I had the pleasure of attending the FOCA 2019 fall seminar on behalf of the Redstone Lake Cottage Association, which was held at the Boulevard Club in Toronto on November 16, 2019.
Below is a brief summary of the day.
The title of the Seminar was "Lake Stress, Road Egress, Water Tests, Extra Guests, Septic Checks" which was drawn from current issues and top ongoing concerns of FOCA members.
The sold out event, with a full house of 130 attendees plus another 36 webinar participants, commenced with greetings from Marlin Horst, President of the FOCA Board of Directors, who introduced FOCA's Executive Director, Terry Rees.
Terry provided an overview of current issues and updates on the following key ongoing files. Additional details can be found on the FOCA website: https://foca.on.ca/fall-seminar-2019/
You can also watch a video at https://youtu.be/2oCiwbrlAuc
The remainder of the day included presentations and discussions on the following four topics.
1. Septic Re-inspection Programs
Terry Rees introduced - Dr. Sarah Minnes, University of Saskatchewan, project researcher,
Sarah discussed the research, promising practices and rural policy implications for municipal re-inspection programs for residential on-site wastewater systems in Ontario. She discussed the successes, challenges and lessons learned with Municipal re-inspection programs and presented case studies of various Municipalities and Townships.
Paisley of WSP gave a snapshot of statistics and general management. Her discussions and slides included information on the number of systems and classes (class 1 - 5) in an example area. She provided charts showing examples of age of systems, code contravention types, such as trees, bushes, roots within bed area, cracked, broken or missing tank lids, solids exceeding 33% of the tank volume, metal septic tank or holding tank, or an outhouse (class 1 system) not being vermin proof. She also stressed that homeowners be present for inspection of their system and be educated in early detection of problems and on-going maintenance information.
Sandy, Building Inspector with the Township of Muskoka Lakes, talked about the programs and goals that the Township has in place.
Information from the above presentation can be found on the FOCA website: https://foca.on.ca/septic-systems/
2. Short-Term Rentals in Cottage County
Terry Rees presented the current issues and updates with Short Term Rentals (STR) and discussed the benefits and concerns, and how several Municipalities are regulating STR. The benefits can include tourism, fees/taxes and residents want the option. Some of the concerns include noise, garbage, parking, over-used septic systems, fires, fire safety and fireworks.
Bob Carter, Councillor Ward 1, Township of Minden Hills and President of Lake Kashagawigamog Organization, spoke about the challenges of regulating and problems with licensing. Information on how various Municipalities are regulating STR is available on the FOCA website - https://foca.on.ca/responsible-cottage-rental/
3. Feature Speaker – Dr. John Smol, Paleolimnologist
Dr. Smol, Paleolimnologist, Professor of Biology and Environmental studies at Queen’s University, presented a very detailed and interesting presentation “Under the Radar: Long-term Perspectives on Ecological Changes in Lakes”. He discussed the retrieving and studying of lake sediment cores to analyze the changes to our lakes and rivers due to natural and anthropogenic (resulting from human activity) stressors. He spoke about the importance of long term monitoring of aquatic ecosystems and explained how paleolimnological analysis has linked climate change with the proliferation of harmful blue-green algal blooms. Dr. Smol talked about the roles of phosphorus, calcium and chloride and where they come from and how this is changing over time. He mentioned multiple stressors, such as road salt, acid rain, longer summers, less ice and therefore less mixing. Dr. Smol’s talk was not recorded but the slides from his presentation are available on the FOCA website. FOCA also provided notes from a separate talk that Dr. Smol gave to the U.K. Royal Society in July 2019:
4. Rural Road Issues - Release of the FOCA 2019 Survey results
The summary of the results from the Rural Road Survey was presented by Michelle Lewin, FOCA’s Communications Coordinator and is available at: https://foca.on.ca/cottage-roads/
In between the day’s presentations we enjoyed lunch provided by the Boulevard Club. During the lunch break you could choose to sit at a table with a discussion topic that you were interested in. There were 10 different topics. I choose to partake in the Land Use and Development discussion. The majority of the participants in this discussion group had issues with development for the purpose of aggregates or trailers. It was a very interesting discussion and the time passed too quickly.
Once again, all the information from the seminar, and other very interesting and valuable information, can be found on the FOCA website. As a member of the RLCA you are automatically also a member of FOCA and can access information which is restricted to FOCA "members only". Just contact FOCA : email@example.com or at 1-705-749-3622 to get an access code. You can also sign up for FOCA Elerts to get the latest info and updates.
I would like to thank the RLCA for the opportunity of attending the FOCA seminar.
On August 10th and 11th, the residents of Coleman Lake participated in a weekend-long event on naturalizing their shorelines and their properties, sponsored by the RLCA. Julia Sutton, of Sweet Fern Consulting, was our guide for the weekend.
Julia first did a row-boat tour of the lake, to get an overview of the health of our shoreline. Which, due to several factors (no gas motor boats one of them) is in pretty good shape, though she did note some problem areas, mostly with the presence of some invasive non-native species.
On Saturday afternoon we held our annual meeting for residents of the area, where Julia gave us her assessment of the lake, followed by a very detailed and helpful discussion on the whys and how’s of naturalizing. Most important, she emphasized, was the fact that successful waste treatment consists of two parts: a working septic system (something the township is in the process of checking and enforcing already), and a naturalized shoreline. The latter acts as a buffer to capture and utilize the nutrients that even a good septic system will introduce into the soil, thus ensuring they don’t make it into a lake where they would foster algae growth. She encouraged us to develop a new garden aesthetic, and learn to appreciate the messy garden, instead of the cultivated beds of more urban settings.
In the second part of her talk, she introduced us to a wide variety of native plants that we might consider for our properties, covering not only shorelines but meadows, forest edges, and woodlands. All of the plants she discussed were available from Grow Wild!, one of her preferred suppliers.
John Smith, our councilor, spoke to us after Julia finished, adding his and the township’s strong endorsement of our efforts.
Over the course of the weekend Julia was able to visit 7 properties on or around the lake and give assessments and suggestions about where people could introduce more native species. Her approach was always an incremental one – ‘start small, or you’ll never start at all’ was the message. She offered suggestions for property-specific problems:
By the end of the weekend a number of residents had filled out order forms for plants, and in September we took delivery of over 200 plants, all of them arriving in great shape. Julia returned to help with planting or planting advice. We look forward to touring the results next summer.
If you’d like to consider hosting a similar event for your lake (or your nearby neighbors), the RLCA will be happy to help you with the planning. You can start by sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.