Haliburton County loves lakes with gusto
By Sue Tiffin
Published Sept. 5, 2017
When it comes to caring about and advocating for area lakes, Haliburton County does it like no other.
The message of success was one repeated with enthusiasm at a celebration recognizing the work and efforts of volunteers, funders, suppliers, partners and evaluators in the last of four years of the Love Your Lake project evaluating the shorelines of Haliburton County.
Paul MacInnes, chair of the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners’ Associations (CHA), has lived and breathed the project for the past four years, and at times became emotional as he congratulated the dedicated team who shared that passion, when they gathered to fill a room at a barbecue held at Sir Sam’s Ski and Ride in Eagle Lake on Aug. 24.
“The very first year before we even started, [a program partner] said to us, you will never get an evaluator to do more than 40 properties on a lake in a given day,” said MacInnes. “It will never happen.”
With more lakes to assess than funding, volunteers and evaluators looked to improve the productivity within the program, resulting in one evaluator setting a record of analyzing 103 properties in one day this year.
“The group of them achieved that kind of level on a regular basis, said MacInnes. “Don’t let anybody ever tell you that Haliburton can’t do it.”
The Love Your Lake program, organized by Watersheds Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation, aims to protect and improve shoreline and lake health through anonymous evaluations looking at the naturalization of shorelines of participating lakefront properties.
Local and regional organizations across the country, like CHA, are provided training, materials and partial funding to help assess properties, educate residents on the importance of environmental stewardship through shoreline care and re-naturalization and encourage improved water quality of area lakes.
Evaluators, trained through Trent University, looked at factors such as whether vegetative buffers were in place, if wildlife could thrive, if erosion was occurring and whether or not barriers or buildings were built directly on shorelines while assessing properties.
Not only did Haliburton County participate in the nationwide program, CHA exceeded the goals they had set. Aiming to survey 8,800 shoreline properties, they recorded information for 13,484 properties instead. The original goal of surveying 45 lakes was surpassed when information from 72 lakes was recorded. More than 100 volunteers put in 12,592 hours – the equivalent of 6.7 years of full-time work – organizing to assist nine students survey more than 1,000 kilometres of shoreline.
Organizers hoped four shorelines could act as re-naturalized demonstration properties, but instead, 13 have undergone the process, with 25 in total to be finished in 2018.
“Haliburton came into the program with real gusto – really organized and wanting to get as many lakes in that region involved as possible,” said David Browne, director of conservation at the Canadian Wildlife Federation.
“That differs from other parts of the country. It’s really sort of one or two lakes at a time. The program is, it’s not just a program where you just show up and deliver. A lake association has to want to participate.”
Browne said the CHA team took the program to a new level.
“I was calling them an overachiever,” he said. “CHA is one of our overachievers in the program. They’re one of those groups you partner with that help you grow the program, how to do it better. They’re trying to do a good job, and it makes you try to do an even better job.“
Browne has seen parts of the country where the program is more challenging due to a watershed that is more developed, with a longer history of development, lakes in worse conditions, and a need to reverse trends that have already degraded lakes.
“Haliburton is kind of ahead of the game,” said Browne. “It’s not like the lakes here are in a dire state. These lakes are in a good state, generally. What’s encouraging is when you have people that aren’t taking that for granted. And want to be taking action now for the future. It’s a great region with healthy
lakes and a beautiful place to live or have a cottage and people want to keep it that way, so they’re being proactive.”
Funding for the project came from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the CWF, and Haliburton County Development Corporation (HCDC).
MacInnes announced at the barbecue that the day before he had received notice of $19,000 funding from the Great Lakes Guardian Fund to help continue the work of the project.
“As a funder, you deal with a lot of organizations and businesses, that need to comply by the guidelines and the CHA complied by every guideline, said Patti Tallman, assistant director of HCDC, who said just less than $100,000 over four years was provided toward equipment and evaluators for the project through the Eastern Ontario Development Program (EODP).
“They set targets and they went beyond achieving what those targets were. That doesn’t always happen. Achieving those targets – more than what they anticipated – is fabulous. The organization itself pulled it together and brought it together.”
Storyboards at the celebratory event showcased some of the changes that have come to the county since the Love Your Lake project began here in 2014.
Organizers said the conversation in the community has changed so that the necessity for shoreline re-naturalization to promote environmental health is becoming better understood and an increasing trend for lakeside property owners.
The storyboards said that lake health is increasingly covered in local media due to the efforts of the CHA shoreline project team in publicizing information and that all five councils have made efforts to promote lake health with a comprehensive shoreline protection bylaw in progress by county council, and septic re-inspections taking place across the county.
Property owners themselves have reported their intentions to take action to work toward a goal of 75 per cent natural shorelines on lakes in order to protect lake health, with some already redesigning their properties through the program.
“There have been immediate changes to erosion, run-off and wildlife on their properties, it’s incredible,” said Sue Yallop of Boshkung Lake. “Everything from green grass turned into buffer zones, to just slightly re-naturalized. They all have beautiful views of the lake and no one is complaining, they love what’s happened. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Yallop said that increased awareness and strong support of the Love Your Lake program were exceptional, but that participation in making changes to property shorelines was really the end
goal of the project, even if it took time to achieve.
“This is a marathon, this is not a sprint,” she said. “We have opened the door and we have let people start to understand what’s going on, but they still don’t really see it. We have to keep fighting for this, we have to keep educating, and we have to keep informing. Force and anger and frustration will not work. We need gentle, ongoing education.”
David May, resources management supervisor for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, which supported the project in helping to educate students and CHA shoreline evaluators
through the related Trent University field studies course and in the creation of demonstration sites, said the work of the project would continue.
“While the CHA’s four-year shoreline inventory component of the project is wrapping up, the job is not done,” he wrote in an email. “Important efforts amongst the partners and public to conserve and enhance shoreline health are continuing on.”
May said the CHA had inspired and challenged lakefront property owners to adopt best management practices on their property.
“As a result of this initiative, there has been an increase in understanding amongst the public regarding the importance of shoreline health and aquatic ecosystems,” he said.
“There have also been on-the-ground results and improvements to shoreline health, and the CHA continues to create opportunities for more to be accomplished.”
For more information about the Love Your Lake program and shoreline and septic health, visit www.cohpoa.org or www.loveyourlake.ca.