HUNTSVILLE – The Huntsville Lake of Bays Lakes Council is contemplating a new meaning for its existence.
Huntsville Lake of Bays Lakes Council president Dr. Burr Atkinson, left, and past-president Tonia Di Sabatino at an annual general meeting on Aug. 25 weigh the option given by a council member to put the council on hiatus until next June, pending a review of the council’s purpose.
The lakes council was formed in 2002 to identify common issues facing area lake associations and to present those concerns in a single voice to government.
It also had a mandate to facilitate lake plan development and provide education on issues involving lakes and stewardship.
But president Dr. Burr Atkinson noted at the council’s annual general meeting on Saturday, Aug. 25, that it had largely reached the end of its mandate and lake associations were now distancing themselves from the council.
“The council started because the mayor at the time wanted to hear one voice from the lakes, not 20 voices. We did that. We made this council,” said Atkinson.
One of the main goals of the council was to promote lake planning among the various lake associations.
Those lake plans help lake associations identify and protect the physical, environmental and social values of a lake or river system to be implemented through stewardship and potential land use policies, according to Muskoka Water Web.
But most lakes now have plans in place that are recognized by municipal government.
“After the planning was done, some lake associations dropped out believing there is nothing more for this council to do,” said Atkinson. “I don’t quite feel that way. I would hope we still have a place. What we have to do is sit back now and ask ourselves what place we have.”
The lakes council once had 21 member lakes. It now has nine.
Rob Hurst, president of the Peninsula Lake Association, said that he had spoken to a few of the larger lake associations leading up to the annual general meeting and heard that some of the association’s are not interested in an umbrella council speaking for them.
“Here’s the fundamental problem. This council has a mission to have one voice to represent everybody,” said Hurst.
“Speaking as the president of the Peninsula Lake Association, we don’t want the lakes council representing us,” he said, noting that some lakes face unique issues.
“The idea that the lakes council would supercede what I’m doing in my lake, I don’t want that.”
He commented on lake associations having their own committee, websites, fundraising initiatives and volunteer requirements and then having those aspects duplicated at the lakes council level.
Hurst said some lake association presidents have commented that it is time for the lakes council to fold. He disagreed.
“Surely there is a way to come back to the fundamental (goal) of sitting around a coffee table and having an exchange of our common problems. We have a lot of common problems,” he said. “My hope is that we would take out ‘one voice for all’ because it’s counter-productive. It’s a waste of time. I’ve got enough on my lake. All of you who are on a lake association know what an enormous amount of work it is running a volunteer organization.”
Hurst introduced a motion to suspend all lakes council operations and meetings until June 2013 at which time the lakes council would review its purpose and mandate.
The revamped lakes council, he suggested, could be devoid of committee structure and fundraising activity and instead simply bring lake association members from across the region together four times a year to discuss concerns and share expertise on specific issues.
The council members passed the motion to suspend the lakes council pending a review of its purpose.