When you think about, it’s kind of a mystery as to why we didn’t come up with this earlier.
It’s simple, the winter ice melts and anything that doesn’t float will sink to the bottom when it does.
That’s the principle behind a walleye spawning bed restoration project which took place on Long Lake last Saturday morning (February 2).
The big advantage of placing rocks that will form the (actually add to an existing) spawning bed on the ice is that they can be driven to the spot and placed rather precisely. When the ice melts in the spring, the rocks will sink.
On this day, the Long Lake Property Owners Association (LLPOA) members organized an army of snowmobiles, 4-wheelers and side-by-sides, all with sleds or trailers, to ferry the rocks out to locations, where other volunteers including the 1st Drummond Scouts Group, unloaded them and arranged them to correspond with the existing spawning beds.
“This is a great lake for this kind of project,” said Melissa Dakers of Watersheds Canada. “There’s no current to speak of and the two existing shoals get good wind.
“We’ve had other similar projects in Lanark that have worked out well.”
Dakers said the Algonquins of Ontario were also involved and they had funding from Fisheries and Oceans Canada through the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnership Program.
The rocks used are washed river stone, ranging in size from small apples to large grapefruit, supplied by contractor Peter Nedow. The beds themselves are marked with coniferous branches for safety.
Lake Steward Terry Eccles said they’ve done some spawning ground projects in the past through the MNR program, which no longer exists.
“So we contacted Melissa and she said she had some funding and all we needed to provide was some volunteers,” he said.
And provide the volunteers they did.
It was quite a sight to see: about 40 snowmobiles and ATVs hooked up with sleds and trailers, running a constant relay from the shore to the beds. In all, it took about two hours to completely move two large truckloads of rock.
“This increases the spawning area available to the walleye,” he said. “We’re really hoping this will make the walleye competitive with the bass.”
The rocks were deposited off two different islands (known walleye spawning beds) on the ice and will sink to the bottom when the ice melts in the spring.
The Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Region (MRSPR) is seeking Source Protection Committee members who are interested in protecting municipal drinking water sources in the Mississippi and Rideau Valley watersheds.
The MRSPR Committee was established in 2007 as a result of the Province’s Clean Water Act. The committee guides local efforts to protect drinking water at the source and is made up of one-third municipal, one-third economic and one-third public sector representatives. The composition ensures that a variety of local interests are represented at the decision-making table as the committee works to oversee the implementation of science-based source protection plans.
The committee is currently undergoing a renewal to ensure that it remains in compliance with Ontario Regulation 288/07, the regulation that governs Source Protection Committees under Ontario’s Clean Water Act. The committee is looking for two economic sector representatives to liaise on behalf of commercial, industrial and agricultural interests, as well as two public sector representatives to liaise on behalf of general public, environmental, First Nations and non-governmental organization interests.
“If you have experience and knowledge in one of these two sectors and have an interest in protecting drinking water sources we hope you will apply,” said Marika Livingston, Mississippi-Rideau Source Water Protection Project Manager. “Among other qualifications, these positions require a multi-year commitment, an ability to understand scientific and technical reports and attendance at the two or more Source Protection Committee meetings held each year. Applicants must also live or work in the Mississippi and Rideau watersheds.”
Future work of the Committee includes the review of new scientific and technical information to ensure that the Source Protection Plan and its supporting reports remain current and relevant.
Further details regarding these part-time positions including descriptions of roles and responsibilities and an application form are available online at mrsourcewater.ca/en/source-protection-committee-member-recruitment. A
small per diem as well as expenses (mileage and meals) will be paid while working on Source Protection business.
Applications are being accepted until March 8, 2019.
The Frontenac Park bird count is presented by the Friends of Frontenac Park and incorporates some family friendly events. (the following was submitted by the Friends of Frontenac Park)
Christmas Bird Count at Frontenac Park
Celebrate winter birds and be part of the Frontenac Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Admission to Frontenac Provincial Park is free on December 15, so drop by anytime to meet our local birds, enjoy holiday crafts, and count birds for science. Family-friendly morning activities include a CBC for Kids from 11 am to 12 noon, then warm up afterward with hot chocolate and snacks. At 1:00 pm, join a team on a guided hike of park roads and trails as part of the official Frontenac CBC. A great opportunity to learn more about birding from local experts while exploring different habitats. Dress warmly, and bring binoculars if you have them. Information: 613-376-3489. This is a free event, between 10 am and 3pm.
(Editors note - the storm in the Sharbot Lake has been categorised as a Downburst by Environment Canada. 3 tornadoes touched down in Eastern Ontario, two in the Ottawa/Gatineau are and one in Calabogie)
Friday’s wind storm left a path of destruction that went through the Township of Central Frontenac, resulting in all sorts of downed trees and electricity disruption in many areas.
One area particularly hard hit was Coutlee Point Lane, off the Shibley Road) on Sharbot Lake’s east basin, where an army of Hydro One vehicles, equipment and manpower was joined by local residents to clear brush and trees and get the power back on.
“We had 10 people sawing since 9 a.m.,” said property owner Guy MacLeod on Saturday afternoon. “The wind took my 3,000 pound boat and its 1,000 pound lift and deposited them upside down in the lake.
“They’re probably both write-offs.”
Macleod said that all in all 6 or 7 docks, at least one car and one boat were destroyed, and houses and garages were damaged, all on Coutlee Lane.
“It’s been a real community effort to get to people, make sure they are safe, and clear their laneways,” said MacLeod.
Nearby on Polar Bear Lake, Karen Burke, who has been house-sitting at a waterfront home, was watching the storm come in through the window but retreated to one of the bedrooms with the family dog.
“The dog was shaking so I tried to provide comfort. I could hear the wind and then some banging and smashing. It seemed like it lasted a long time but apparently it was only a few minutes.”
When she looked outside later, she found that the house had been spared, in the main, but at least a dozen mature pines were down between the house and the lake. There was damage to the dock, and some boats as well, the driveway and laneway were covered in fallen trees, and then there were the kayaks.
“The kayaks are nowhere to be found,” she said, “they could be underneath something or across the lake somewhere.”
Ken Waller, a resident on Polar Bear Lane, spent much of the weekend helping with the clean-up.
“The amazing thing is that most of the houses on our lane were not hit. Trees came down inches away from one house, feet away from another, but aside from completely blocking lanes, they tended to have missed the houses and vehicles,” he said.
Hydro was out all weekend, but restoration was scheduled for Sunday night.
The storm passed over the Tryon Road, coming from west of Road 38 before hitting Shibley Road. It took half of the roof off a house that straddles Tryon and 38, but before that it uprooted trees all along and near the road, and one clump landed on three vehicles in a driveway and took down the hydro pole that runs between the house and the road.
A woman at the house said she saw the storm come in and saw funnel clouds as the storm “seemed to bounce its way towards us,” she said.
Although Environment Canada has confirmed that tornadoes hit in the vicinity of Ottawa, the agency has not released any statement concerning other locations in Eastern Ontario.
Before hitting in Sharbot Lake, similar storm conditions occurred in the Arden area. Bull Lake, west of Arden, saw similar damage to waterfront properties as that reported on Shibley Road. The power was still out in that region on Sunday afternoon, with Hydro estimating it would be restored by midnight.
In Arden, the storm hit at the Kennebec Hall, damaging the flag and flagpole at the Cenotaph. In the hit and miss manner of the storm, the hall itself was left completely unscathed.
Similarly, drivers approaching Sharbot Lake from the South, have wondered what all the fuss is about, since there is little sign of any damage save for the lonely posts standing next to the Tryon Road, which are missing the road sign that was there until the storm picked it up and took it away.
Hydro crews worked throughout Saturday and Sunday to restore power throughout the region, and the whine of chainsaws was common as roads and laneways were cleared and trailers filled with firewood for the winter of 2020.
Although insurance adjusters will be kept busy evaluating the damage over the next few days, there were no reports of injury as the result of the storm.
North Frontenac Council certainly paid attention what members of the Malcolm and Ardoch Lake Association (MALLA) had to say last Friday morning.(August 24). In a 20 minute presentation, MALLA President Glen Fowler was joined by Vice President Brenda Martin, Cathy Owne and two subject experts who have property on the lake, marine biologists Bud Griswold and Mary Gessner.
They outlined not only the alarming increase in the spread of the millfoil on the shallow lake this year, but also the research they have done about how to try and manage an infestation of the seemingly innocuous plant. When it gets established, the millfoil forms a thick intertwined mat at the surface, capable of stopping the motor in a boat that passes through it.
It was originally brought to North America by the aquarium industry, and when someone dumped an aquarium into a lake in the Us Midwest, the Millfoil began its march through cottage country, aided by boats that are transported from lake to lake by boaters looking for new adventures and fishing opportunities.
The plant takes root at the bottom of the lake, and therefore it is not a problem in deeper water, but in shallow areas of deep lakes and in major portions of shallow lakes such as Malcolm and Ardoch, it can become established and at that point it is difficult, if not impossible, to manage using current techniques. It typically grows in 2-4 metres of water, but can grow in depths up to 10 metres. Like so many garden weeds, breaking off bits of the plant only aid in its propagation, the only way to kill it is to pull it out by the roots, which is difficult in 5 metre deep water. And, according to Brenda Martin, once established in a hospitable lake, it can flourish.
‘A patch that was 10 ‘ by 10’ which we were planning to do a pilot project on, has now grown to be 60’ by 900’, too large for that original plan,” she said to Council.
Mary Gessner contacted the Lake Association from Big Cedar Lake in the Kawartha Lakes to see how their management efforts had progressed.
She reported that Big Cedar Lake had invested in weevil stocking. Together with Trent University they have stocked 320,000 millfoil weevils, which only feed on millfoil plants, both native millfois whihc do not present a threat, and the eurasian millfoil as well. After a 5 year project, the Big Cedar study concluded that while there were some indications of a die back of millfoil, it inevitably recovered the following year. The weevil, at least on its own, is not a solution. As well, they were expensive and in fact are not longer available on the commercial market.
Other control methods have their own problems. Mechanical removal is labour intensive and may backfire if it leads to fragments that can float off and establish new colonies by rooting somewhere else, chemical controls tend to effect everything in the lake, which is counter to the goal of protecting habitat from the millfoil.
It is not exactly a solution, but the most promising control that both the Big Cedar and MALLA Associations are looking at now, is burlap. The idea is to blanket the bottom of the lake and physically block the progress of the plant from the root on up. MALLA is keen to try this control, using fish habitat bundles to hold down the burlap, which will biodegrade over time. Although burlap would block out everything, the idea is that the other species would recover once the millfoil is, if not eradicated, at least curtailed.
MALLA has instituted a 12 point action plan. It starts with seeking support from the municipality and educating property owners throughout the township, particularly those living on lakes that are affected. It extends to seeking co-operation from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for a pilot project with a burlap blanket, and seeking partnerships with other bodies, and applying for funding from a number of sources to carry out their initiatives. MALLA will also be approaching Granite Ridge Education Centre’s “Above and Beyond” drone program in order to track vegetation on the lake.
Glenn Fowler brought information about the millfoil to a meeting of the North Frontenac Lake Association Alliance in early August.
“From that meeting, I can inform Council that at least 7 lakes in the township, other than Malcolm and Ardoch, are reporting they have eurasian millfoil in their lake,” he said. “They are: Big Gull, Canonto, Mosque, Palmerston, Kashwakamak, Brule, and the Mississippi River.”
One of the requests MALLA brought to Council was for them to apply whatever pressure they could on the MNR-F to handle their application for a permit try using burlap on Ardoch Lake.
“We had plans for a pilot project with the burlap this summer, but have been waiting for MNR-F to approve the application we made to them for a pilot project. We hand delivered our application in July and we have phoned often since then to ask them when they are going to deal with our application but nothing has happened,” said Brenda Martin.
The first request of MALLA to the township was to apply political pressure on the MNR-F to approve their application. They also asked for $10,000 for MALLA to partner with Watersheds - Canada (a Perth based ecological organisation) to hire a graduate student to manage their efforts next year. They also asked for $1,500 this year to purchase materials for the pilot project, should it be approved.
They also asked the township to consider boat wash station in each of the wards and to use the township website as a tool to educate lake users about the need to wash boats before launching them on new lakes. Finally they want the township to apply for federal and provincial funding to “address the issue before it becomes a crisis.”
Mayor Ron Higgins, fresh from a meeting with provincial officials at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, said he thought he would be able to push the MNR-F towards making a decision on the application for approval.
Councillor John Inglis said “The $10,000 can go to our 2019 budget process, but I think we have no choice but to provide you with the $1,500 now.”
Councillor Wayne Good asked about the impact of thre burlap on other species.
“It will certainly affect lake activity of invertebrate species,” said Bud Griswold, but we will only apply it in limited locations.”
The township procedural bylaw precluded approving the $1,500 on the spot. Council considered suspended the bylaw in this case, but Brenda Martin said there was no harm waiting three weeks.
“We can’t do anything without the MNR approval anyway,” she said, “and we would need to order the supplies even if it gets approved and that will take time. Besides, I have a big VISA.”
On Monday afternoon, one business day after Friday’s Council meeting, MALLA was informed that the application for a pilot project has been approved by the MNR.
A lot of people love their cars, for the feel of the drive, the power, the hauling potential, and their look. And knowing what people want their car to make them feel and then selling it back to them is the engine that has driven car sales for at least the last 70 years. David Hahn and Marion Watkins are just as enthusiastic about their new E-Golf Electric Vehicle (EV) as any other car enthusiast, and as early adopters of solar power (they have one of the first microfit solar arrays that was sold in Eastern Ontario) and David is the President of the Wintergreen Renewable Energy Co-op, a group of investors from the region who have financed some local solar projects and are committed to local control and opportunity in a sector that has been targeted for investment by multinational corporations. Living on Canoe Lake Road in a rural setting, you would think they would not be likely to want and electric vehicle because of the limited range. But they made the commitment a year ago to purchase a Volkswagon E-Golf nonetheless, and took delivery in February. They haven’t regretted it. “What we have found is that it is a perfect vehicle for us,” said David, “we paid $36,000 but with the provincial rebate the price dropped to $22,000, and the savings in fuel and maintenance will make it a much cheaper car to run that any gas vehicle we could have purchased. And we have no problem with the range.” In fact, they are able to drive to Kingston and back without charging up, and if they travel to Ottawa they can use the charging station at Mountain Equipment Co-op, or at one of a number of other charging stations in Ottawa. And for trips to Westport, Sydenham or Verona or to friends places in the countryside, the 250 kilometre range of the E-Golf is more than sufficient. “And with so few moving parts, maintenance on them is minimal,” said Marion. “I think these vehicles are ideal for rural people that drive the way we do,” David added, “we get more of a benefit from not buying gas because we drive further distances than people in the city do and will save more money. Besides they can use bicycles, public transit, but we still need vehicles to get around.” Electric vehicles will be the subject of the 8th annual Green Energy Retreat being put on by the renewable energy co-op on May 12 at the Wintergreen Retreat. The event is called “The Time is Now” and will feature seminars on practical matters related to the vehicles, as well the financial and environmental realities of driving them. And there will be some of the most popular E-vehicles on site, including a Nissan Leaf, a Chevy Bolt and the E-Golf. For more information on the day, which runs from 9:30am until 3pm, and costs $20 (the cost of the lunch that is provided) go to wintergreencoop.com, where you can see the agenda and click through for registration.
A controversial vacant land plan of condominium on Loughborough Lake will be considered once again by Frontenac County this week, and if the county follows the advice of their lawyer, opponents of the project will be disappointed when they leave.
Meela Melnick-Proud, Sarah Harmer and Matt Rennie will appear as a delegation. They will be armed with a lengthy report outlining, among other things, how the shoreline at some of the locations in the proposed condominium development has been cleared, in contravention, they say, of one of the “conditions of approval” that were included in a ruling by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in its ruling on the project. Their report quotes item 5b of the OMB ruling “... the vacant land condominium agreement applying to all the waterfront units shall set out the municipalities environmental protection policies requiring that the area within 30 metres of the highwater mark of a waterbody or wetland shall be maintained in a natural state for soil and vegetation.”
They made a similar presentation to South Frontenac Council two weeks ago, and South Frontenac asked Frontenac County to investigate the matter.
A lawyer working for the opponents, David Donnelly, states in a letter of opinion that under Rule 106 of the Ontario Municipal Board, the county can act directly to halt a development if an applicant has failed to comply with conditions set out in an OMB ruling. In his opinion, failure to maintain the shoreline in a natural state constitutes such a failure to comply.
“The Township having had regard to all the circumstances should act as authorized to preserve the site, order restoration, and deny development. The only question remaining is whether the Township will act in the public interest to do so. Failure to act will also send a clear, and opposite, message to residents,” he concludes at the end of his letter of opinion.
When Frontenac County Council considers the matter this week, they will have a letter of opinion from their own lawyer, Wayne Fairbrother, which contradicts Donnelly’s opinion.
Fairbrother said that the county does not have the authority to change the conditions of approval for the subdivision since the matter is now the subject of an OMB ruling.
He also said that the County’s role at this time is merely is to confirm that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNR-F) has been approached about species at risk issues and that all the recommendations coming from the MNR-F are eventually incorporated into the plan of condominium.
Magenta corporation has applied to the MNR-F for a “benefit permit” based on a plan to offset the impacts of the project on habitat for three species at risk, gray (black) rat snakes, blandings turtles, and whip-poor-wills. That application still pending.
Based on legal advice, county staff have recommended that Council and should not act on the concerns expressed by Melmick-Proud, Harmer, and Rennie.
The matter went before Frontenac County Council on Wednesday, after this newspaper went to press.
(The decision of Council will be posted at Frontenacnews.ca)
Hannah Barron is a researcher with EarthRoots, which is a “grassroots conservation organization dedicated to the protection of Ontario's wilderness, wildlife and watersheds, through research, education and action.” according to the description on its web site
She runs an Earthroots project called Wolves Ontario, which is dedicated to raising public awareness of the status of the current status of the wolf population in Ontario, advocating for better policies that govern wolves, and achieving meaningful protection for wolves and wolf habitat.
The focus of her efforts recently has been in identifying the range and population density of the Eastern Wolf, which has recently been re-named the Algonquin Wolf. According to Barron, and her view is supported by researchers affiliated with Trent University, there are about 500 Algonquin Wolves, most of them living within or near Frontenac Park, where they are protected from hunting and trapping.
Barron made a presentation recently to the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Frontenac Park. In it, she talked about three species, the gray wolf, the Eastern/Algonquin Wolf (which is genetically identical to the Red Wolf – which is the subject of a recovery effort in North Carolina) and the Eastern Coyote. In Ontario, Gray Wolves, whose territory is generally north and west of Algonquin Park, are doing well. Coyotes, located south of the park and throughout eastern and southern Ontario, are also plentiful, but the Eastern Wolf is in peril and has been for some time.
As Barron explained in a subsequent phone interview with the News, “it could be that the numbers of Eastern Wolves has been about 500 for quite some time, decades even.”
But whether the Eastern Wolf population is steady or on the decline, that number makes them vulnerable. An outbreak of mange, a decline in the beaver, deer or moose populations or a difficult weather season or two could reduce the population to the point of no return.
And the Eastern Wolf is also important for the genetic health of the other wild canids in Ontario and Eastern North America.
“Grey wolves will mate with Eastern Wolves, and Eastern Wolves will mate with Coyotes, but Grey Wolves will not mate with Coyotes,” Barron said, pointing out as well that Coyotes and dogs will mate as well.
Hybridization of wolves, Coyotes, and dogs has been going on for a long time, and this makes the science complicated. It is not possible to distinguish between a Coyote and an Eastern Wolf by looking at them, listening to them yip or howl, or by their paw print. While wolves are much larger than Coyote, hybridization has blurred those lines over the years. It requires a DNA sample to determine the difference, according to Barron.
She spends much of her time these days in the field, mostly to the east and south of Algonquin Park, looking for wolf tracks, and gathering hair and scat samples where they are fresh to send off to the lab at Trent for DNA sequencing, the goal being to determine the concentration of Eastern/Algonquin Wolves outside of the park.
This work is taking place in the context of the development of a provincially mandated recovery strategy for the wolves.
In 2016 the Algonquin Wolf was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act by the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO). At the same time the wolf was given the new name Algonquin Wolf, and defned as a “hybrid group that collectively represents a genetically discrete cluster with morphological characteristics” in COSSARO’s words. The term Algonquin Wolf used in order to “differentiate it from other populations that have been labeled Eastern Wolf” by COSSARO.
The ‘Threatened’ designation under the Endangered Species Act triggers a responsibility on the part of the Ministry of Natural Resources of Ontario to develop a recovery strategy.
The strategy was prepared and released on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry for a commentary period, before being adopted.
Among the measures that are called for in the strategy is a ban on hunting and trapping all canids, wolves or coyotes, not just in and around Algonquin park, as has been the case since 2001, but all the way east to the border with Quebec and west to Georgian Bay.
The territory roughly corresponds with a region that is considered moose country, and, according to Hannah Barron, there is good reason to ban trapping canids in moose country if you want to encourage he Algonquin Wolf population to a) remain healthy and b) refrain from hybridizing further with the Easter Coyote population.
“Coyotes do very well in populated areas and around roads,” said Barron. “They do not tend to get run over and they use road as easy travel routes. The Algonquin Wolves do not do as well at all. But, since they are bigger, they will hunt moose, and Coyotes don’t. It is only in moose country, where there are fewer roads, that the wolves have a competitive advantage.”
Barron’s view, which is supported by research from Trent University, is contradicted by the trapping community.
Not only do they see a ban on trapping Wolves and Coyotes those zones (which are north of the Frontenac News readership area) as a threat to their livelihood as trappers, they consider the science that justifies the ban as dubious at best.
The Ontario Fur Managers Association submitted a position paper during the commentary period for the strategy. The Association’s President is a trapper from Central Frontenac, Willis Deline, who is also a member of the Frontenac Trapper’s Association.
In Deline’s view, and that of the association, the first question is about the existence of the Eastern or Algonquin Wolf in the first place. They argue that there are only two species, Wolves and Coyotes, and the Algonquin Wolf is merely a hybrid of the two. Their position is supported by research sponsored from Princeton University, which published a study of the wolf/coyote genomes in July of 2016 in “Science Advances”.
The results of the study were the subject of an article in Science by Virginia Morelli.
The “study of the complete genomes of 28 canids reveals that despite differences in body size and behavior, North American gray wolves and coyotes are far more closely related than previously believed, and only recently split into two lineages. Furthermore, the endangered red and eastern wolves are not unique lineages with distinct evolutionary histories, but relatively recent hybrids of gray wolves and coyotes,” Morelli wrote.
The author of Princeton study, Bridgett Vanholdt challenges the notion of genetic purity in the first place and still thinks the Eastern (Algonquin) and Red Wolves should be protected.
In Willis Deline’s view, and that of his colleagues, the population in and artoud the park as well as the population further south where the Frontenac Trapper’s Association have their lines, are hybrid populations.
“The Coyotes that we see are nothing like what we saw before. They can weigh 50 and 70 pounds, and they are often in packs now,” he said, “this is a sign of hybridization.”
As Deline points out, Coyote pelts are now one of the few pelts that are marketable, and in his position with the Fur Manager Association, he has his members interests to think about.
But, he argues, the real opposition from the trapping community to the ban on hunting is based not only on the reality of the existence of the Algonquin Wolf, but also on the implications of a ban on the balance between the wolf, moose, beaver and deer population in the region.
“The history, on the ground, shows that sustainable trapping of Coyotes and Wolves does not lead to a decrease in the population although the packs are disrupted. But you also have to think about what ha[[ens when you stop hunting and trapping the top predator but keep huting and trapping the prey species” he said.
Deline also pointed out that the Trapper’s are a source of information that has not been tapped.
“No one asked us to work with them, to collect DNA samples so we can all be working from better science,” he said.
That is all changing, now. The Fur Managers Association and Trappers Council’s across the region will be sending samples to the Trent lab from now on, in the hope that a clearer picture will emerge about the relationship between coyotes and wolves in the entire region.
Last week, in response to all the submissions they have received, the Ministry of Natural Resource took the decision to delay implementation of the Algonquin Wolf Recovery Strategy for 18 months.
“Additional time is required to prepare the recovery strategy for Algonquin Wolf due to the complexity of the issue,” said the Ministry in its posting about the decision in what may have been an under-statement
There are a range of syrup makers in our part of the world. Syrup is, at its core, a very simple process, a lot of home syrup makers are able to make enough for family and friends with a one time investment of anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to a few thousand depending on how they want to go about it.
It is also a bigger business. Commercial syrup makers can invest in the hundreds of thousands and bring in extended family or paid labourers for several weeks for 10,000 + tap operations, reverse osmosis machines and high end tanks and evaporators. We have the whole range in our area, and from the most basic to the most sophisticated, they are all equally dependent on the weather.
Not that long ago, winter weather patterns were a lot more predictable in this part of the world. The beginnings of spring, when the temperature rose above zero in the daytime for more than a day or two, tended to be sometime in early to mid March. Those who put up lines in the bush would work away in the second half of February to catch the earliest run and maximize the coveted early sweet sap, from which they produced the coveted, subtle extra light and light syrup that consumers loved so much.
There are now a lot of small scale, hobby operations around, and this is reflected in the local hardware stores carrying more and more syrup supplies each year, and even a dedicated store that has been set up by Northway Home Hardware, which sells evaporators and boiling pans, etc.
But for hobbyists, and professionals alike, the last couple of years have been a challenge because the season has been so early, and so extended. It’s all about hurry up and wait. Before the February long weekend is over it’s time to get the buckets out, find the drill bit and get ready to get started.
One local producer, who keeps records, said the last two years were the first time they started boiling sap in February (the 22nd in 2017, and the 21st this year) in at least 40 years with one exception, a first boil on February 28th in 2000.
You see where I am going here. Are these record early starts to the syrup season indications of the impacts of climate change?
The answer seems to be that on their own, two years of an early syrup season do not indicate climate change. But when we look back at the past 10 – 15 years and see that the start date, the length of the season, the stop and start nature of it as we go through warmer and colder spells each December, is different than it was before. This has an impact on the way syrup is produced, but fortunately it has not had a severe impact on production. For us hobbyists, it is not a big deal, there is not that much at stake, but for commercial producers who are constantly investing in their business and spend time in the off-season managing their sugar bush for the long run, the un-knowable impacts of climate change on syrup production over the next 25 to 50 years are something to think about.
We do know that sugar maples are resilient, the sap may run better and sweeter some years, based on a number of factors such as water in the ground, heat units in the previous summer etc., but even when stressed for a year or two the trees tend to recover and the sap has kept flowing for millenia.
Syrup producers have noticed that, with longer summers and shorter winters, trees are growing faster than they were, and the medium term impact of this change is not known.
We do know that sugar maples have a limited range. Is the limit of that range going to move north, as long term weather conditions change?
There is something special about syrup season. The milky colour of the early sap, the smells as the weather warms up, etc., the fleeting beginnings of spring.
I must say it was odd to be tapping this year in February as the ground was already softening up from heaving frost, snow was retreating everywhere and streams that normally break through in mid-season were already bubbling.
We don’t know if there is any reason to speculate that our maple based syrup culture may become a victim of climate change, but even those of us who have only dabbled in syruping for 15 or 20 years are becoming aware of changes in the seasons, and it is impossible not to wonder whether the tradition that predates us by a long, long time will continue into the near future or not.
Gord Rodgers of French Planning Services and Bill Peairs, Chair of Sydenham Lake Association, presented Council with the final version of the Sydenham Lake Plan, which was developed over the past two years. An attractive readable 31 page document, its overall goal is to “identify and protect the significant social, natural and physical features that make the lake and its surrounding area a healthy natural environment and a desirable place for people to live and visit.”
Of the 52 recommended actions in the plan, Rodgers focussed on the 11 that were relevant to the Township. (At least one of these, the protection of the dark sky, is already under implementation, with the upgrading of Sydenham streetlights.)
The final recommendation was that a working group be established, with representatives from the Lake Association, the Township and the Cataraqui Regional Conservation Authority (CRCA). This group would meet annually to “guide the plan and its actions into the future.”
Rodgers thanked the Township and the CRCA for their support and encouragement, and said that money from the Ministry of the Environment’s Source Water Protection Fund had made the plan possible.
(The complete plan is currently available in draft form on the SLA website).
In answer to Councillor McDougall’s query about possible sources of funding for other Township Lake Associations to do similar Lake Plans, Rodgers said it was very difficult. However, he did suggest that a more modest plan could probably be achieved without the help of a consultant, if there were volunteers willing and able to do the necessary work.
Proposed Shooting Range in Portland District
Council was asked to consider approval of a private shooting range proposed by Scanlon Road resident Stephen Saunders.
Private shooting ranges fall under the jurisdiction of the Chief Firearms Officer of the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and are strictly controlled and monitored bi-annually. One of the conditions for establishing a range is a letter from the local municipality sating ; a) that the Municipality has no objection to the range, and b) the range would not contravene any municipal by-laws relating to the use of the range and discharging of firearms. Planner Lindsay Mills notes that there is nothing in the Township’s zoning by-law, or the provincial Planning Act that would prevent the use.
Council was unanimous in its agreement that it was important to notify neighbours of the proposal, so they would have the opportunity to speak to Council if they had concerns. CAO Orr said that there was no established process for this, and Council again agreed that he should follow the same timeline and notification protocol used for severance applications.
South Frontenac Township is currently without a Manager of Development Services (MDS), or a Chief Building Official. The position of MDS was recently created, in response to increasing development pressures and the stated goal of seeking delegated authority to approve subdivisions and plans of condominium by 2018. The first round of recruitment was unsuccessful, and in the second round, Forbes Symon was hired. However, after six months, Mr Symon left this September for a similar position in Perth, where he lived. To date, no suitable replacement has been found.
Before re-advertising in the new year, Mayor Vandewal suggested Council might wish to discuss whether they even wanted to continue with the recently-created position.
The answer was clear. “It was a great advantage, having a Development Services Manager for six months. It would be a mistake to lose sight of that” (Sutherland); “That position offered comfort and confidence”, (McDougall); “The Development Services Manager brought strength and breadth of experience - it’s hard to have lost that,” (Schjerning). The rest of Council were equally supportive of continuing to recruit for the position.
The Building Department has had what Orr calls “a chronic problem” keeping anyone in the position of Chief Building Official since Councillor Alan Revill retired from the job in early 2012. Since then there have been three full-time hires and four Acting CBO’s appointed in between: most recently, Ryan Arcand left in November after eleven months as CBO to return to the City of Kingston. Staff are currently interviewing applicants. In spite of a seasonal drop in demand, the remaining building official is not able to keep up with the workload. Orr summarizes: “staff are also exploring other creative options on how to deliver service, however, it is premature to comment on their feasibility or possibility.”