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President's Report 2016

By Bruce MacLellan, President

Since 1985, the Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation (LBHF) has been working to protect the natural, cultural and built heritage of the Lake of Bays area, including the Township and the wider watershed. We are the oldest land trust in Muskoka. It is a pleasure for me to provide this update.

As the evidence of climate change continues to grow, the urgency of protecting our environment becomes more and more clear. At our 2015 annual general meeting of members, guest speaker Dan Kraus, a scientist with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, said:  “Where people live and communities grow, water and forests are coming under increased risk. What we destroy and what we save will have an impact on the generations to come.”

We believe the natural environment is our area's greatest asset, for both quality of life and economic opportunity. Together with a respect for the history of our communities, this makes Lake of Bays a very special place. Spoiling it with short-term thinking or ill-considered ideas would have tragic consequences. We appear at Township Council whenever we see threats or opportunities. The evidence suggests we have the broad support of the community; in 2015 we achieved over 500 members and had more active volunteers and donors than any previous year.

We are moving forward in 2016 based on our Vision 2020 Plan with new committee structures and more volunteers. Our vision is of a Lake of Bays community that is engaged in the protection of its natural, built and cultural legacy for the enjoyment and benefit of current and future generations.

Our enduring success comes from the growing number of volunteers who share in making it happen. LBHF now preserves and stewards three properties around the Township including the 170 acres and 6.5 km on the Lower Oxtongue River. Financial needs remain, as we must build up our Stewardship Endowment and our Land Conservation Fund to be prepared for other conservation opportunities and the ongoing duties of proper conservation.

Last spring, we launched the ‘Friends of LBHF to help us to steward all of the conserved land and assist with other work. With the support of Environment Canada and other donors we were able to bring together experts and amateur naturalists in a series of events at Marsh’s Falls. Throughout the summer and fall of 2015, volunteers began restoring the property, planting trees, removing structures and donating salvageable items. We are also working with the Township toward the creation of a public access park at the falls, to be managed by the Township, but road access remains unresolved with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

In August, 2015 our annual meeting was held at the historic Stewart Memorial Church in Dwight, attended by over 100 people. Volunteers documented the history of nearby Lake of Bays Lane and heritage plaques were awarded to a number of residents followed by a tour of the locations.

In our 2015-16 fiscal year, we received almost $170,000 in donations toward our many activities, including the funding for the Marsh’s Falls property purchase and restoration. We have now raised over $850,000 toward the Marsh’s Falls purchase. It is a spectacular result of community commitment to protecting and enjoying our precious natural assets. As of April 30, our mortgage on this property stands at $57,000.

Thank you to our generous donors and volunteers who have supported our Foundation’s work throughout the year. There are many more volunteers needed in the days ahead with varying skills and flexible time commitments.

With approximately $1.1 million in total assets, our Foundation has also moved to enhance our governance practices. I have chaired our Governance & Nominations Committee since 2015. Two new policy statements were adopted in 2015-16, adding to the Privacy Policy approved in 2006. A Conflict of Interest Policy was approved in 2015 and a Code of Ethics Policy has been approved in 2016. Creating these policies is not glamorous, but it is part of being a well-governed land trust. 

Other highlights of our work over the past year include:

  • Completed a baseline plant inventory at the Marsh’s Falls property. In 2016, we are completing a similar baseline of the Pyke property.
  • Organized almost a dozen nature walks at Marsh’s Falls and a silent boat tour of the Lower Oxtongue plus numerous guided paddles with local groups.
  • Held the first annual winter bird count in December.
  • Awarded two $650 annual bursaries under LBHF’s Harriet T. Weaver Trust to a graduating student in both Huntsville and Bracebridge.
  • Funded the restoration and digitizing of the Ruth Martin papers, the best recorded history of Lake of Bays since European settlement.
  • Donated a storage building to the Dwight Lions Club for use at Irwin Memorial Public School.
  • Published 5 annual e-newsletters to 630 recipients and expanded our audience on Facebook and Twitter.

We expect 2016 to be an active and productive year. Elected to serve on the board for 2015-16 are Ian Beverley, Jill Langford, Evan Livermore, Tracey Macey, Bruce MacLellan, Mark McLean, Simon Miles (Secretary), Rob Milligan, Judith Mills (Vice President), Brian Simpson, Rick Street (Treasurer), Penny Thomas and Gloria Woodside.

Our 2016 AGM will be Saturday August 20 at 11:00 AM at Norway Point Church. I’ve had the honour to serve two seperate terms as President of LBHF, for a total of 10 years. Although I am stepping down, my wife Karen and I look forward to being supporters for many years to come.

Thank you for continuing to support heritage in our community. To learn more about volunteering, or other questions, please email info@lakeofbaysheritage.ca.

Our Results
  • Acquired over 50 per cent of the Lower Oxtongue River for permanent protection, including 6.5 km of shoreline.
  • Preserved one mile of natural shoreline and 47-acres of forest at Port Cunnington.
  • Partnered with the Ontario Heritage Trust to be the steward of the 100-acre Pyke property near Brown's Brae.
  • Recognized more than 30 building owners with plaques for heritage property protection.
  • Encouraged the Township to create a Heritage Committee of Council to encourage protection.
  • Rescued the Bigwin ferry from a sunken mooring in 1991 and conducted feasibility studies to transfer to the current Navigation Society for restoration.
  • Established the Harriet T. Weaver Memorial Trust which funds two bursaries each year to assist one student from each of Bracebridge and Huntsville high schools to help pay for their first year of university or college.
Dr. Cathy Charles Stay-at-home Spring Bird Count, weekend of May 9
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The wherever-you-are butterfly, damselfly & dragonfly challenge, July 11 weekend
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Annual General Meeting of Members - by Zoom, Wednesday August 19 5:00pm
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Contact Us

Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation
P.O. Box 81
Baysville, Ontario
P0B 1A0