The Canadian Safe Boating Council formally recognized the Muskoka Lakes Association’s Marine Team as the Best Boating Safety Initiative of 2009.
The awards ceremony was held on January 10, 2010 at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto, in conjunction with the Toronto International Boat Show.
The Council’s annual awards are given to honour the people, programs, organizations and marinas that help to either improve boating safety or to reduce the environmental impact of boating in Canada.
The award-winning MLA Marine Team is a group of six post-secondary students hired each summer to serve as Muskoka Lakes Association ambassadors, both on the water in two Boston Whalers provided by Gordon Bay Marine and on land at municipal docks and public events.
The Team’s mandate is to provide information and guidelines on safe boating to the boaters in Muskoka. The initiative was started almost 25 years ago, in response to the association’s concern about increasing numbers of serious boating accidents on Muskoka’s lakes.
“What the judging committee liked about this initiative is that the program was established and funded by the member association — because safety was important to them. They cared enough about safety on their lakes to take action,” said Barbara Byers, public education director at the Ontario branch of the Lifesaving Society and pastchair of the Canadian Safe Boating Council, as she presented the award.
“Rather than only passing out information or mailing information, they actively promoted safety on the lakes, making one-to-one contact with the boater and went directly to the cottagers’ cottages.
The team travelled “to over 3000 docks to personally deliver safety information – including copies of the Safe Boating Guide. Wow! Now that is impressive indeed! If the cottager was not home, they left an information package on the dock.”
Michael Vollmer, co-chair of the Ontario Recreational Boating Advisory Council had earlier commented that “this is a tremendous example of a water-based community working together to make boating better for everyone”.
In accepting the award, Brian McElwain, President of the MLA, recognized the “many very committed people” who have been involved in the Marine Team program since the mid-1980s and the local businesses and organizations who have supported the Marine Team.
It is important to acknowledge the role and vision of Nancy Barber in the mid-80’s, who along with former President Joan Booth, conceived the need for and developed a boating safety program after several serious accidents occurred on the Muskoka Lakes. Jack Fenn, Hope Thompson, Joe Moher, Sylvia Bird and Bill Jennings are among the MLA members who have taken a leadership role with the Marine Team over the years.
Federal government departments, local governments, many local businesses, cottager associations and MLA members provide the Marine Team with partnership support for their activities.
Brian McElwain thanked the Canadian Safe Boating Council and the Awards Committee for presenting this prestigious award to the MLA “as it is a very important recognition of our ongoing commitment to promote safe boating on our Muskoka lakes.”