Julie Druker | Jul 16, 2015

On July 11, members of COFA (Conservationists of Frontenac Addington) attended a meeting at the Barrie hall in Cloyne, where Ron Pethick, one of the organization's founding members, announced that he would be stepping down this year after over two decades as the organization's president.

He cited health issues and said he lacks the necessary energy required for the role. He also understands that the organization needs some fresh blood to foster new directions if it is to continue. Pethick said he does hope to see the organization continue and he is hoping that the members will hold elections this September.

Pethick opened the meeting with a history of COFA, which was formed in 1994, because, he said, “A lot was going on politically at that time and we needed to have a local voice in this area to make sure that certain things like resources, land management and wild life habitats and populations were properly looked after.”

In fact, it was a meeting held at that time at the Lions hall in Northbrook, which hundreds of people attended, that Pethick said resulted in the squashing of the Madawaska Highlands Regional Trust, a group whose aim he said was to “ban fishing, boating hunting, trapping, and logging in an area that stretched west to Bancroft, north to Madoc, east to Perth and south to Cobden.”

COFA was formed after the Northbrook meeting and has been up and running ever since. In 1995 the organization established the Bishop Lake pickerel hatchery, where over 11 years, 18.5 million swim up pickerel fry were hatched and deposited in area lakes. The organization also stocked 28,000 speckled trout in local lakes, along with thousands of rainbow trout and pickerel fingerlings.

In an effort to improve local pickerel spawning beds, members have helped spread 350 tons of rock in Mississagagon Lake and similarly spread another 70 tonnes of rock at Skootamatta causeway. As well, in conjunction with the Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, an additional 150 tons was spread in Mazinaw Lake to create a new lake trout spawning bed.

Members have run hundreds of miles of trails to assist deer during especially harsh winters and have also provided herds with thousands of pounds of feed. Members have also helped to fund the rehabilitation of orphaned white tailed deer and for years have donated a $500 bursary annually to local North Addington Education Centre students. This August six lucky youngster, thanks to COFA, will be fishing at Deer Rock Lake.

Now with the hatchery no longer functioning and with Pethick making public his intention of stepping down, many members are wondering how and if COFA will carry on. They stress the need to get new projects up and running in order to attract new members. Many suggestions were made at the Cloyne meeting. One member volunteered to assist Ron's wife Dot with administrative tasks and other new ideas were suggested, which included establishing a COFA website, getting students at NAEC involved with the group and also trying to make connections with the various local lake associations to find out what kinds of projects COFA members may be able to assist with.

It is still a big unknown whether the hatchery, in which COFA has upwards of $15,000 invested, will ever be operational again, though many members expressed interest in getting it up and running. It looks as though there are members who want to COFA to continue into the future.

Long-time member Dave Dacuk shot up his hand when asked if anyone would be interested in stepping in as president and it was decided that a second meeting will be held in September, at which time elections will likely be held.

In the meantime, members were asked to continue brain storming about possible new projects for the future. Anyone interested in joining COFA or existing members who missed the meeting but have new ideas for COFA's future, please contact Lauder Smith at 613-336-2998.

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