Thousands of properties surveyed for Love Your Lake program
By Jenn Watt
Aug. 30, 2016
Four university students got a behind the scenes tour of the Haliburton Highlands this summer as they cruised almost 30 lakes evaluating shorelines.
The students spent their summer on water as part of the Love Your Lake program co-ordinated locally by the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners Associations (CHA).
On Thursday, Aug. 25, CHA organized a celebratory barbecue at Sir Sam’s ski hill in Eagle Lake attended by some of the volunteers and staff who made the project happen.
“I couldn’t ask for a better summer job,” said one student Shelby Erwin of Trent University, who estimated she stayed at 13 homes around the Highlands free of charge while they did their work.
Love Your Lake is a program designed by Watersheds Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation that conducts anonymous evaluations of the naturalization of shorelines. The goal is to provide landowners with practical suggestions on how to re-naturalize the waterfront, which can greatly improve water quality and prevent erosion of property.
Student Shannon Millar said the evaluators were looking to see whether there was a vegetative buffer, for example, whether structures were built right on the shoreline, if rocks or barriers had been erected at the water’s edge.
Joe and Gisela Harwood of Loon Lake put the students up for a few days this summer and said feedback from property owners on their lake was good. Joe said he didn’t hear any negative comments and that the nature of the program, which maintains a high degree of privacy for landowners, probably helps.
Trent University associate professor Tom Whillans trained the evaluators during an intense 10-day course. A Watersheds Canada board member, Whillans has been active with the program and said the Haliburton Highlands has been most productive by far in Love Your Lake.
“This is the best example in Canada,” he said, “There’s no disputing that.”
This comes down to the highly organized CHA, which unites the county’s cottage associations, and to the ethos of area property owners.
“There’s a culture up here of wanting to preserve the natural environment,” he said.
According to CHA chairman Paul MacInnes, more than 100 volunteers have contributed to the program, sometimes going to extraordinary lengths to ensure as many lakes are evaluated as possible. He can tell stories of volunteers going above and beyond, working late into the evenings and early in the mornings, driving across the Highlands with important documents, all to get the job done.
As a result, nearly 30 lakes were evaluated with 4,681 properties this summer. This is well beyond what any other community has done.
“We did more than everyone else combined. We’re pretty proud of the crew,” said MacInnes.
Jim Prince of Kennisis Lake is active on the stewardship committee on his lake and said most property owners were aware of the program before they got going thanks to newsletters and e-blasts.
It also created jobs over the summer for those who were on the water cataloguing the properties.
Marie Roy said she appreciates the way Love Your Lake approaches educating people calling it a “gentle way of learning” about how to better protect the environment.
Coupled with the work CHA has been doing on septic inspections and maintenance, Prince said Love Your Lake is an important part of environmental stewardship.