Muskoka Insights

By Meghan Taylor

Recently my husband cut our neighbour’s lawn. It wasn’t a small job; their lawn is quite large and hadn’t been cut for quite some time. He wasn’t asked to do it. He knew they were busy working and didn’t have a lawn mower. There was no expectation of anything beyond a “thank you.” Just kindness.

His act of kindness made me think. At the height of summer, Muskoka’s population explodes. The signature forests and lakes of Muskoka are packed with day-trippers, vacationers, cottagers and locals. Roadways, beaches, restaurants and shopping areas contend with an influx of people.

Too often, an “us versus them” mentality exists among locals. “The cottagers are here” is a common refrain as spring moves into summer. But, of course they are. Why wouldn’t they be?

Muskoka’s economy is reliant on cottaging and tourism, and there’s nothing like summer in Muskoka. So, why wouldn’t we share it? Experiencing Muskoka isn’t like a pie; there are more than enough experiences to go around. The experiences I have, that make up my Muskoka, may vary greatly from yours.

The lives of tourists and locals, seasonal residents and year-round residents, settlers and Indigenous peoples are inextricably intertwined throughout Muskoka’s history and today. Our lives and experiences are braided and woven together, based on where we choose to be: Muskoka.

Those who are visiting, for the day or longer, have an obligation to respect the environment around them. Those of us who call Muskoka home, whether permanently or seasonally, have an opportunity, with patience and kindness, to educate those visiting on the importance of keeping the district beautiful.

Muskoka has been known as a tourist area since settlement and even before that in the details of Indigenous records. For decades, collaboration and partnership have been crucial to the growth and development of the region.

At Muskoka Discovery Centre, three new exhibits honour our past while looking forward to the future. As contributor Tim Du Vernet shares, the four-year process involved extensive research and collaboration among the Indigenous advisory group, designers, community groups and dedicated volunteers to bring the exhibits to life.

Similarly, collaboration and teamwork are hallmarks of the local theatre groups across the region. In this issue, regular contributor Bronwyn Boyer highlights the founders and the up-and-comers making Muskoka’s performing arts scene one that should not be overlooked.

There is something for everyone in Muskoka and, with its rapid increase in popularity across North America, pickleball is a contender for providing a fun afternoon. In this issue, contributor Andy Zeltkalns outlines the how’s and where’s of pickleball in Muskoka. Not only is the sport accessible and easy to learn, but it’s also a team sport that any demographic can enjoy.

The management of natural resources is integral to the protection of Muskoka. It may come as no surprise that the education of government forest rangers from across Ontario took place among Muskoka’s forests. As Patrick Boyer shares, Ontario’s Forest Ranger School was a joint venture between the University of Toronto and the Province of Ontario for many years, training and educating rangers in the care of forests, prevention of wildfires and operational practicalities of surveying, drafting, mathematics and road locating.

Throughout this issue of Unique Muskoka, the importance of relationships is obvious. As you continue to experience all that Muskoka has to offer, take a moment to choose kindness as well.

Happy reading!