Over half of local residents feel that they are not safe on the lakes of Muskoka.
This statistic comes from a survey presented by Safe Quiet Lakes (SQL) to Muskoka District Finance and Corporate Services Committee. The presentation was given by SQL Director Colleen Kennedy. The survey was conducted by ERIN Research and incorporates data from three other surveys covering a period of 12 years and surveyed residents of the Muskoka region.
The data shows that since 2013 residents have seen an increase in boat traffic, noise, speeds and wake size. Residents stated that they were concerned about the dangers to paddlers, swimmers, potential shoreline erosion and damage to other boats and docks. Personal watercraft (PWC) were the most signed craft for complaints by residents, despite making up only 5-7% of water traffic. In response to this SQL is hosting a safety webinar for PWC users as well as a social media campaign to educate.
But the data point which is most concerning according to Kennedy is that over half of those surveyed feel less safe on the water.
“Just over half of the people in the district perceive that the level of their safety has gone down,” Kennedy said.
She stated that the downward perception of safety on the lakes is disturbing and concerning. According to Kennedy, the trend has been consistent for several years.
In response to survey results and in coordination with the group’s mission, SLQ has been focusing on the lack of laws limiting boat noise. The concern over this issue led to the creation of the Decibel Coalition which was founded in 2020 to bring together interest groups and work towards new regulations. This has brought together 65 member associations from across Canada which have gone to Transport Canada hoping for viable regulations. Kennedy stated that she was confident positive steps would be taken soon.
“We’re pretty optimistic that within the next year or two, there will be measures that will help the OPP to crack down on some of the really loud noise that we share in the region and across Canada,” said Kennedy.
Another initiative which aims to improve water safety has been the marina ambassador program which has worked with marinas to educate boaters about the damage which can be caused by large waves. After Committee Vice Chair Rick Maloney asked what District Council could do to assist SQL, Kennedy stated that increased education about boating safety and signage reminding boaters of laws and guidelines would be appreciated.
In response to the concerning data of residents’ safety concerns, Councillor Guy Burry shared his own concerns about what he sees as increasing speeds on the lakes. He stated that he has witnessed boats racing at high speeds, paying little regard to others.
“But what it does do is for those of us that like to paddle canoes, we can’t. We’re no longer able to share the lake because we have people that don’t want us to share the lake,” Burry said.
Burry, who is a canoeing instructor, said he was especially worried for tourists or new Canadians who aren’t familiar with the area.
“I am afraid to go out. And yet I see people who may be new Canadians or potentially the travelling public, going out in canoes, with no idea how dangerous it is,” Burry said.
Further information on initiatives and information on boating safety as well as the survey results unveiled at the presentation can be found at the SQL website.
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