District launches lakeside waste collection
Muskoka’s garbage collection system has been expanded to include a new category of service.
At the end of May, the District of Muskoka officially launched its lakeside waste collection in the Township of Muskoka Lakes.
Every Sunday this summer, lakeside waste collection trucks will be at locations in Muskoka Lakes during scheduled times to accept household bagged garbage and recycling.
The new program is intended for residents whose homes are accessible by boat.
The collection program was launched largely in response to a decision on June 14, 2019, by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MECP) to remove and decommission all unlicensed bin dumpster sites in Muskoka by April 30, 2023.
Since then, the District has been working with partners and the MECP for approved alternatives to waste collection for water-access and island residents
For more information on Lakeside waste collection including when and where the trucks will stop this summer, you can visit www.engagemuskoka.ca
Muskoka Lakes Chamber takes on Amazon
The Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce has set up a new online marketplace with the goal of making internet sales available to everyone.
Shop Muskoka Lakes is a multi-vendor showcase of local stores and services designed to help strengthen the local economy by putting local vendors in the spotlight and online.
“I want people to know that this is a way they can support local. That we’re taking on Amazon,” says Norah Fountain, executive director of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce. “And for shoppers and vendors to know that some Muskoka items do appear on Amazon and you can buy the same items on our site without Amazon taking a big bite out of the vendor’s pocket.”
In 2020, the Muskoka Lakes Chamber encouraged its members and local artisans to embrace e-commerce, yet some felt they couldn’t because of lack of access to broadband internet.
That’s how ShopMuskokaLakes.ca was born, says Fountain. It was out of necessity and out of a desire to do more than just encourage people to support local.
Shopmuskokalakes.ca gives the public a chance to buy outright from vendors who have never had a web presence by using the ‘OUR cart’ for transactions.
“You can go out to a site like Clear Lake Brewing or Muskoka Chair Company to do the transaction on their site. You can buy and book an experience like an antique boat rental from Muskoka Launch Livery or a steamships ticket. You can see an item but be driven to their storefront, like in the case of Wahta Station, or choose the ‘Conversation Starter’ option such as when ordering custom furniture or buy gift certificates or book a massage,” says Fountain.
“And our local stores all give back to their community,” she says.
Fountain thanked FedNor, Township of Muskoka Lakes, PMCN, Lakeland Networks and Magnet for helping the project take flight.
Muskoka Lakes allows shipping container buildings
Turning shipping containers into buildings is now a go in Muskoka Lakes Township, albeit with a number of conditions in place.
Township council recently found itself faced with a pair of separate applications that involved turning shipping containers (or sea cans) into buildings.
The first involved a 1,600 square foot retail building at 75 Joseph Street; and the second involved using three shipping containers at the Boatworks site on Indian River for retail space for a four-year period.
The move came only after a number of concerns were raised about the proposals and a number of conditions were put in place.
The Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) issued a letter to the Township noting potential environmental damage caused by chemicals, including insecticides and pesticides, leaching from shipping containers into the soil, groundwater and lakes.
The MLA noted it is standard practice for the wooden floors of shipping containers to be treated with insecticides and pesticides in order to prevent insects from being transported with the containers and to protect the cargo. The steel sides are also sprayed with toxic chemicals, for the same reason.
As such, they made a number of recommendations to council including builders take steps to ensure that chemicals on shipping containers are removed or, if possible, never applied before the containers are used as buildings in the Township.
The MLA said using sea cans for buildings is not an environmentally responsible practice. Metal is infinitely recyclable, so the container has not been “saved from the landfill.”
In response, council passed a resolution requiring any shipping containers utilized for construction materials have the floors removed and replaced and any metal sandblasted unless they can be satisfactorily demonstrated to be pesticide-free. Both applicants agreed to this requirement.
Miller gains support for new dock legislation
A new law from Muskoka is cracking down on the use of polystyrene on Ontario docks.
In late May, the Ontario Legislature unanimously passed third reading of Bill 228, Keeping Polystyrene Out of Ontario’s Lakes and Rivers Act. Bill 228, introduced by Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norman Miller, was designed to require polystyrene foam used in docks and other floating structures to be encapsulated in order to prevent pieces from breaking off and polluting the waterways.
“It is almost impossible to walk along the shoreline of Georgian Bay and other large bodies of water without seeing large or small pieces of dock foam,” said Miller. “I introduced this Bill in an effort to reduce the damage this kind of plastic pollution is causing to our lakes, shorelines and wildlife.”
Georgian Bay Forever, an environmental charity dedicated to protecting every part of Georgian Bay, identified dock foam as the most pervasive form of pollution along the shores of Georgian Bay. They’ve been working to educate the public about the damage it causes. In a survey of trash picked up by the group’s volunteers in 2019, more than 5,000 pieces of dock foam of all sizes were picked up – more than all other types of garbage combined.
“This Bill improves our water, ecosystems, shorelines and supports the heroic efforts of shoreline cleanup volunteers,” says executive director David Sweetnam of Georgian Bay Forever. “Dock floats made from polystyrene foam fragment into thousands and thousands of pieces of litter due to weathering, storms, wave action and animals burrowing into it for shelter. These plastic pieces are never going to go away – they look ugly on shorelines, are impossible to totally clean up and will eventually fragment into tiny microplastics that pose further risks to aquatic life.”
Rapid testing program taking off
A new, free program distributing rapid antigen COVID-19 tests to small and medium-sized businesses has proved to be a big success in Muskoka.
The Orillia-Muskoka Rapid Antigen Screening Program is a collaborative effort between Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Huntsville/Lake of Bays and Muskoka Lakes Chambers of Commerce, along with the Orillia District Chamber of Commerce.
The goal of the program is to identify asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic cases of COVID-19 in the workplace that might otherwise be missed, helping to curb the spread in the workplace, at home and around the community.
“We give out supplies in intervals of two weeks and have seen the same businesses come back to get more kits after the two weeks are up,” says Leila Nasr-Sharifi, the marketing and sponsorship lead with the Gravenhurst Chamber of Commerce. “This indicates to us that business owners are eager to continue using the kits to ensure the safety of their employers, their families and customers.”
Nasr-Sharifi says alongside the kits, the chamber’s been giving posters that state that the business is taking part in rapid covid tests as a way to help customers feel safer when shopping.
“We’ve been getting a lot of love on our social media posts of people picking up rapid COVID tests for their businesses,” she says. “Business owners seem to be happy that we are able to offer this both for free and in an efficient way.”