Fire and Ice Festival in Pictures

Fire and Ice Festival in Pictures:

From the ice skating trail at the top to the tube run in the middle and right to the bottom of Manitoba Street, everybody was having fun today at the Fire and Ice Festival in Bracebridge. The Fire Guy was swallowing fire, the sculptors had their chain saws buzzing, the Griffin was home to a ball hockey tournament, Elsa from the movie Frozen made friends everywhere and the volunteers were enthusiastic. Fireworks are planned for 7pm. Muskoka News Watch was there capturing the good times. Enjoy. Just click on an image to see it full size.


Update: Go Home Lake snowmobile crash victims identified; Haliburton victim identified

(GEORGIAN BAY) Two men are dead after a single snowmobile crash on the north end of Go Home Lake in Georgian Bay Township early this morning. They have been identified as 25-year-old James Bates of Milton and 22-year-old Jeffery Dunlop of Pickering.

Members of Bracebridge Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) detachment responded to a collision that occurred on the north end of Go Home Lake‎ at about 1am today (Saturday, January 30).

Given the isolated location and unstable condition of the ice, the OPP contacted the Canadian Armed Forces Joint Rescue Coordination centre (JRCC) based in Trenton, Ontario who dispatched search and rescue resources including a Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter and personnel to the scene.

The two male occupants of the snow vehicle were located and airlifted to West Parry Sound hospital where they were pronounced dead.

The investigation into this collision is ongoing and anyone with information is encouraged to call Bracebridge OPP at 1-888-310-1122.

Police in Haliburton County say on Friday night, four snowmobiles went through the ice of Dark Lake in Highlands East Township. One was not found until this (Saturday) morning. Dead is 53-year-old Thomas Rivers of Highland East.

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

Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long Term Care wants more information about the plan that would see Muskoka have only one centrally located hospital. While they’re seeking that info, the towns of Huntsville and Bracebridge are inviting people to a meeting Monday night at which the Mayors are expected to pitch for support from their Councils to keep both hospitals in their communities open.

Muskoka Algonquin Health Care (MAHC) says the Ministry’s Capital Planning Branch is seeking answers and also wants MAHC to continue exploring and evaluating the option of maintaining two Muskoka hospital sites.

MAHC expects ministry support to move forward with planning

“In their written response, the Ministry raises some questions that we are responding to and they are requesting additional information around some of the utilization data in our submission and the proposed future changes or variances in patient volumes,” says Natalie Bubela, Chief Executive Officer at MAHC. “With the clarification we are providing, we anticipate we will get their support to move into the Stage 1 planning phase.”

The Ministry letter references an expectation that MAHC’s Stage 1 Submission will explore and evaluate both the option of a one-site model or continued operation on two sites, and a new build versus the renovation of the existing sites.

Bracebridge offers to buy land for hospital
Bracebridge has offered to buy land for potential hospital site near Taylor Road; MAHC says offer won’t affect its site decision

The Stage 1 Submission is the next step in the Ministry’s capital redevelopment process where more detailed planning is required, such as a human resources plan, site selection and the local share plan detailing how the community portion of the capital build will be fundraised.

Bubela says MAHC is committed to continued engagement throughout the planning stages, in addition to a North Simcoe-Muskoka LHIN-led task force of which MAHC is an active participant.

“We will continue to update our communities on our progress and look forward to more opportunities to engage with our staff, physicians and volunteers, our political leaders and our communities to refine the future model,” she adds.

Once MAHC has received approval from the Ministry to proceed to next phase of planning, a steering committee will be formed to develop the Stage 1 Submission for review by the NSM LHIN and the Ministry’s Capital Planning Branch.

Meantime, the Towns of Huntsville and Bracebridge are holding a Special Joint Council Meeting to discuss a proposal for delivery of hospital services for the communities serviced by MAHC. The meeting will be held at the Algonquin Theatre in Huntsville at 7pm on Monday, February 1, 2016.

All Muskoka residents are encouraged to attend the meeting.

Featured photo shows South Muskoka Memorial Hospital in Bracebridge.

Related Articles:

July 6, 2015 MNW: Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare says $2million donation, land offers won’t impact hospital site selection

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Two charged after man assaulted in Huntsville

On January 26, 2016 just before 9:00pm Huntsville Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) along with Muskoka EMS attended a residence on Rockhaven Rd., Huntsville where a man had been assaulted.

Officers learned that two males entered a house on Rockhaven Rd in Huntsville and assaulted the lone male in the residence.  The victim was transported to a local area hospital where he was treated for his injuries.  The Muskoka Crime Unit along with the Scenes of Crime Officer assisted in the investigation from the beginning.

As a result of the extensive investigation, two males were arrested and have since been charged.
18-year-old Hudson MacDonald of Huntsville faces charges of Assault with a Weapon, Assault Causing Bodily Harm under the Criminal Code of Canada, and other charges of Failing to Comply with orders. The accused was held for a bail hearing and will return to the Ontario Court of Justice in Bracebridge on February 1, 2016 to answer to his charges.

18-year-old Ryley Picard of Huntsville also faces charges of Assault Causing Bodily Harm and Assault with a Weapon.  He will appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Huntsville on February 17, 2016 to answer to his charges.

Brandishing gun gets man 10-day sentence

A 27-year-old Moose Deer Point man is spending 10 more days behind bars after pulling a gun in the presence of his girlfriend while in a drunken, jealous rage. Gary Watcheston plead guilty to possessing a weapon dangerous to the public peace this week in Bracebridge Court.

On the 21st of December, police were called to an Isaac Bay Road address in Georgian Bay after hearing that a man was brandishing a gun, threatening to hurt himself and others. Watcheston, who had been in a year-and-a-half long relationship with his girlfriend at the time, had awoken around 1pm that day, left the residence and then returned two hours later. The girlfriend told police he had consumed a 6 pack of Heineken beer and a 26 ounce bottle of rum – and at some point he had told her he wanted to speak with her in the basement.

Court heard man went on drunken rampage, smashing mirrors and TV

Court heard he expressed jealousy and felt she might be seeing a friend and that his depression had been enhanced by the alcohol. Watcheston had been unemployed for a week at the time of the occurrence. Throughout the course of that day, Watcheston had broken a mirror in a bedroom, turned a dresser upside down and broke a large screen tv owned by the girlfriend’s father.

Crown Attorney Doug Kasko told court that Watcheston had produced a black 22 caliber gun and that at one point had put the barrel to his head suggesting he was going to shoot himself and possibly her.

Defense attorney Robin Bellows maintained her client had only threatened to harm himself and had even called police himself that day to let them know of his location. Police eventually located him along a nearby stretch of shoreline. Kasko said police heard a splash in the water before taking him into custody but were unable to locate the firearm. Watcheston’s prior record was clean save for a charge he received in Calgary back in 2011 for failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

Before his day in court, he had been a resident of the Moose Deer Point Reserve but had been asked to leave the reserve. A bail stipulation that he stay on the reserve meant he had nowhere to go, so he turned himself in. This meant he had already been in custody in the courts eyes for 5 days before his case was heard. Judge JD Evans sentenced him to time served plus 10 more days in prison. He’s also been prohibited from owning a weapon for five years and must pay a $100 victim fine surcharge.


Speed a factor in Machar Township man’s snowmobile death

A Machar Township man is dead following a snowmobile collision in Joly Township.

On Wednesday at 2:16pm, Almaguin Highlands OPP investigated after the collision occurred on the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) trail C105D near River Road in Joly.

The snowmobile drove onto the soft snow along the edge of the trail, then vaulted off a mound of snow into several trees.

55-year-old Brian Bradley of Machar Township succumbed to his injuries at the scene.

The Technical Traffic Collision Investigator (TTCI) attended and determined speed was a factor.

A post-mortem has been scheduled.

The investigation is continuing.

Related Articles:

January 25, 2016, MNW: Tiny Township Man dies after snowmobile hits bridge on Georgian Bay


Chilling crime scene details revealed at Bracebridge murder trial

By Matthew Sitler

Warning: Graphic content

Chilling photos of where Toronto businessman Paul Maasland’s body was found have been shown to jurors at his alleged killer’s murder trial in Bracebridge.

Invantage Inc. owner Todd Howley is charged with first degree murder in the death of his former business partner. During the third day of testimony the Crown outlined the macabre discoveries made at a public boat launch on Morrow Drive Monday, August 30th 2010.

That morning, a 27 year veteran of the Pickering Fire Department, Warren Johnson, had decided to launch his boat there for a fishing trip. While backing his truck and trailer into the launch, he thought he saw what appeared to be piles of garbage.

Stopping the truck to remove it before putting his boat in the water, Johnson made a shocking discovery.

“I saw a knee cap,” he told court. “That’s the first thing I saw.”

Johnson yelled at the mass and when there wasn’t movement, the reality of what he was facing started to sink in.

Body laid out on beach

Through photos and videos taken by police, court saw that Maasland’s body was laid out on the beach close to the water’s edge facing up.

His legs and feet were covered by a black garbage bag, as were his head and arms, which were stretched out over his head in the direction of the water.

The remaining portion of the torso, the bare chest and his green shorts covered mid-section were exposed to the air.

There appeared to be bruising in the chest area, as well as a red line burn across the width of the chest and what appeared to be a deep bloody gash on the chest’s right side.

A bloodstained rope lay on the garbage bag covering the arms and head, which police later determined had recently been cut from a larger section.

Maasland’s black polo shirt was covered by the top garbage bag, as it had been pulled up over his head. The pockets in his shorts were turned out.

In the space between the arms and the water’s edge, two pairs of knit gloves were found – one pair was pink, the other blue.

Further out into the water lay a Swiss Army watch. Two purple tote bags, plus a clear plastic bin lid that had a reddish brown stain on it, had been left to the right of the body.

Johnson was able to go and tell a resident who lived nearby. Police were called, then he and the neighbour returned to the scene – they were later joined by the neighbour’s wife and they waited for police.

The OPP investigation started in earnest with forensics arriving later that morning, following the arrival of local officers.

OPP Forensics Identification officer Brenda Thomas testified that upon lifting the gloves from the scene, she held them out in order to drain them as they were wet.

Like the garbage bags on the body, a red fluid drained from both sets of gloves.

The body was finally removed from the location at 4:48pm.

But by that time the investigation into Maasland’s disappearance had been gathering steam in other jurisdictions.

The day prior, an employee at Chattem Inc. a business located at 2220 Argentia Road in Mississauga had noticed a blue Subaru Forrester that had been left in a handicapped spot in the business’s parking lot.

The next day other employees noticed the out-of-place vehicle too.

These employees described what appeared to be blood on the steering wheel and gear shift, bloodstains on the outside back bumper and a smudge of blood on the rear hatch door.

A piece of what appeared to be particle board or woodchip was on the centre back bumper too, stuck in the blood. Sand particles were also mixed in with most of the exterior blood marks and were present in the vehicle’s right rear passenger foot well and trunk area.

Police secured the scene and transferred the vehicle to an investigation bay – they were able to identify it as Maasland’s.

Crown Attorney Mike Flosman said that during the investigation police were able to canvas 41 different area taxi cab companies in the hopes that a driver could provide evidence as to who left the vehicle at the spot and when.

He also told jurors police had determined that the suspect Howley would not have been able to get to his Oakville address from the location via bus or train within the relevant timeframes.

The taxi canvassing came up empty handed, but Flosman said the investigation soon shifted to other avenues, with police learning that Howley, back in 2007-2008, had opened an account at VWR International, a business that sold items via the Internet.

Account holders could also pick up ordered items in person at the company’s sales offices, of which there were three.

One was located just 250 metres from where Maasland’s 2009 Subaru had been parked and Howley knew an employee who worked there.

“It was their sole Ontario office,” said Flosman.


Clement salutes generosity of Parry Sound-Muskoka residents

(OTTAWA via release) Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement rose yesterday in the House of Commons prior to Question Period to acknowledge, thank, and praise the citizens of Parry Sound-Muskoka for their continued support of charity, as well as their philanthropic and volunteer efforts.

“My community is a generous one, and I want to highlight some outstanding examples,” MP Clement said.

MP Clement cited charitable, philanthropic and volunteer instances from numerous communities within the riding, including Parry Sound, Huntsville, Minett, and Burk’s Falls.

“I am so proud to be their Member of Parliament,” MP Clement concluded.
Video of MP Clement’s statement can be seen at the following link:

Featured photo shows Tony Clement with Spaghetti Dinner for Syrian Refugees organizer Arleigh Luckett on Saturday, Jan. 23. Photo by Norah Fountain.

Bala Falls Update: Approved lease keeps park open to public

The Township of Muskoka Lakes (TML) yesterday voted 6-3 to authorize a lease of township lands to hydro developer Swift River Energy Limited.

Up to 200 people crowded in to the Port Carling Community Centre representing people both against and for the lease deal to hear the results of the vote. There were ten delegations against the lease.

Following the meeting, TML Mayor Don Furniss said people should understand that Council’s approval to lease lands to the proponent is not a carte blanche approval to build a small hydro plant. “The resolution passed only authorizes the lease of three parcels of Township owned land to the proponent, in return for not using Margaret Burgess Park for construction and keeping it intact for use by the public,” said Furniss.

He added the proponent will have other conditions to meet, including the payment of  $125,000. Furniss said he is hopeful Council will designate that money for the benefit of Bala. The proponent, he said, has also committed to the reconstruction of the portage landing site to make it handicapped accessible and provide viewing/observation platforms for the use of tourists and residents alike.

Lease to be made public

“I remain optimistic that people can start to see the benefits of this lease agreement, which will become a totally public document when executed by both parties,” said Furniss.

Frank Belerique, Vice-President of Swift River Energy Limited, said he was very pleased that the thrust of the lease had been achieved – to not use Margaret Burgess Park for construction.

He explains this means some changes to the company’s previous plans, which had originally included the park. “Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to be meeting with our engineering and technical team and we’ll now be excluding Margaret Burgess Park from our plan and incorporating the township lands into the plan instead. We’ll be resubmitting some plans to the Township for review because the scenarios do have an impact on design and constructability.”

Developer changing site plan; expects to break ground in June

As part of a building permit plan, a site plan needs to be submitted to Township. As a result, those existing plans need to be modified to exclude Margaret Burgess Park and include the lands beside the actual building site.

“Also, how we finish the building on the south side will now change,” he added. “It really improves the situation having the township land as it allows more efficient access to the lookout we are incorporating into the design of the building, and it allows us to dress the foundation wall with park like features instead of just a plain wall.”

Belerique says the company plans to break ground in June.

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Murdered investor was thrilled at seeing businesses succeed

Paul Maasland was a man who lived for the thrill of bringing projects to fruition and seeing the businesses he invested in succeed.

A portrait of the murdered 55-year-old Toronto businessman is emerging in Bracebridge Superior Court as the trial of his alleged killer Todd Howley continues.

Maasland, whose body was found bound in garbage bags at a Bracebridge boat launch on August 30th 2010 is being described as a ‘kind of shy’ man who enjoyed reading, playing chess and talking to others about his dogs.

A ‘predictable’, ‘consistent’ person, he belonged to a Toronto fitness club and spent time on and off in Muskoka at the family’s island cottage which was accessed by boat from the Pride of Muskoka Marina.

But like many who thrive on taking financial risks, he had his own demons.

Court has heard it was his alcoholism that led to he and his common-law wife Lee Stanton to live in separate locations before he died – she moving away to be closer to extended family, while he maintained an apartment on Pleasant Blvd in Toronto.

Afterwards, the couple kept in frequent contact with phone calls every few days and through regular visits – signs they were still very much committed.

But he was also diabetic and depressed court heard – the depression being partly fuelled by his feeling he didn’t have colleagues he could confide in.

Maasland had invested in a Todd Howley-owned company

Maasland had invested money in a company Todd Howley owned called Invantage, specifically funding an Algae bio fuel technology that was in development.

Despite two disappointing test results of the budding tech, Maasland maintained overall confidence in the project and continued to believe it would become a great success.

Again and again court has heard of Maasland’s positivity concerning the project’s potential.

According to testimony, Maasland invested $70,000 in the effort, being told by Howley he would get the money back after a government grant came in. The grant eventually came through, said Stanton, but Maasland wasn’t paid back.

Still, the investor maintained confidence, even while Stanton and his own Chief Financial Officer (CFO) became angry.

In a particularly curt email to Maasland, the CFO blasted the situation they were in with the project:

“I had a very different vision than Todd Howley,” he wrote Maasland. “I actually need to sell the shares of Verdant (Maasland’s company) for my daughter’s schooling.”

Maasland felt the CFO was overreacting and continued to support Howley, telling Stanton in a follow up email that the CFO “needs some anger management.”

It was in early August 2010 that Maasland informed Stanton that they would have to cut back on their own personal expenses due to the company’s financial situation.

Under cross examination by defence lawyer Breese Davies, Stanton maintained that despite Maasland’s general confidence in the algae project, he was still “concerned about the fact that Todd said he was going to pay him back and he didn’t.”

Illustrating the money drain it was becoming, court heard that in June 2010 Maasland sent Howley an email stating he wouldn’t be able to make one of the advances.

Before Maasland’s disappearance, a third test of the algae technology had been planned for Monday August 30th – the day his body was discovered in Bracebridge.

The day prior he had missed a lunch with his mother Mildred.

The trial is expected to continue for the next three months.

Related Articles:

January 26, 2016, MNW: Phone call with accused killer highlights testimony at Bracebridge murder trial

January 25, 2016, MNW: Trial of accused in Toronto businessman’s death opened today in Bracebridge

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Accused bear killer facing four new charges in Bracebridge

A Bracebridge man accused of killing a black bear by shooting it on his front lawn is facing four new charges.

65-year-old John Marks made a brief appearance in Bracebridge court this week.

Along with a careless use/storage of a firearm charge, he now faces four new charges under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.

They are:

  • Unlawfully discharging a firearm without due care and attention or reasonable consideration for people or property;
  • Unlawfully discharging a firearm across the travelled portion of a right of way for public vehicular traffic; and,
  • two counts of Unlawfully hunting big game, to wit, a black bear without a license.

The charges stem from incidents that occurred at 1 Pinewood Drive in Bracebridge on November 1, 2015.

Female bear and cubs found

According to police a high-powered rifle was used and when police arrived at the scene they found a deceased female black bear on the property’s lawn and live bear cubs in a nearby tree.

The new charges have been laid by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Marks’ next court appearance is scheduled for February 23, 2016 in order to give Defence Lawyer Peter Ward enough time to review the new charges.

Woman charged in connection with stabbing in Orillia

An 18-year-old Severn Township woman has been charged with assault after a stabbing in a parking lot on Front Street North in Orillia yesterday.

According to the Orillia Ontario Provincial Police, an altercation took place in the parking lot of the Metro grocery store on Front Street North. During the incident, one woman slashed another in the face with a knife. Police were contacted to attend the hospital where they found the suspect and arrested her.

Megan King has been charged with Aggravated Assault, and was held in custody pending a Bail Hearing today in Orillia court.

Phone call with accused killer highlights testimony at Bracebridge murder trial

By Matt Sitler

A phone conversation with an accused killer highlighted testimony today in Bracebridge Superior Court.

Lisa Maasland, sister of slain Toronto businessman 55-year-old Paul Maasland testified this morning at 53-year-old Todd Howley’s first degree murder trial.

She described a telephone conversation she had with Howley in the hours following her brothers disappearance.

Grisly discovery at Bracebridge boat launch

Maasland’s badly beaten body was found bound in garbage bags at a public boat launch in Bracebridge back in August 2010.

On Monday August 30th, Lisa Maasland called Howley, whose company her brother had invested in, to see if he had heard from Paul.

“Mr. Howley said that he had received a call on his cell from Paul’s cell phone at 12:53 on Sunday,” she testified. “He (Howley) also confirmed that he had (had) a tentative meeting planned (with Paul) on Sunday and that Paul never showed up. (He also said) Paul didn’t show up on Monday at a firm meeting and had not contacted him either.”

It is the second day of testimony at the murder trial and other witnesses have included Maasland’s mother Mildred and his common law spouse Lee Stanton.

Maasland went missing the weekend in question, missing a lunch with his mother on the Sunday and with the family becoming increasingly worried, calls to his cell phone were going unanswered.

“It was becoming very clear to me that Paul was missing,” stated his sister, who added that she didn’t get the sense from her phone call with Howley that he was angry or frustrated that her brother hadn’t shown up for their meetings.

Lee Stanton said Paul never showed up at the family’s Bracebridge cottage that weekend and that neither she nor Paul had ever been to the Morrow Drive boat launch where his body was eventually found.

On the Monday she called Paul to see if plans to bring his mother Mildred to the cottage on Tuesday (the next day) were still in place, but there was no response.

Crown Attorney Mike Flosman contends Howley struck Maasland on the body and the head until he was dead. Surveillance footage of Aug 29th shows Maasland’s blue Subaru entering a warehouse where Howley worked – the vehicle left after midnight, but it’s believed by the Crown that Maasland had already been murdered by that time. Howley has plead not guilty in this case.

Exhibit: In the Light of Winter on to March 20 in Port Carling

Two local artists are celebrating the precious and enchanting light of winter with a new exhibition opening Saturday, January 30.

In the Light of Winter by painters Gayle Dempsey and Donna McLaren explores our relationship with winter light. Their two-woman show runs from January 30 to March 20 with an Artists’ Reception February 7 from 2-4 pm at the Muskoka Place Gallery in Port Carling.

“The light we see in winter is precious,” says Dempsey. “It slips through the trees and casts shadows on the snow and beckons us to look closer, to focus on the quantity and the quality of the light we see, whether it be during bright sunshine or twilight.”

winter art exhibit Muskoka
Grandfather’s Hemlock by Gayle Dempsey

Winter sunsets strike McLaren who finds the contrast between the vast white-blue of the snow on the lake with the sun setting gold over the frozen horizon compelling.

A two-woman exhibit

The artists will display their new works side-by-side, examining the duality of light and shadow and of their own personal relationship. “The warmth we find in the light acts as a metaphor for the enduring friendship we share,” says Dempsey. “We both have deep roots in Muskoka and both gravitated back to the north end of Lake Muskoka. Our lives have taken turns of shared circumstance as both of us are caregivers. While we’ve exhibited our work many times with others and solo, it seemed right to do a show together now, and to examine the light of winter that so captivates us.”

Muskoka winter art
Donna McLaren (left) & Gayle Dempsey hold other wintry works on display starting Jan. 30

For this show, Dempsey is experimenting more with oil on canvas with some acrylic under paintings. Her paintings have been recognized with awards from the Muskoka Awards and the Muskoka Arts and Crafts Spring Show (2008).

Landscape artist McLaren uses soft pastels, acrylics, oils and mixed media. Her tendency toward realism is enhanced by gentle abstraction, giving a spiritual expression to her work.

Featured photo at top shows Donna McLaren’s painting “Last Light Winter 2016”. Photos by Norah Fountain.



Counterfeit US bills being passed in Muskoka

Bracebridge Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) would like to warn local retailers about an increase in counterfeit currency being passed in Muskoka.  During the month of January 2016, police have already responded to five incidents where counterfeit American notes of varying denominations have been passed to local businesses.

Should you suspect the authenticity of a note, recipients are encouraged to be wary and use the security features.  The method of payment (e.g. cash, debit or credit card) used in a transaction is a private agreement between the buyer and the seller. Each has the right to accept or refuse a bank note when accepting payment or receiving change.

Get to know security features to spot counterfeit bills

Individuals may access an interactive guide to explore security features at or

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 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.

Celebrating Muskoka wetlands on World Wetlands Day

(BRACEBRIDGE) The Muskoka Watershed Council is asking Muskokans to join the world February 2nd in celebrating wetlands, including our ones right at home. World Wetlands Day, designated in 1997, provides an opportunity to highlight the valuable contributions of wetlands.

The theme for 2016 is “Wetlands for our Future: Sustainable Livelihoods” to highlight the vital role of wetlands for the future of humanity and their relevance towards achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations.

Why have a day dedicated to wetlands? Wetlands are essential for human health and prosperity. They provide us with fresh water, ensure our food supply, sustain biodiversity, protect against flooding, and store carbon dioxide, all of which are important in Muskoka as well as the rest of the world.

Despite their importance, wetlands are still often considered wastelands. A staggering 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900, with more being lost every day.

Urban wetlands face pressure in Muskoka

The picture is not as grim here in Muskoka, where we continue to enjoy healthy wetland ecosystems; however, with almost 10% of the Muskoka watershed comprised of wetlands, their continued health is critical for Muskoka to thrive. Unfortunately, as reported in the 2014 Muskoka Watershed Report Card, where development is occurring, wetlands are being filled and drained, with our urban wetlands facing the greatest pressure.

The Muskoka Watershed Council supports the protection and preservation of all wetlands and encourages individuals to appreciate wetlands and the benefits they provide to people, wildlife and the environment. The first step is to learn about Muskoka’s wetlands and the species that rely on them. Learn more at

Photo by Gregory Johnston

Trial of accused in Toronto businessman’s death opened today in Bracebridge

Todd Howley’s trial opened today in Bracebridge Superior Court.

Howley was charged with first degree murder in the death of 55-year-old Toronto businessman Paul Maasland.

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

FBI arrested accused in 2011

Following the grisly discovery, the case soon stretched to the United States with an FBI task force eventually arresting the accused, Howley, on May 10th 2011 at a Dalton, Georgia hotel.

Muskoka News Watch will provide updates as the trial continues.

Tiny Township Man dies after snowmobile hits bridge on Georgian Bay

A snowmobiler is dead after he struck a low bridge Friday night on Georgian Bay in the Cogneshene area.

Police have identified 55-year-old Wayne Mailloux of Tiny Township as the victim of the crash.

Snowmobiler taken to hospital but died from injuries

Members of the Southern Georgian Bay Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) along with Georgian Fire, Georgian Ambulance, Muskoka Ambulance and Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) responded to the collision on Friday just after 10pm. JRCC took the rider to the Georgian Bay General hospital.

Investigators continue to probe the circumstances surrounding the cause of the collision.

Fire and Ice Festival fun in Bracebridge this weekend

The first FIRE & ICE Festival in downtown Bracebridge is on for this weekend. This Saturday, the Fire and Ice fest will be an all-day party to marvel at the demonstrations, join in the community activities, try out some unusual games and sports, and mingle around the fire pits.


There is a great line-up of things to do. What winter carnival is complete without a pancake breakfast? The Bracebridge Fire Hall plays host—and Elsa from the film, ‘FROZEN’, will drop by as well. There are crafts, stories, films, and warming centres at the Library and other downtown venues, as well as a matinee performance of ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ at the Norwood Theatre. The Bracebridge Scouts are showing a winter camping display, while the Girl Guides conduct singalongs at the campfire (where you can also wind down with some tasty treats). Kids can play with giant board games, courtesy of Santa’s Village, paint on ice canvasses, try out snowshoeing, skate with Elsa, and make some cupcakes.

Fire and Ice Festival for all ages

It’s not all kid stuff, though. The ‘big kids’ (aka adults) can join the ball hockey tournament at the Griffin Gastro Pub, take part in Lumberjack Games and Hillbilly Olympics, and have an energetic Fire and Ice Festivalround of OCTO-ball (a new version of Dodgeball for every age). Try-it-out fat biking is available, hosted by Algonquin Outfitters; while Old Station will host an outdoor patio and Liv Muskoka will host a hot beverage bar and live music from 3 to 9 pm, followed by an after-hours party til the wee hours.


Everyone will love the main street snow tube run (with a kiddie ramp for the little ones), the skating trail in the Winter Village in Memorial Park, the giant igloo, snow yoga sessions, and the activities throughout the area. Special highlights are the ice carving demonstrations by Ice Cultures at 10:30am and 2:30pm, and the amazing feats of The Fire Guy, who eats and juggles with fire as well as performing a LED light show.


The Bracebridge Rotary Club is hosting fireworks at 7 pm, while the Memorial Arena features demonstrations by the Figure Skating Club, followed by an evening family skate.


This is certainly not your usual winter festival. FIRE & ICE is an imaginative experience to liven up the mid-winter season. The full schedule is available on the Activities page of the website; and the souvenir pass buttons ($5 for adults; $3 for kids 6-12; children under 5 free) can be bought on-site on Saturday, or in advance at the Bracebridge Visitors’ Centre at 1 Manitoba Street.


Visit for full details on all the activities, and be sure to come downtown to celebrate winter in a wonderful way.

Submitted photos

Teen charged after woman assaulted on Front Street in Orillia

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Orillia Detachment Crime Unit is currently investigating the report of a sexual assault that occurred on Front Street South in the Orillia and has laid charges.

On Tuesday, January 19, 2016 at approximately 7:55p.m., the Orillia OPP responded to an assault on a female on Front Street South.  Police were advised by the victim that she had a verbal altercation with an unknown male and that the male then grabbed her arm and pulled her into a driveway between two houses.  The male touched her inappropriately before she managed to flee and call police.

Nineteen-year-old Brandon Hennigar of Ramara Township has been charged with Sexual Assault and held in custody pending a Bail Hearing.

Man pleads guilty to possessing stolen goods from Muskoka Wireless and Electronics

By Matthew Sitler (January 21 9 am BRACEBRIDGE) An 18 year old Bracebridge man got his first taste of adult court this week when he was placed on 12 months probation after pleading guilty to possession of stolen items.

Cole Doley’s case was heard in Bracebridge court on Tuesday.

Crown Attorney Ted Carlton said that on August 3rd, there was an early morning break-in at the Muskoka Wireless and Electronics Store in Bracebridge and that items including an iPhone charger, utility knife, headphones and a diving knife were all stolen.

Carlton explained that Doley didn’t commit the theft, but offered the items for trade/sale after the fact.

This started to come to light 5-6 weeks after the theft at a Cambrian Court address in Bracebridge, said Carlton, when Doley displayed stolen items that were available for trade.

Court heard this happened on at least two separate occasions at the residence and that someone visiting there believed the goods may have been stolen from his friend’s parents store.

Stolen knife and machete

On one of the occasions, Carlton said Doley produced a stolen knife and a machete and sold it to a third party for $20. Carlton said Doley also made comments to the effect that he knew the items were stolen. The OPP were then called and obtained a search warrant for the premises on September 14th.

Court heard that Doley was living at the address at the time with the person who had actually committed the thefts.

“He (Doley) has a significant youth record,” said Carlton. “It’s a real concern that after he turns 18 years old, he’s in possession of stolen property and willing to sell it.”

While he suspended the passing of sentence, Judge JD Evans placed Doley on 12 months probation. The 18 year old also has to complete 24 hours community service.

Lawyer Robin Bellows told court that as an adult, Doley now has community resources he is accepting and inviting into his life. These include services provided to him through Community Living and a youth job connection program.

Baysville man charged in worldwide Ponzi scheme back in court March 9


(January 20 11am BRACEBRIDGE by Matthew Sitler) Former Baysville resident Nicholas Smirnow, the man charged in an alleged $70 million worldwide Ponzi scheme, is slated to return to court in Bracebridge on March 9th.

Bracebridge Court officials say it will be for a preliminary hearing that will help determine if there’s enough evidence for the case to go before Superior Court.

Smirnow currently faces one count of theft and three counts of fraud.

He was arrested in December 2014 at Pearson Airport in Toronto after arriving back from the Phillipines and has been in custody ever since.

He’s alleged to have been involved in a scheme that defrauded more than 40,000 people in 120 countries via the ‘pathway to prosperity’ website, which lured investors by suggesting they could earn high rates of returns with minimal or no risk.


Related Articles:

November 24, 2015 MNW: Accused Ponzi schemer awaits next court appearance

Cambridge man handed stiff fine for impaired driving

(January 20, 8am BRACEBRIDGE by Matthew Sitler) Tips to police about an erratic driver along Highway 11 have led to a stiff fine and driving prohibitions for a Cambridge man. This week, 43 year old John Bennett plead guilty to an impaired driving charge stemming from incidents that occurred on September 3rd.

That day, the OPP received two reports about a vehicle seen weaving and heading north towards Huntsville.

A responding officer parked near Madill Church Road and Hwy 11NB to watch for it – shortly thereafter a passing motorist even notified the officer through an open window that the suspect vehicle was heading his way.

Impaired driving suspect pulled over in Huntsville area

The officer soon saw the Audi SUV and started following it, driving in such a manner that other motorists couldn’t get close to the SUV, which was finally pulled over near the Aspdin Road turnoff.

Bennett, the driver, was said to have had glossy eyes and court heard the officer also saw him stumble and recover upon exiting the vehicle. The officer also noted he was generally unsteady on his feet.

Crown attorney Ted Carlton told court a bottle of vodka was later found in the SUV’s backseat. Bennett had been driving to a cottage.

Two breath samples were taken with high readings of 350 and 330 mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood respectively.

Carlton made a point of noting this and the dangerous driving that took place through a main thoroughfare of the district.

“Fortunately, there were no collisions or injuries in this case,” he said.

Judge JD Evans found Bennett guilty and handed him a $2,500 fine, plus a $750 victim fine surcharge.

Bennett is also prohibited from driving for 1 year and faces two years probation after that in which he can’t operate a motor vehicle with any alcohol in his system and not if the vehicle doesn’t have an interlock device.

UPDATE: Stiff fine and driving prohibition for man charged with crashing into Bala LCBO

The man charged with two drunk driving offences after an LCBO in Bala was crashed into in November has been handed a stiff fine and a one year driving prohibition.

OPP arrested 26-year-old Branden MacLeod after they responded to the crash just before 4:30am on Nov 1, 2015.

He was initially charged with impaired operation of a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle with too much alcohol in his system. His drivers license was immediately suspended upon his arrest and the vehicle was also impounded.

MacLeod was sentenced this week in Bracebridge court. He received a $1,200 fine and one year driving prohibition. He has four months to pay the fine.

Photo shows damage to Bala LCBO after it was crashed into in November.

Climate change focus of Muskoka Watershed Council meeting

(January 19, 2016 9pm BRACEBRIDGE) What does climate change mean for Muskoka? Find out by hearing a new report from the Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC). All are invited to join MWC members at their monthly meeting in the Council Chambers at the District of Muskoka Administration Building at 1 pm on Friday, January 22, 2016 as they discuss our changing Muskoka climate and how to plan for it.

Evidence shows that climate is now changing more rapidly now than at any previous time in the history of human civilization.

climate change impact on Muskoka
What will a warmer and slightly wetter climate mean for Muskoka’s trees? What will our forests look like in 2050?

Over the past 18 months, MWC, with the assistance of local experts, has been considering what this means for Muskoka and MWC’s findings will soon be available in its new “Planning for Climate Change in Muskoka” report.

Dr. Peter Sale reports on climate change impact on Muskoka

This report examines the likely impacts of the mid-century climate on our lakes and waterways, our forests, our built infrastructure, our communities, and our way of life. The report includes recommendations for actions to address some of those impacts, including recommendations for provincial agencies, district and municipal governments, local businesses, community groups and individual Muskokans.

Attendees will hear a presentation from Dr. Peter Sale, Chair of MWC and lead author of the paper, about what Muskoka’s climate will likely be in 2050 and how this will affect our environment and lifestyle.

Members of the public are welcome to attend MWC meetings to learn about issues that are important to watershed health. Learn more about the Muskoka Watershed Council by visiting .

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

Bracebridge man faces sentencing in horrific spousal abuse case

By Matthew Sitler

(January 19, 9pm BRACEBRIDGE) A Bracebridge man charged in a horrific case of spousal abuse is to be sentenced March 8th.

Warning: This article includes graphic content related as evidence in court today that may be upsetting to some readers.

31-year-old Sanjay Singh plead guilty in court today to charges of assaulting and choking his wife at their Bracebridge apartment.

Crown Attorney Ted Carlton said the incidents started August 3rd shortly after midnight when Singh arrived home to his wife who was sleeping at the time.

Carlton said Singh was upset about an alleged infidelity said to have happened back in June between his wife and a local pub employee.

Earlier on the night in question, court heard he had confronted the employee at the pub and had subsequently been asked to leave by the establishment’s owner.

Carlton said that when Singh arrived home, he grabbed his wife by the hair in the bedroom and dragged her into the kitchen where he threw her to the floor, causing her head to strike a dryer.

Court heard Singh then stood over her, punching her repeatedly in the face, causing her nose to break and two of her teeth to be chipped. She also suffered another loosened tooth and a large laceration above an eye that required stitches.

At this point court heard she was able to get up while pleading for him to stop.

Carlton said Singh gave her ice for the bruising and swelling, but got upset again and threw her down a second time. Carlton said Singh then started to choke her.

“She could feel her head getting warm,” said the Crown Attorney, “she was gasping for breath and noticed her line of vision starting to shrink.”

Spouse feared she would die

Carlton told court she feared she was going unconscious and that she would die.

It was at this time a light went on in the couple’s young son’s bedroom and the son came out of his room.

Carlton said Singh told her “not to hide behind their son” and the assaultive behaviour continued shortly afterward, with Singh throwing his wife into a bathtub in the bathroom where she again struck her head.

Carlton said she pleaded for him to stop, but he threw a cup of water in her face and “told her she was clean.”

Continuing to call her abusive names, court heard Singh yelled at her to get dressed, with the apparent plan of all of them going back to the pub.

He, she and the young son eventually got in their vehicle, with the young son in the booster seat. It was there Carlton said the wife was successful in persuading him not to go to the pub.

They instead returned to the apartment – a neighbour by then had called police.

In the apartment, Carlton said Singh told his wife “do you know who I am? Do you know what I am capable of?”

He reportedly gave her his cell phone to call someone for help, but she refused, fearing things might escalate further if she did.

Carlton said Singh then handled some kitchen knives, referring to them as weapons, and suggesting she use them against him.

According to Carlton, Singh said “police will come and shoot (me)” and that he ‘was ready for it.’

Carlton said Singh struck his wife again on her left ear, causing a persistent ringing sound and she fell to the ground, striking her tailbone. After this, court heard he dragged her by the hair into the living room with her screaming for help.

It was now 1am and police and paramedics arrived. Carlton said police found the woman crying for them to ‘save her son’.

Police found Singh in the kitchen, saying he was going to kill and burn himself – he reportedly put his face close to a stove element and they thought they could detect a burning smell, possibly hair. Police took Singh into custody and his wife was taken to hospital.

The victims injuries included multiple contusions, swelling, a nasal fracture, sore neck, abrasions along her spine and brushing and swelling.

Carlton said the woman had made a full recovery from the injuries by October. He reiterated to the court how she was smaller in stature to her attacker.

Judge JD Evans found Singh guilty of the two counts he was facing.

A pre-sentence report has been ordered and Singh is to be back in court March 8th for sentencing.



OPP and OFSC launch Provincial Snowmobile Safety Week

(January 19, 2016 ORILLIA) The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) have launched Provincial Snowmobile Safety Week (January 16-24, 2016) with a message for snowmobilers to focus on their own personal safety and the well-being of others.

Riding within the law and making smart choices is the only way to ensure an enjoyable ride that gets you home safely to your family at the end of the day.

With the campaign under way, the OPP and OFSC are reminding snowmobile enthusiasts to stay off the lakes and waterways for the time-being as conditions are generally poor in many parts of the province.

Stay on OFSC Prescribed Trails and don’t ride impaired, speed or ride after dark.

Last winter, the OPP investigated 15 snowmobile-related fatalities, a decrease from the previous two winters (21 in the 2013-14 season and 18 in the 2012-13 season). While the OPP and OFSC are relieved to see fewer lives lost, data clearly indicates that riding impaired, speeding and riding after dark continue to be major contributing factors in snowmobiling incidents:

  • 58 per cent of snowmobile-related fatalities involved alcohol or drugs
  • 57 per cent involved speeding or riding too fast for conditions
  • 58 per cent occurred at dusk or after dark

In particular, the OPP and OFSC are looking to middle-aged males to ride with extra care and control this winter as 87 per cent of last season’s snowmobile-related fatalities involved male riders and 58 per cent were riders or passengers between the ages of 35 and 54.

OPP & OFSC Advocate Making Smart Snowmobile Choices  

The campaign is also a great opportunity to caution all snowmobilers about avoiding road running wherever possible. Where snowmobiling on the side of a public road is legal and necessary to access trails, you should always:

  • Adjust your speed to the conditions.
  • Watch out for parked vehicles and motor vehicles emerging from driveways.
  • Always give motor vehicles the right of way.
  • Be extra cautious when approaching intersections.
  • Observe and respect all traffic signs.
  • Slow down wherever snow banks obstruct your view.

The motoring public is also being reminded to watch for snowmobiles along roads or those that cross roads at snowmobile trails.

The OPP is committed to saving lives on Ontario’s highways, trails and waterways through the reduction of preventable injury and death. Initiatives are developed and delivered through the Provincial Traffic Safety Program.

The OFSC is committed to proactive leadership in promoting safe, responsible riding, on and off Ontario snowmobile trails, by building safer snowmobiling knowledge, attitudes and behaviours through rider education, safety legislation development and enforcement.

For more information, visit:

Safe and Responsible Snowmobiling <>

Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs <>

Councillor walk out undemocratic, irresponsible and unethical

Commentary by Norah Fountain

(Posted January 17, 2016, 2:30pm MUSKOKA LAKES) The public walked in but four Councillors walked out on Friday at the Township of Muskoka Lakes Council meeting. There would be no more business conducted that day as Township no longer had quorum, said the clerk. That included reporting in public session what had been decided – or not – in the closed session preceding.

Normally after closed session, the Council comes back in to open public session so the public can be informed of decisions made in closed session. According to the public record, the open session started up again at 3.22pm and ended sharply at 3.25pm when Council suddenly didn’t have quorum and could not proceed.

One member of the public said she saw Acting Deputy Mayor Donelda Kruckel and Councilor Phil Harding walk out just after open public session started (Sandy Currie and Ruth Nishikawa may have already left). Later that evening, Township Councillor Terry Ledger posted on her Facebook page that all four Councillors had walked out on Council.

Why did they leave? It’s easy to speculate as all roads, to quote a former CAO, still lead to Bala Falls. While many taxpayers want Township Council to move on to other business, there always seems to be another delay trick up the sleeves of the Save the Bala Falls lobby group and the four Councillors who seem to always be on side with them – even when the protestors take legal action against the Township.

So let’s unpack this. Since the court had ruled on December 24 against stopping a proposed lease of township lands to the hydro developer, it only stands to reason that the very next session of Council might include:

a) a vote on the lease; and/or,

b) an update or decision on whether to seek court costs from Save the Bala Falls to mitigate the impact for the taxpayer, especially as the lobby group has filed an appeal. Note: The Township has insurance to cover legal costs but when that insurance is used, premiums go up, so tax dollars do get spent in the end.

Lease was discussed

We don’t have to speculate, however. An email shared with Muskoka News Watch and other media confirms that it was a vote on the proposed lease that ruffled feathers of at least Harding who states he is concerned about details of the lease. Putting aside the fact that sharing information from closed session is a No-No, let’s hear Harding’s concerns anyway.

That’s right – why not bring on the lease details and determine how damaging they might be? The basics have been public knowledge for well over a year: $125,000 rent money in return for the slice of township land and the township parking lots. The additional details (some of which were shared in court on December 14 according to attendees) must be horrendous to cause four Councillors to walk out. The result of that departure? They delayed decision making and blocked the public’s right to know the information that was shared in closed session – presumably related to the information Harding wants to be shared publicly. For Councillors who demand public transparency, taking action to make it impossible for information to be shared with the public seems more than counter productive. It seems devious.

It was really the two that reportedly were last to leave (Harding and Kruckel) that tilted the scales against Council having quorum. Had even one stayed, business could have continued on. Without quorum, the Council can’t proceed in any meeting. And that means the public has to wait to hear whatever had been going on. (Note: To have quorum, Muskoka Lakes Council must have at least six Councillors in the room. Three minutes into the public session, four Councillors had left, leaving only five).

You can’t represent voters when you walk out

Assuming it was a premeditated action – and that the Councillors didn’t all just suddenly get so angry they didn’t know what they were doing – we have to question whether we’re getting adequate representation from them at the council table. While it may be good for Councillors to press for more public consultation, there’s been over 12 years of consultation on this one issue, more than any other issue this writer can recall. Plus, at some point, Councillors have to remember that we vote them in to represent us, the public. We’ve let them know where we stand – over and over again. If representing us means presenting their strongest argument because they truly believe something is bad, they should stay and fight and vote. If they’re losing the vote, they can always ask that the vote be recorded so the constituents who agree with them know at least they tried.

Walking away from that duty may delay the inevitable, but it isn’t democratic, responsible or ethical.

Supporters of Save the Bala Falls deserved to hear the Council decision on Friday, as did every other Township resident.

What about the ‘b’ theory of what might have or might not have been discussed in closed session: What if it’s not all about delay? What if it’s about money? Pure speculation here but sometimes it pays to follow the money. Did the idea of trying to recoup lost tax dollars by applying court costs potentially add to the Councillors’ decision to flee? If hitting Save the Bala Falls up for legal costs was discussed, the Councillors need to be reminded they are supposed to protect the public purse – no matter what their personal feelings or where they think their next votes will come from. If they think differently, maybe they should get their wallets out instead of ours.

Save the Bala Falls appealing Court decision

Speculation, yes, but since an appeal of the Court’s decision is in progress and the Township lawyer was seen entering the Council chambers, one can draw the conclusion that legal costs might have got at least a brief mention.

Finally, but not of least importance, there is the issue of protecting Margaret Burgess Park. The longer Council drags its heels on publicly passing a lease that will keep the park beside the Bala United Church open for the community, the more tired the developer will become of waiting. The developer says it has all the permits it needs to fence up the park.

Years ago, a few Councillors (now former councilors) said they weren’t willing to ‘roll the dice’ on the hydro plant issue when protestors believed they could frustrate the developer enough to make them drop the whole thing. Today we still see four Councillors gambling with the best interests of the town of Bala – and letting the entire township down in the process.

Related Articles:

January 17, 2015, MNW: Bala Falls update: Save the Bala Falls appeals Court ruling re lease

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

For Your Interest: In June 2015, King’s County in Nova Scotia saw councilors stage a walkout. Here is that article from Kings County News: “You can’t represent them when you’re not in your seat”

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


Bala Falls Update: Protestors appeal court ruling against them

(January 17, 2016 1.55pm BRACEBRIDGE) The Save the Bala Falls lobby is not taking no for an answer: the protestors are appealing a December court ruling that the Township of Muskoka Lakes (TML) does have the right to seek a lease arrangement with hydro developer Swift River Energy Limited.

Court documents obtained by Muskoka News Watch show Save the Bala Falls is again seeking an injunction “restraining the corporation of the Township of Muskoka Lakes from leasing or selling the property” in question. That property is township land right beside the site where Swift River is planning to build a small hydro facility in Bala. In December, Justice Wood ruled against the request for an injunction.

Eight grounds for appeal cited

In its appeal, the lobby group contends Wood erred in law and fact in regard to eight items, including that TML Policy C-LS-01 (which has to do with the sale or disposition of land) does not apply to the lease.

Related Articles:
December 24, 2015, MNW: 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). Your support is needed and appreciated. Thank you!

Hospitals seek focus group members for quality improvement planning

(Friday, January 15, 2016, Muskoka) Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) is looking for volunteers to take part in a focus group to help shape quality improvement plans for Muskoka hospitals. A release today stated quality of service and safe care to patients is an important priority at the hospital sites, and that a Quality Improvement Plan is an essential tool that is developed annually and sets safety and quality targets for the organization to achieve.

“The 2016-17 Quality Improvement Plan will focus on delivering high-quality health care and creating a positive patient experience while strengthening our focus on access to care, safety and integration,” says Chief Quality & Nursing Executive Karen Fleming. “We want to ensure the 2016-17 plan reflects what is important to the patients and families we serve in our communities.”

Community Focus Group Participants Wanted
Fleming invites members of the public who are interested in quality improvement at MAHC to register to take part in a Community Focus Group scheduled on Tuesday, January 26, 2016, from 1 to 3:30 p.m. To sign up,  contact Christine Loshaw at 705-645-4404, ext. 3104 or email .

“We continue to explore new ways to provide care in order to meet our patients’ expectations and improve their hospital experience through safe and high-quality care,” Fleming says. “Directly involving those we serve in the creation of the plan is the best way to reflect what’s important to them. I look forward to a fulsome conversation with our community about the contents of this important tool.”

All public hospitals in Ontario are required to develop and follow a Quality Improvement Plan. For more information about hospital Quality Improvement Plans, visit the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care website <>.

Jan 29 Home Game devoted to fire safety

(January 16, 2016) The January 29 home game of the South Muskoka Shield is Fire Safety Night – the Shield will welcome Sparky and the Gravenhurst Fire Crews.

Shield end first half of season on high note

(December 19, 2015 Shield Update by Sue Penwarden) The South Muskoka shield won both games again on the weekend and are presently in first place in the Northern division of the GMHL.

Friday night they hosted the Sturgeon Falls Lumberjacks in a 3-1 game.  Goalie Mosny was robbed of his shutout with just 0.6 seconds left on the clock.   It took a shootout to win in Bracebridge against the Blues on Saturday night.  Final score was 4-3.

The next game is in Haliburton on Jan 7 and next home game is Jan 8 at the Graeme Murray Areana.

The players, owners, volunteers and fans would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

(December 6, 2015 SHIELD UPDATE by Sue Penwarden) The South Muskoka Shield extended their win streak to 15 this weekend with a 1-0 win over Almaguin Friday night and 4-3 win over Seguin Saturday night.   The Shield are sitting in first place in the Northern division of the GMHL and second overall. Goalie Robin Gustavsson who currently sits on top the leader board with a .950 save percentage was a driving force of the Friday night win. The depth of the goalie cadre shone Saturday night when Garret Wills stood between the pipes with a .929 saves percentage.
The Shield hit the ice next Friday at 8pm at the Graeme Murray Arena in Gravenhurst against the Coldwater  Falcons.  The team will be collecting new unwrapped toys for the local toy drive.   

(November 23 SHIELD UPDATE by Sue Penwarden) The SOUTH MUSKOKA SHIELD  added 4 more points to the win column this weekend with a 11-1 win over the Bobcageon Storm Friday night and a 6-2 win over the Seguin Huskies In a Sunday afternoon battle.

The Shield currently sit in second place behind the Temiscaming Titans however the Titans have played 3 more games than the Shield.

Next home game is Friday November 27 when they honour frontline responders with the second annual Brad Pearsall night.  With proceeds going to Tema Conter in support of those suffering from PTSD.

(October 19 SHIELD UPDATE by Sue Penwarden) The South Muskoka Shield had a productive time over the weekend. They were in South River on Friday night to take on the Almaguin Spartans. In a game riddled with penalties the Shield came out on top with a 5-3 win which included a last minute empty netter.

On Sunday night it was off to Bradford to take on the Rattlers in a heartbreaking 4-3 loss.

Monday the Shield took on the Coldwater Falcons in Coldwater. The Shield dominated right from the 1:19 mark of the first period. Carl Lyden, Juraj Kamenicky and Karlis Lagzdins each contributed 2 goals throughout the game and were the 3 stars in the 10-2 decision.

The Shield play next on Friday night and will be supporting the community with the annual Pink in the Rink game. Wear PINK on the this special night and a portion of your ticket cost will be donated on behalf of the team to the Canadian Cancer Society in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness.

Also it will be our first of 3 nights supporting   K.P. Manson Public School reading program. Buy your tickets at the school and a portion of the ticket costs will be donated back to the school.  It will be a fun night for all.

Sold! Ryde Community Co-op now owns former Ryde Public School

(January 13, 2016 RYDE) Members of the Ryde Community Co-operative are excitedly spreading the news that all their efforts have paid off and they can now call the Ryde Public School officially home. The Co-op sent out an email this morning.

Last night the trustees of the Trillium Lakelands District School Board voted unanimously to accept the co-op’s offer for the building. That sale is now a done deal effective today.

“It’s a win-win for both sides,” Board co-chair Bruce Reain told attendees of a Community Partners Breakfast meeting this morning in Bracebridge. “Under new legislation, we have to dispose of buildings we’re not using, so this is a very successful arrangement.”

The co-operative bid $135,000 to buy the former school. Ryde Public School, now the official home of the Ryde Co-op, is located at 1624 Barkway Road. It has been over 15 years since students attended Ryde Public School – they moved over to Muskoka Beechgrove School in 1999. The community co-operative has been using the school as its base since 2000.

Submitted photo.

Related Articles:

August 9, 2015, MNW: Ryde Co-op hopes to keep its home at Ryde Public School

One firefighter hurt while battling house fire in Utterson

(January 8 11am UTTERSON) Muskoka Lakes firefighters were busy overnight fighting a house fire in Utterson.
Just after 6pm, fire crews from Station 7 (Windermere/Raymond), Station 9 (Milford Bay), and Station 6 (Port Carling) responded to a fire at 60 Patterson Road.

On arrival, they found the two-storey home had smoke coming from all roof vents with fire visible on the main floor living room. They were able to quickly extinguish the fire in the living room and rooms above. Unfortunately the fire continued to progress inside the walls and into the attic. Fire crews continued to battle the fire to bring it under control by 4am.

Fortunately, no one was home at the time of the fire, so no residents were hurt. But one firefighter was injured from falling debris and was transported to hospital. The firefighter was assessed and released with a minor concussion.

Fire Chief Richard Hayes says the building remains but with considerable damage to the structure and contents. The estimated dollar loss is $350,000. Fire investigators remain on scene to determine the origin and cause of the fire.

While no persons were home to hear the smoke alarms, they were present as required by the Ontario Fire Code.

School buses vandalized in Gravenhurst

(January 6, 1pm, GRAVENHURST) Bracebridge Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers are conducting an investigation into damage that was done to two school buses overnight on January 4, 2016 at a school bus yard in Gravenhurst.  Unknown suspects were able to enter a school bus and drove it within the confines of the yard, ultimately causing damage to the exterior of the bus.  A second school bus in the yard was damaged on the exterior as well.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact Bracebridge OPP at (888) 310-1122 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. You can 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.

Fast action by tenants and firefighters contain Torrance house fire

(January 4, 12:30pm) The Township of Muskoka Lakes Fire Department has released details of a fire in a Torrance home early on December 29. Here is the report from Fire Chief Richard Hayes: The Township of Muskoka Lakes Fire Department was dispatched to 2643 Muskoka Road 169 for a reported Structure Fire on Tuesday December 29th at 08:29.  Firefighters from Station 4 (Torrance/Walker’s Point), Station 3 (Bala), and Station 1 (Foot’s Bay/Glen Orchard) responded.  Upon arrival, crews quickly knocked down the fire, which was contained to the one wall of the living room.  Tenants were home at the time.  Fortunately, they woke from the smell of the smoke, and immediately called 911.  

Torrance fire
Interior damage. Submitted photo.

There were no injuries as a result of this incident.  Firefighters were able to rescue both family cats.  Damages are estimated to be between 10,000 to 15,000 dollars. Due to the quick actions of the firefighters, the damage was attributed only to the structure itself, all of the tenant’s contents were undamaged.  The Fire Department wants to remind residents to ensure they have installed and maintain working smoke alarms on every level of their home and outside sleeping areas.   Replace smoke alarms every 10 years. Additionally, if you have a fireplace, fuel-burning appliance or attached garage you must have a Carbon Monoxide alarm installed outside all sleeping areas within the home.

Feature photo of firetrucks in front of home by Norah Fountain. Interior photo submitted by the fire department.