MLA water quality initiative celebrates 10 years

Annual general meeting highlights volunteers Muskoka Lakes Association president Brian McElwain and Eleanor Lewis, MLA director and chair of the water quality portfolio (right), present water quality volunteer tester Liz Denyar with a certification of appreciation for her many years of hard work ensuring the health of Muskoka?s watersheds.12Various partnerships with other lake associations and shared interest groups have given the MLA a stronger voice MUSKOKA LAKES ? The Muskoka Lakes Association held their 116th annual general meeting on Friday evening celebrating the 10th anniversary of their water quality initiative. Association members gathered at the Port Carling Community Centre, along with invited guests including District of Muskoka Chair Gord Adams, Township of Muskoka Lakes Mayor Karen Ellis and councillors, Terry Rees, executive director of WRAFT (Waterfront Ratepayers After Fair Taxation) and FOCA (Federation of Ontario Cottage Associations), and representatives from other area lake associations, for annual business and to pay tribute to their volunteers. The water quality initiative began as a result of MLA members? concerns over the condition of their lakes. Ten years later, close to 100 volunteers are sampling over 175 sites every two weeks. ?It?s been very, very successful,? said MLA president Brian McElwain, as he raised his glass in a toast, ?but it?s only been successful because of the volunteers.? Patricia Arney, a Muskoka Lakes councillor and a member of the Muskoka Watershed Council, led off the meeting with a brief presentation on the results of the 2010 Muskoka Watershed Council Report Card, reminding the audience to look after their land. ?The overall health of the Muskoka watershed is good, but we must be mindful stewards to protect it,? said Arney. ?Our environment is our economy, our economy is our environment.? The first order of association business was the financial report presented by treasurer Indiana McDonald. ?We are in a healthy financial position at the end of fiscal 2009 with an accumulated surplus of approximately $314,000 available to cope with future unforeseen events,? said McDonald. An example of which is the $20,000 in legal costs budgeted this year for the MLA?s presentation at the OMB hearing in October to oppose the Port Carling boundary expansion, she said. McElwain, who begins his second year of a two-year term as president, indicated that the association intends to become more politically active than in the past. Other areas of focus include providing leadership on community issues, promoting safe water quality, promoting and preserving the environment and promoting safe boating throughout Muskoka. Chair of community affairs John Bowlby noted an increase in complaints this year about boats speeding near the shore. Muskoka lakes have a speed limit of 9.0 km/h within 30 metres of shore, whether there is a sign or not, said Bowlby. ?Along with speed is the question of wake,? he said. ?A respectful boater will not operate his or her boat in a manner that their wake causes damage or harm to shorelines, docks, boats or other people.? He noted a boat operator can be held responsible for any damages or harm caused. ?As far as wake goes,? said Bowlby, ?in addition to keeping a good lookout when boating, please watch your behind.? Along with the stated objectives, the MLA is also looking to expand their membership and their visibility in the Muskoka community, through a number of new partnerships and initiatives. The MLA advantage card was developed this year as a way to give back to members, while also enticing new members, said the chair of the member relations portfolio, Tim Spence. With the card, MLA members receive discounts at 30 stores and restaurants throughout Muskoka. The group has also been working at improving the MLA website (www.mla.on.ca) to make it more user friendly and content rich. Membership can now be paid online, he noted. Various partnerships with other lake associations and shared interest groups have given the MLA a stronger voice, further enhanced by a partnership this year with Metroland North Media and weekly articles in the Muskokan, he added. To spread the word about the MLA cottage by cottage, area captains are being recruited to represent 50 neighbourhood areas. ?Slowly but surely we are trying to develop a network of area captains around the lakes,? said Spence. ?The intent is to go by, say hello and talk about the MLA to your neighbours.? The Muskoka Lakes Marine Team is also out again this year, visiting 2,200 docks already this summer. The marine team was honoured by the Canadian Safe Boating Council as the best safe boating initiative in Canada last year. The association will build on that award this year, with its six student ambassadors out on the water every day communicating the benefits of the MLA and offering courtesy safe boat checks. The MLA concluded its AGM with the election of eight new board members. Gordon Baker, Jane Evans, Carolyn Horan, Nick Kristoffy, Peter Seybold, Indiana McDonald and Rob Thomas will join McElwain and the existing 16 mid-term directors. ?Take action, send us your email address and visit the website, so you can take part and help us make a difference,? said McElwain.