THE MUSKOKAN - Muskoka cottagers could soon be getting a detailed analysis that lists what each of them is doing right and wrong when it comes to protecting their waterfront.
The Muskoka Watershed Council will be piloting a shoreline inventory project next year that has the potential to go provincewide. Along with organizations in the Rideau Lakes, Kawartha Lakes and greater Sudbury areas, the Watershed Council will be taking a closer look at individual properties on cottage country lakes and reporting back to landowners with a synopsis of what they’re doing right and where they can improve.
The Watershed Council has been undertaking its own shoreline inventory since 2002, and has completed all 15 of the over-threshold lakes in Muskoka. However, this new project takes a new approach.
“It’s different in a couple ways,” explained Judi Brouse, director of watershed programs for the District of Muskoka. “The data we’re collecting is going to be a little more site specific, so we’ll look a little bit more at the substrate, what’s in the water, the aquatic vegetation, and then we’ll actually develop property specific stewardship suggestions or programs and, working with the (lake) associations, hand deliver those to each property.”
The shoreline inventory completed in past years focused on the lake as a whole, said Brouse, without getting down to the property specific level. The new inventory will employ district field staff using GPS (global positioning system) and GIS (geographic information systems) on a property-by-property basis to document not only shoreline substrates and vegetation above and below the waterline, but also shoreline structures. It will conclude with each landowner receiving positive encouragement to practice the best possible stewardship for their lake going forward into the future.
“Each property will get a four- or five-page report that says (for example), ‘You’ve done a really good job on your dock. It’s a pole dock; they’re important for all these reasons. You’ve done a great job in maintaining all your trees and that’s really good for these reasons. If you’re looking at doing something into the future, you might want to think about planting some shrubbery because that shrub layer is also important for these reasons.’”
A trial for the new pilot was completed this year with 10 properties on Leonard Lake, in cooperation with the Leonard Lake Association. Brouse said they are happy with the results.
The lakes to be inventoried next year have not yet been decided. The Watershed Council is still in discussion with several lake associations, whose cooperation is vital to the success of the project.
“It takes a lot more involvement on the part of the association,” said Brouse. “You really have to have an active association willing to look at some of these issues because obviously we can’t go out property to property; we just don’t have that type of staff resources. It has to be done by volunteers and really, if you’re going to change something on your lake, it has to come from within.”
The number of lakes that can be inventoried next year also depends on funding. The group currently has a Trillium Grant that will provide some of the necessary funds, but have also applied, along with the other areas involved in the pilot study, for a $100,000 Shell Fuelling Change grant. These grants are awarded based on a public voting system that concludes Oct. 31. Their funding proposal, Love Your Lake, under the auspices of the Canadian Wildlife Federation, is currently in second place with over 35,000 votes. To learn more about the project or to place your votes, follow the link for Love Your Lake from the Muskoka Watershed Council website at muskokaheritage.org/mwc.
“We’re really excited about it,” said Brouse. “A lot of times people don’t know what’s right or wrong. … so the more we get out there, the better they understand what they should be doing. And most people want to do the right thing for their lake.”