Muskoka Moments - Unforgettable Muskoka Hospitality
By Michael Duben
For many years, scores of visitors from all over Canada and the world have journeyed to Muskoka to enjoy this idyllic part of Ontario, blessed with spectacular natural features. Muskoka is well known for delivering world class hospitality at its many fine accommodations which include resorts, inns, lodges and more. Upon arriving in the fall of 2013 to take on the role of Chief Administrative Officer for the District of Muskoka, my family and I quickly learned Muskoka’s reputation for hospitality extends well beyond the tourism sector. From the moment we moved into the community, we were welcomed with open arms by everyone we came across.
As you might expect, one of our very first encounters was with the owner of the neighbouring property. After introducing himself and making us feel very welcome, he immediately offered us a place at his boathouse to park our non-existent boat. Although we do not have water access, we did eventually acquire a small watercraft and entered into an arrangement which consisted of our neighbour sharing our bear bin for his trash in exchange for us docking our boat at one of his slips. While initially convinced the deal we struck was a testament to my negotiation skills after years of practicing law, it really was borne out of his generosity and hospitality. We witnessed this type of kindness over and over again. Following a minor but no doubt entertaining mishap, attempting to pull an improperly secured U-Haul trailer along Highway 118, it was a kind passerby from a local construction company who stopped and selflessly saved my day.
No matter where we were, our first few months in Muskoka were full of situations where people made efforts not just to greet us, but to do so warmly and often with an open offer to help. Whether at our respective places of work, at Rotary meetings, at holiday parties or at recreational events, we were always met with kind people, introducing themselves and welcoming us to Muskoka.
Kindness from others was not limited to just myself and my spouse. Our teenage son Marcus was also a regular recipient of benevolence from Muskokans. Friendly but unknown neighbours insisted on driving him home from his bus stop anytime the weather was foul. Furthermore, knowing that he was undergoing a challenging transition to a new school in the middle of grade 10, teachers and administrators at BMLSS went above and beyond to make him feel as welcome as possible.
This penchant for welcoming us to Muskoka went beyond people. Even Mother Nature got into the act, albeit with less warmth. We were welcomed to Muskoka in the winter of 2013 with 18 feet of snow and a Polar vortex. A very large bear “greeted” me outside of my window at our home, seemingly not that impressed by the fact that I was enjoying a nice long walk on my treadmill at the time. Unfortunately, a deer welcomed me and my vehicle to Muskoka… twice! Neither the deer nor the vehicles have been doing much welcoming of any kind since.
The community hospitality has continued throughout our almost seven years, here, in Muskoka. The support Muskokans provide to each other when others are in need is absolutely extraordinary.
For me, this generosity was never more evident than when I joined volunteers filling sandbags during the 2019 flooding. The general sentiment of all those volunteers was that of “others need help … I can help … so I do.”
We will, of course, miss many things about Muskoka and will take many memories with us but the gracious hospitality and welcoming nature of Muskokans will never be forgotten.
A warm and heartfelt “thank you” to all who have made our time here so special.
Michael Duben joined the District Municipality of Muskoka as its Chief Administrative Officer in 2013, bringing almost 20 years of experience as a lawyer and senior municipal leader. He has accepted a position as the CAO for Oxford County.
A very engaged Rotarian, he served as club president twice and was District Governor in the Detroit and Windsor area. He and his wife Shelly, a local school principal, founded an educational project that has enhanced the lives of thousands of children in five African countries.
The Dubens have two adult children, Justine and Marcus, and are expecting their first grandchild in the fall. They enjoy travelling and hiking and Michael is an avid volleyball player.