MUSKOKA - Missing solar panels and light standards turned the lights out on three Muskoka gateway signs over the past year and a half.
The lights went out on the gateway to Muskoka sign on Highway 11 northbound just before Gravenhurst last year when the solar panels were stolen. This is one of three of Muskoka’s gateway signs that have been vandalized over the last year and a half.
Photo by Bev McMullen
The signs, which are lit by solar-powered lights at night, welcome travellers to Muskoka from all directions. They were erected in 2010 for the G8 summit in Huntsville. It wasn’t long after they were lit that the lights started going out.
Marg French, commissioner of planning and economic development at the district of Muskoka, said the first sign was dimmed when part of the solar panel equipment was stolen from the sign on Highway 11 southbound before entering Huntsville in the fall of 2010.
That was the first of three.
Last spring the lights were kicked off at the sign on Highway 400 northbound by Georgian Bay.
Late in the summer, the solar equipment was stolen from the sign on Highway 11 northbound before Gravenhurst.
French said they replaced the solar equipment in the Huntsville sign and installed more secure boxes around the equipment. They also replaced the broken lights in Georgian Bay.
In Gravenhurst they had to go to more trouble.
Workers elevated and relocated the equipment so it was much more visible, said French.
Jeff Yeo, manager of facility services for the district, said the visibility was what they were trying to avoid in the beginning.
The original intent was to make it not as visible, so it blends in with the trees, he said.
“That obviously worked against us,” he added.
Replacing the equipment on the signs cost just over $6,000.
The problem isn’t restricted to district signs. One of Huntsville’s entrance signs is also solar-powered.
John Finley, economic development officer for Huntsville, said the solar panels disappear from the sign every year.
“It usually happens around hunting season,” he said.
“I’m not suggesting that some of the hunt camps are being outfitted in solar arrays, but its time period is in the fall.”
He said someone always comes in, slices the pole down and takes the solar displays.
This year they vandal-proofed the sign, but Finley declined to reveal what was done, in order to keep potential vandals in the dark.
Finley said the solar-powered lights that were used at Deerhurst at the G8 summit were given to the town and now line Centre Street into the downtown core.
More solid and in the public eye, “The vandalism has been zero on those,” he said.
Bracebridge and Gravenhurst currently do not use any solar-powered signs, so they have been able to avoid the theft problem.