to offer.  The Nest will be open to the public beginning May 22, 2013 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.  With the help of amazing volunteers, these hours are expected to expand.

For more information about hours of operation, how to donate or to volunteer, contact The Nest at 705-640-NEST (6378) or email thenest@vianetca.

MPPs call for review of Ontario Disaster Relief program

Norm Miller joins call for review of Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program (ODRAP)

Posted May 13, 3.05pm, At Queen’s Park today, Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller  supported  Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott’s call on the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to review the existing Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program (ODRAP).

“We are talking about a program that dates back to the 1960’s,” says Miller. “I certainly think there is some room for improvement, particularly to meet the needs of small rural communities where it may not be possible to raise sufficient funds.”

Woody Bowers (right) home destroyed: Bracebridge Lions Cathy and Norm show how high the water rose as it seeped through Bowers' home
Woody Bowers (right) had his home on Wilson Falls Road destroyed in flood: Bracebridge Lions Cathy and Norm show how high the water rose as it seeped through the home. The Lions have opened a bank account to help the Bowers rebuild.

Under ODRAP, funds raised locally for relief efforts are matched by up to 2 to 1 by the province. Through the application process, however, these funds are not available immediately, when the support is often needed the most.

“There is real frustration in the communities affected by the recent floods. People have pulled together to work through these tough times, and it is important that they get the support that they need” adds Miller.

Here is the text of Scott’s motion today:
“That, in the opinion of this House, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing immediately undertake a review of the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program to determine how the program could be improved to better meet the needs of individuals, businesses and municipalities who are impacted by disaster situations in Ontario, thereby making the program more applicable to those in the most need.”

Flood update: Bracebridge applies for relief, Muskoka Lakes water levels still decreasing

Bracebridge applies for provincial disaster relief for residents, snowmobile bridge moves, new flood update from Muskoka Lakes

Posted May 10, 935am: The Town of Bracebridge is applying to the Province of Ontario for financial assistance under the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program (ODRAP) to help those whose essential property has been extensively damaged as a result of flooding. Please read on to learn how the program might work for property owners.

Here’s a good sign of flood waters getting back to normal on Muskoka River:

Snowmobile Bridge off Muskoka River May 10
Snowmobile Bridge being towed off Muskoka River May 10

the snowmobile bridge was finally moved today – a month later than usual – so the River is now open to boaters getting out to the lake. The picture at right shows it being towed away for removal.

Muskoka Lakes Update

Meantime, property owners in Muskoka Lakes are still waiting for the waters to get back to normal spring levels in some areas. Here is their latest flood update 09-05-13 Flood Warning Update 18

As for whether Muskoka Lakes township will apply for disaster relief, CAO Chris Wray notes that it is not necessary to declare an emergency to be eligible for ODRAP. As of last week, he said the Township had received few calls about private damage and damage to public infrastructure was limited.

Wray also says there are no plans presently to implement a fee waiver program similar to what Bracebridge has done for those who have more disposal waste, adding waste is a district responsibility. Still, the Township encourages people to call them if they do have flood-related questions.

How to help Bracebridge help those affected by flood

ODRAP provides financial assistance within a declared disaster area to help restore damaged public infrastructure and/or private property to pre-disaster condition, when the cost of restoration exceeds the financial capacity of the affected individuals, municipality and community at large.

ODRAP is not a substitute for adequate insurance coverage and does not provide full cost recovery.

To assist the Town in providing information for review the Province, the Town is asking residents whose primary dwellings have been directly affected by the flood to complete a Private Property Damage Assessment Form. This information will assist the Town in its application for provincial funding for assistance.

Please note that this is not the ODRAP funding claims form. That form will be available at a later date. Residents may access the Property Damage Assessment form by clicking here or by visiting:

  • The Town’s website www.bracebridge.ca or;
  • The following locations:
    • Municipal Office,1000 Taylor Court Bracebridge, Ontario P1L 1R6
    • Bracebridge Sportsplex, 110 Clearbrook Trail, Bracebridge, Ontario P1L 1V9
    • Bracebridge Public Library, 94 Manitoba Street, Bracebridge, Ontario P1L 2B5

Comments by Muskoka Lakes Mayor inaccurate and inappropriate, says Councillor

Mayor’s letter to Premier complains about lack of advance flood warning and more; letter sent without Council input, says Councillor

Posted May 8, 430pm: A letter Muskoka Lakes Mayor Alice Murphy directed to Premier Kathleen Wynne, Ontario cabinet ministers, Muskoka mayors and her own Council has raised the ire of at least one Township Councillor.

In a letter dated May 2, Mayor Murphy wrote to Premier Wynne asking for a meeting to

Wilson Falls Rd, before and after
Wilson Falls Rd property, before and after

address concerns about the Muskoka River Water Management Plan (MRWMP). In it, she also complains about what she calls a lack of advance flood warning by the Ministry of Natural Resources and warns planned construction at the Bala Falls (across from her cottage/residence) could cause flooding.

“Municipalities need seat at water management plan table”

She writes, “municipalities need to have a seat at the table such that water levels are not solely influenced by for-profit hydro generation with a bias for higher head-waters.” Murphy asserts that if the water level of Lake Muskoka been lowered 12 to 14 inches more than it actually was, the damage to property, public infrastructure and the local economy would be substantially reduced, and she notes: “the only signatories to the Plan are power generating companies and the MNR.”

Further she writes (verbatim): “As a municipality we look to the Ministries as our Provincial Partners. Given the massive and not yet resolved flooding, it is unfathomable to contemplate downloading the critical operations of the Bala Falls dams, to a remotely operated, private, for-profit corporation.”

While the letter states municipalities need a seat at the table, it is not clear from the letter whether she was suggesting municipalities should be signatories on the plan as well. However, the Mayor was very clear in her criticism of the MNR.

Missed the warning memo?

Murphy claims there was a “lack of advance warning from the MNR to the municipalities.” This statement contradicts the MNR’s assertion that its first Flood Outlook warning was sent to all municipalities on April 16 (to identified emergency management coordinators including the Township’s Richard Hayes) and followed up the Flood Outlook with a Flood Watch (reported on Moose FM April 18) that was then upgraded to a Flood Warning (followed by more Flood Warnings specifying areas that could expect flooding). You can read the full letter that was sent by the Mayor to the Premier, various provincial cabinet ministers, the District of Muskoka and all Mayors Mayor May 2, 2013.

Councillor questions Mayor’s judgments of MNR

Either way, the letter does not sit well with Ward C Councillor Ron Brent, who says he and other Councillors he spoke to were surprised the letter was issued without consulting Council.

In an interview today, Muskoka News Watch (MNW) advised Brent that we had copies of the Mayor’s letter, along with a response that appeared to have come from him.  Brent confirmed he had authored it.

Here is a verbatim sample of the content of Brent’s letter to Mayor Murphy, sent later the same day that her letter was copied to Council.

“I would not normally comment on the letter you sent in this way. But because of the importance of the subject and the breadth of the audience, comment is necessary.

It is unfortunate that you sent this letter. On township letterhead and with you signing as mayor. The recipients will assume that this is the opinion of council. The facts are that this is your personal opinion and nothing more. Neither your qualifications, education nor limited years of experience living in the area leave you with the insight to make informed judgments on the performance of the MNR.

The facts are that according to the data from www.wateroffice.ec.gc.ca, the lake was drawn down 0.2 meters this spring more than the previous year.”

The letter continues: “I, as well as other councilors, feel that the MNR is doing a good job with a difficult problem… So many variables of which some cannot be predicted or controlled. The weather this year and the quickness of the thawing was the culprit. No one can predict the rate of thaw.

In the future when you send letters as the mayor of this importance I hope we have the luxury as councillors to decide as council what to send out and to whom. In my opinion you have no authority to send out letters of this importance without council participation. Of course as a private citizen, you can send whatever you please. But not on township letterhead signing as mayor.

If you wish to discuss this subject further, I would be happy to debate it in open council but no other forum.” Ron Brent, Ward C Councillor, Township of Muskoka Lakes

While Brent says he regrets his response has become public, he still feels strongly the Mayor’s letter was not appropriate. He wants it to be clear that he was not consulted and that other councillors have echoed this same concern. Brent also fears that such correspondence that may appear to be from Council could damage the Township’s relationships with all levels of government.  When asked if he was aware of Tweets by the Mayor that suggested private companies might have manipulated the recent flood event for reasons of profit, he said he had not seen them personally but had heard they might be a concern.

MNW then showed Brent the Mayor’s Twitter feed, to which he responded: “How does this help the Township on any project? This does nothing but burn bridges at all levels.” He also asserts the Mayor’s comments on Twitter are “inappropriate and not accurate,” stressing again that Lake Muskoka was drawn down, and more so than in previous years in preparation for the spring freshet.

Three samples of Mayor Murphy’s Tweet during the flood (Starts with April 23 Tweet to Toronto Star reporter Rob Ferguson):

@robferguson1 Different version playing out in #Muskoka: 4-Profit power operators appear 2b managing water levels. Higher head pond=more $s

Significant flooding damage on MoonRiver. @OntarioPowerGen managing both RagRapds (4 profit) & MoonDam. Interestingly, OPG CEO earns +$1.7M.

Has response by @OntarioPowerGen been unduly delayed? #Muskoka rains stopped 4 days ago yet water getting closer to municipal infrastructure

Editor Note: Muskoka News Watch has written to the Mayor and all Council asking if this was a letter from the municipality, if it means the Township wishes to have signatory status, and what risks and costs a seat at the table might entail.


Potential new healthcare site to be unveiled today in Muskoka Lakes

A new step forward in quest for local healthcare to be announced today in Port Carling

UPDATED May 9, 9am: The Port Carling Nursing Station Committee has been working on finding a good location for a nursing station in the township and it looks like they’ve found a potential spot. An invitation was issued yesterday from the Township of Muskoka Lakes to be there as the committee announces a “land acquisition for the future of health care in the Township.”

  • Details: Port Carling Nursing Station Committee Announcement
  • When: Thursday May 9, 2013 Time: 3:00 PM
  • Where: West Street off Hwy #118 in Port Carling. If the weather is poor, the healthcare ‘reveal’ will happen at the Township of Muskoka Lakes office.

The Port Carling Nursing Station Committee is planning to share the land with the Port Carling Lions Club and the Andy Potts Memorial Foundation. Committee Chair Allen Edwards (and Township Councillor) says the Lions club has been looking for space for a seniors centre and the Foundation is interested in hospice care so it made sense to try and find a space all could share. “It’s been a whirlwind as we work on making this happen for our community,” says Edwards, who has been a champion of better health care access in Muskoka. Also on the committee is Township Councillor Jean-Ann Baranik.

People in Muskoka Lakes have wanted a nursing station for about 11 years – the mission to get one started after one of the Township’s only doctors starting talking about retiring.



More help for flood victims from Bracebridge and Clement fundraiser

Clement Golf Classic will raise money for flood victims, Bracebridge offering free waste disposal vouchers

Posted May 1, 2.50pm: Golfing a few rounds with Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement at his Charity Golf Classic in Gravenhurst this summer will lend a helping hand to victim’s of this spring’s flooding. The Town of Bracebridge has also found another way to help out: people dealing with extra waste created from the floods can count on help from the Town with free waste disposal vouchers.

In a release today, Clement announced half of the proceeds from this summer’s Tony Clement Charity Golf Classic will go toward helping flood victims; the remaining portion will continue to support the Stan Darling Scholarship Fund, which gives bursaries to graduating high school students. This year, the charity tournament is being held on Monday, July 8 at the Muskoka Bay Club in Gravenhurst.

“After seeing the flood damage first-hand and discussing the clean-up challenges ahead with municipal leaders and affected constituents, I felt this was an opportunity to help, says Clement, who adds the funds will be provided to the Salvation Army for distribution to those in need in the flood’s aftermath.

“Each year I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the golfers and the sponsors who participate in the tournament and support these worthy causes,” he says.

“This generosity over the years has allowed us to continue to honour the memory of former MP Stan Darling

Flooded Dock, Lake Muskoka April 29
Flooded Dock, Lake Muskoka April 29

and help graduates from our six area high schools; and now we can also reach out to help others in need in our community.”

The Darling scholarships will be given again this year to students with an interest in the environment who are pursuing a post-secondary education in the fall. For more information or to register for the Golf Classic, contact Lorraine Etler at 705-641-1678.

Flood waste disposal program: For the Town of Bracebridge release about the Waste Disposal Voucher program, please click here.