Long a service centre for seasonal residents, Sharbot Lake is fast becoming a hub for business and tourism in Rural Frontenac
Given that reality, the Sharbot Lake Business Group (SLBG) was formed last year to foster more co-operation among local business owners. Recognising the importance of tourism, The SLBG quickly formed a taskforce on tourism, with a more regional focus.
The taskforce is holding a one-day conference for at Arden’s Camp Kennebec on May 4th
It will be sponsored by OHTO – the Ontario Highlands Tourist Organization with its ‘Come Wander’ brand; and will be supported by Frontenac County’s Ambassador Program with its ‘#InFrontenac’ brand.
In consultations sponsored by the SLBG last fall, one of the major challenges identified was a silo mentality for both businesses and government, resulting in a sense of isolation. Conference Chair Greg Rodgers has identified a new aspect of this mentality. A small but growing number entrepreneurs are now doing business on the internet – but not so much locally. Our first-ever tourism conference aims to provide a collaborative experience, one that announces a new day for tourism in Rural Frontenac.
In the morning there will be a presentation from Haliburton’s Barrie Martin of ‘Yours Outdoors’, who will share the latest in experiential tourism. Eganville’s Chris Hinsperger of ‘Bonnechere Caves’ will share his enthusiasm for collaboration. A third character will be also be presenting. It will be the first showing of our ‘County Sampler’, a selection of tastes and art representing a diverse group of Rural Frontenac producers!
The afternoon will focus on the areas of accommodations, food, artists, experiences and support services. As an outcome, we look forward to the expansion of our tourism task force for announcing Rural Frontenac as a new destination for tourists across north eastern North America and the world.
Our conference is out to serve businesses from Frontenac County, Addington and Lanark Highlands.
Of the 50 spaces in the conference, 15 are still available. Interested in coming out to beautiful Camp Kennebec to help kickstart a new era in tourism?
Call Greg Rodgers at 613-279-3006.
Harold Perry, who died last week, was born at Ardoch. He left for Toronto as a teenager but returned to Ardoch as an adult, and lived the rest of his life on Canoe Path Lane, on a section of the Mississippi River that is called Mud Lake.
He experienced discrimination because of his Algonquin heritage when he was young, in Ardoch and in Toronto.
Nonetheless, he embraced the teachings and connection to the land that he learned as a child. He also developed a very strong and unwavering set of political understandings that have influenced indigenous activists locally and across the province in profound ways. He also was a master canoe builder and country music guitarist. He was proudly inducted into the Land O’Lakes Traditional Music Hall of Fame in 2016.
Harold also helped to manage a patch of wild rice, that was transported to Mud Lake by his mother from Rice Lake near Peterborough. And that patch of rice was responsible for a chain of events that changed Harold’s life and many others, and helped spark the re-birth of Indigenous culture in Frontenac and Lanark Counties and beyond.
In the late 1970’s, the province of Ontario granted a license to a rice harvesting company to collect the rice from Mud Lake. Harold was a well-established builder, woodworker, martial arts instructor, and musician at the time, headed towards retirement age, when he saw that the rice patch that he had been stewarding for most of his life was about to be harvested.
He approached North Frontenac Community Services, which had a community legal worker on staff at the time (a position that eventually led to the formation of its own agency – Rural Legal Services.)
That worker was Bob Lovelace, who spent most of his time representing clients of the Oso Township welfare office, who were having trouble accessing funds from the township.
When Harold and Bob met, both of their lives changed.
“I knew from when I was a kid that I was part Indian,” Lovelace said when contacted this week at his home on Canoe Lake.
“I was mainly focussed, at that that time, on the local welfare system. Harold came to see me one day about what he could do about the rice.
Harold and Bob and a host of other community members worked on what were dubbed locally as the ‘rice wars’ for a couple of seasons and eventually the company was forced to withdraw.
The entire episode sparked a bit of a renaissance in Aboriginal culture in the region.
“Local people kept their culture to themselves before that. They kept it within their extended families, but at that time they started to feel they no longer wanted to be ashamed of their identity, they wanted to come together in public.”
A number of cultural and political groups developed throughout the 1980’s in the Ardoch and Sharbot Lake areas, and Harold and Bob formed a friendship and political alliance.
Lovelace, who is a university lecturer at Queen’s, a community educator and political activist, said “I like to tell my students that Harold Perry taught me everything I know about aboriginal culture and politics.”
In the 1980’s, Harold became a central figure in another legal battle, over hunting rights for non-status people of Aboriginal heritage.
“He thought it was important to establish hunting rights, and he said he thought it would take longer than his lifetime to do it, but we had to make a start. It was a shorter fight than he thought.”
It turned out that it was Harold himself who supplied the test case, when he was arrested for shooting a duck without first obtaining a hunting license.
Harold fought the case on his inherent right to hunt as an aboriginal person, and won. The case was later overturned in an appeal court, based on some of the comments that the judge made during the trial, but the government of Ontario has never re-visited the issue, being content to establish harvesting agreements with First Nations to this day rather than challenging Aboriginal hunting rights.
In the late 1980’s the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and Allies (AAFNA - later renamed the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation) had been formed, and Harold was elected as Chief through a vote of the family heads council.
AAFNA was approached by Kirby Whiteduck from Golden Lake (now know as Pikwakanagan First Nation) to join in the Algonquin land claim process, and they agreed to participate.
“After about a year Harold realised that the non-status communities were only going to be used and he encouraged the family heads council to have AAFNA step back from the process, and they agreed.”
AAFNA, and Harold, became harsh critics of the land claim process, never yielding in his opinion that it would lead only to the diminution of Aboriginal rights. This led to more than a little bitterness within the local community that is still echoed to this day.
The Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation, based now on White Lake, and the Snimikobi Algonquin First Nation (based in Eganville) remained within the process, and AAFNA has remained opposed.
In 2007, a uranium exploration company began doing testing on Crotch Lake, using an old mine at Robertsville as an access point from Hwy. 509. Crotch Lake and the region surrounding it are the traditional territory for both AAFNA and the Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nations.
In spite of the schism between the two groups, who share territory and family connections, the two First Nations worked together and occupied the site, saying they would not permit drilling on their ancestral territory. It was an uneasy alliance that frayed pretty quickly, but the occupation held for several months.
“Harold, Doreen Davis (Chief of the Shabot Obaadjiwan) the Badour and St. Pierre families deserve credit for putting that coalition together,” said Lovelace, “even if it was tough.”
After the occupation ended, a court case, launched by the exploration company, culminated in a Superior Court Judge in Kingston demanding that the community representatives who ended up facing charges of trespassing, commit to staying away from the site.
In the end there were three who resisted making that declaration, which was a matter of principle more than practicality since by that time the site was back in the hands of the company and access was blocked.
The three were Harold Perry, Bob Lovelace, and Paula Sherman, all Chiefs or former Chiefs of AAFNA.
“Harold was 78 at the time, and I knew from working in the prisons that he was not in good enough health to go to prison, so we talked him into making the declaration,” Lovelace recalls. Lovelace was the only one who ended up in jail, until he was released on appeal several months later.
The company ended up leaving and the land is no longer eligible for staking, and is part of the lands earmarked in the land claim, for transfer to the Algonquins.
Harold Perry lived on at his home in Ardoch with his wife Elsie until last week.
He was an unassuming, even a shy man, but a ferocious political fighter for the rights of non-status Indigenous people, and whether they agreed or disagreed with him, no one can deny the impact he has had on Indigenous politics in this region, and beyond.
“This eliminates Household Hazardous Waste Day as we know it,” Mayor Frances Smith said at the regular Central Frontenac Council meeting Tuesday afternoon in Sharbot Lake.
Central has been holding the annual day for several years and it was designed to clear out all sorts of ‘hazardous’ waste like old pain and oil from barns and garages around the Township.
It did quite well at that but the problem was that it was expensive.
In a report to Council, acting Public Works Manager David Armstrong pointed out that in 2018, 380 vehicles came in to dump hazardous waste. That ended up costing the Township $24,072.49 (invoiced cost of $37,000 minus $12,927.51 in rebates). And that doesn’t include staff overtime.
If everyone in the Township took a load of household hazardous waste to Kingston for disposal, the cost would have been $14,198.50. (For the previous three years, the day has averaged 389 vehicles per year).
If all residents took a load to South Frontenac, the cost would have been $19,450.
Armstrong said that as it stands now, residents can take hazardous waste to Kingston or South Frontenac. South Frontenac is a bit more expensive but he said they seem open to negotiation.
There is also a chance that North Frontenac facilities could be made available to Central residents.
So for this year at least, residents who want to dispose of such dangerous materials are to go to the Township office in Sharbot Lake, fill out a form and take their waste to Kingston or South Frontenac.
However, the Township will pick up the tab for it (gas excluded).
“It’s already in the budget (for worst case scenario),” said Armstrong.
“If we need to re-instate Household Hazardous Waste Day, I’m sure we’ll hear about it,” said Smith. “I just can’t save up enough waste every year though.
“Maybe we might look at doing it every two years.”
“I think this is great,” said Coun. Nicki Gowdy. “I think it will catch on when people realize they can go whenever they want rather than having to wait every year.”
Dep. Mayor Victor Heese suggested a drop off site at Wemp Road or Oso, trucking the waste to Kingston once a month might be an option.
“It wouldn’t be quite that simple,” said Armstrong. “We’d have to have the proper licence and designated areas for it at our waste sites.
“But it could be a possibility.”
Who knew it could be that simple?
When Dorothy Gray came to Council asking for a culvert to alleviate flooding problems in her driveway on Long Lake Road, it sounded like she expected an arguement.
“I’ve told a couple of people but nothing’s been done,” she said. “It’s a big puddle and it freezes over.”
Mayor Frances Smith asked acting Public Works Manager David Armstrong if the Township installed culverts in these situations.
Armstrong replied that generally, they put them in for new construction but when something like this is brought to their attention, they usually take care of it.
“Especially if it’s beneficial to our infrastructure,” he said.
Council directed staff to have a look at the matter.
Grants for rinks
Council gave its blessing for staff to help the Kennebec Recreation Committee to apply for a Hydro 1 grant to be put towards rink renovations in Arden and to look at projects that might qualify for Ontario Trillium Fund grants such as the (proposed) rink in Sharbot Lake.
If there was a Juno category for ‘longest song introductions,’ Dave Gunning would win hands down.
Thankfully, his introductions are as entertaining as the music.
Gunning was at The Crossing Pub in Sharbot Lake for the second time last Saturday.
He is a singer-songwriter in the tradition of Canada’s finest (think Lightfoot, Cockburn, McLauchlan). His tunes help define the Canadian experience, with a healthy helping of Nova Scotian perspective.
Probably his best-known song, A Game’s Goin’ On, from the No More Pennies album, was written with local songwriter David Francey, and it won the Great Canadian Song Quest, 2013 Hockey Night in Canada Song Quest.
Everybody was singing along (funny how that tends to happen when there are a lot of musicians in the audience).
“I met David in Denmark in 2003,” he said. “And we wrote that when he stayed at my house during the Celtic Colours Festival.
“We were both mad at hockey because of the strike at the time - millionaires fighting with billionaires - and we wanted to write something about the game that spoke to its roots.
“I wanted to have David sing on it and we produced it with that in mind, so his fans would be able to appreciate it.”
Gunning’s 12th album just came out “a couple of Fridays ago” and he has been touring relentlessly in support of it.
The album also features long-time collaborator J. P. Cormier.
“I’ve played with J. P. for 20 years,” he said. “He’s one of the best in the world.”
Even though his busy touring schedule takes him away from home a lot, he said he wouldn’t change it and it does have some advantages.
“You gotta do fool them again,” he said. “The secret is to keep moving, town to town.
“But even though I miss Sara and the boys, I enjoy the life and I feel very fortunate to be able to do it.”
And he tells you all about it, in song and song introductions.
Perhaps his most entertaining introduction featured his appearance on The Trailer Park Boys. It’s the episode with George Canyon, where the boys attempt to smuggle dope across the border and Gunning delivers the immortal line, “Shreddies?”.
“Yeah, it was one word but I got paid more because it was a speaking part,” he said.
Nikon ambassador Michelle Valberg was supposed to give a talk at GREC Saturday night, showing off her wildlife photographs.
However, with the weather calling for freezing rain and a flight scheduled for 6am to photograph Canada’s reindeer herd, Valberg had to beg off.
Luckily, the guy responsible for (almost) bringing her to Sharbot Lake has also taken quite a few wildlife photos, and it’s likely the insights he brought to the genre exceeded what a pure photographer might have had.
Gray Merriam, PhD, Dsc, Professor Emeritus, Landscape Ecologist, knows a thing or two about critters and the way they interact with their environment, and the audience didn’t seem to mind him filling in at the last minute.
“I used to do ecological research and live only 18 kilometers from Sharbot Lake,” he said.
Merriam’s lecture featured four photo shoots — polar bears in ‘Bear Town’ near Churchill, Manitoba, grizzly bears in Knight Inlet, B.C., ‘spirit’ bears in the Great Bear Rainforest in B.C. and painted hunting dogs in Botswana, Africa.
He began with polar bears.
“There are polar bear alert signs in the area,” he said. “A boulder covered in snow and a polar bear look quite similar but stepping on one gets very different results.”
He said the bears come ashore when the sea ice melts and they’re stuck there until it reforms, with very little to eat, so photographers have to load into a specialized ‘bear buggy’ to mingle with them.
“The time between the ice melting and reforming is getting longer and there’s not much food for the bears except seaweed,” he said. “It has very little nutritive value, except for something to chew on.”
He also had several shots of arctic foxes.
“They’re about the size of a large housecat,” he said. “The red foxes are moving north and are about twice the size of the arctic foxes.
“They prey on them.”
Next came the grizzlies of Knight Island.
“They’re having litters of three and four, which is the best indication that they’re doing well,” he said.
He said that “their ability to catch fish varies greatly” and the ones that are really good at it tend to eat only the “best parts — the roe and brains.” The bears that aren’t that good at fishing scoop up what’s left and drag them off into the woods.
“In this way they fertilize the forest,” he said.
Then came the highlight of the lecture — the Kermode bears, or spirit bears.
“These bears only exist on two islands,” he said. “They’re actually black bears with a genetic difference in that there’s no pigment in their hair.
“They’re not albinos as they do have pigment in their eyes.
“We were very lucky. Lots of people go there and never see a spirit bear. We got our fair share.”
Merriam finished up his talk with photos of the painted dogs of the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
“They have various patterns,” he said. “No two are ever alike.
“They’re about the size of a German shepherd, but with no body fat because they run all day, every day.”
He showed pictures of pups nipping at adults’ lips to make them regurgitate food for the pups as well as a number of other species in the area including leopards, crocodiles, lions, a serval, hippos, a bush baby and elephants.
VIA Rail officials have not given up on plans to build out a new service between Toronto and Ottawa, passing through and potentially stopping in Sharbot Lake, but the federal budget did not go as they had hoped.
In a short letter to Central Frontenac Council, written the day after the budget, Tiffany Anne Ouimet, Senior Advisor (government and community relations, Ontario and West) said she “wanted to reach out to let you know that we have taken stock of the Federal Budget measures announced yesterday”.
The letter does not go on to reveal what was in the budget, but it is clear by what is not said that the budget did not contain any funding for the project.
“We remain confident in the importance and relevance of High Frequency Rail for our passengers and for bringing communities closer together with a travel solution that will make life easier and unlock local opportunities, while reducing pollution and supporting Canadian growth and prosperity.
“Driven by our commitment to provide the best experience for our customers, VIA will continue to work with Government of Canada officials as they study High Frequency Rail,” the letter says before going on to talk about VIA’s other priorities.”
Then it thanks Central Frontenac for “sharing your perspective on the needs and opportunities in Central Frontenac”.
Central Frontenac Mayor Frances Smith said that it is her understanding that the letter is a way of letting the township know that “VIA is interested in the project but they realise the government is not supporting this project now, and they don’t know when that will change.”
Clayton Conboy grew up helping his Mom and Dad, Joyce and Mel, make maple syrup each spring. It was a labour-intensive effort, tromping out to the bush, gathering sap from holding tanks around their farm property on Bell Line road, which is off the 509 north of Sharbot Lake, and hauling it to the evaporator to be boiled down into syrup.
Clayton is now 31, and works in Ottawa, but he looks forward to coming home during syrup season. The family syrup operation, which is called Oso Sweet, a play on the former name of the township where their farm is located, has developed significantly over the years.
All of the sap now flows from the bush into a central shed, thanks to a vacuum system. It goes through preliminary filtering, and is then pumped into a 2,800 gallon stainless steel tank that is housed in a new building. The sap then passes into a reverse osmosis machine, where, through the use of air pressure and microfiltration, the sugar content of the sap is tripled. The Conboys bring their sap to 7.5% sugar before sending off it to the wood fired evaporator where it is transformed to maple syrup, precisely 67% sugar. Even elements such as the barometric reading are taken into account. The finished syrup is filtered, graded as golden, amber, or dark and then bottled for sale.
“The best syrup is made from the freshest sap, and with all that we’ve done over the years, when the sap is running well, we can process it into syrup pretty quickly,” said Mel Conboy, in an interview at the farm last Friday, a cool early spring day when the trees “weren’t really hurting themselves to run that much” as Clayton Conboy put it.
The other advantage of the technology that the Conboys have put in place over the last ten years or so, is that instead of boiling well into the night when the sap is running hard, they can be finished and becleaned up by supper time.
“I’m 68,” said Mel, “I don’t need to work until midnight anymore.”
Putting in the reverse osmosis machine cut the boiling time for syrup significantly, saving on wood and lessening the environmental impact of syrup production. But it was not just a matter of buying a machine. It required the construction of a new heated building, which took time and money. When the Conboy’s were ready to make the purchase, they applied for, and received, an Eastern Ontario Development Program grant.
With the cost of the reverse osmosis machine, the building and hydro upgrades, we were very appreciative of the grant that we received from the Frontenac CFDC. It helped fund a project that we had long dreamed of, covering about 10% of the cost. That was a big help,” said Joyce Conboy.
The Conboys are planning still more upgrades, in a constant effort to create an efficient operation that produces consistent, high quality maple syrup.
They purchased a new finish filter machine this year, and in the long term would like to build on to the new building to house their evaporator and bring their entire production into one space. As well, as they increase their capacity to process sap into syrup, they are looking at expanding by tapping some more of their maple. They are already producing as much syrup out of 1,600 taps as they used to produce from 3,000, and by expanding they can start to make more syrup than ever before. But nothing is simple. Even with automation, syrup season is a busy time of year at the Conboy farm. Lined need to be checked, the sugar bush monitored, and the technology has to work in harmony, one malfunction and the entire system is challenged. And the wood for the evaporator doesn’t cut, split, and dry itself.
“We love this time of year. It’s like a breath of fresh air and the end result is uniquely Canadian,” said Joyce.
Oso sweet syrup is available at the farm gate at 2379 Bell Line Road, and in Ottawa through Clayton’s home store. Check their website Ososweetmaple.ca. They are participating in Maple Weekend on April 6 and 7 as well, one of two Frontenac County locations, which are both located on the Bell Line Road.
Central Frontenac Council passed a motion to declare the old Parham Fire Surplus and approved it being listed for sale at its regular meeting Tuesday afternoon in Sharbot Lake.
The motion came as a part of a proposal from Fire Chief Greg Robinson who, in his report, proposed that the “net proceeds of the sale be transferred to the fire reserve account.”
The old Parham station was replaced with a new fire station in 2016 and the old one is currently used as a warehouse for fire equipment.
However, Robinson said that the fire department has two surplus stations in Mountain Grove and the one by the rink could be used for storage as well as continue as change room for the rink. He acknowledged that there are some recreational materials in the building but the Facilities Manager assured him that they are rotting skateboard park items that will be disposed of or relocated by Facilities.
“We have received serious interest from two parties that want to purchase the old station,” Robinson said in his report.
However, there are two potential problems with a sale of the property.
The property has two neighbours, one a residential property directly west and the Township itself in conjunction with the Parham Agricultural Society on the other two sides. The property in question is directly adjacent to the fairgrounds.
In his report, Robinson said “the land severance will be about half an acre and will not impact the fairground.
Three councilors (Tom Dewey, Bill MacDonald and John Purdon) all pointed out that under the Official Plan, the minimum lot size in Central Frontenac is 1.25 acres.
Robinson said that the entrance to the fairgrounds could be moved in order to comply with the minimum lot size requirements but Coun. Phillip Smith, who is the treasurer for the Ag Society said it was the first he’d heard of the entrance being moved.
The other issue is that there is a well on the property that is used by the ball fields. Robinson said that one of the interested parties said they didn’t use much water and would be prepared to let the fairgrounds/ ball fields continue to draw water from the property. If someone else wanted to buy it, Robinson said “we’d have to drill another well” for the ball fields to use.
It is conceivable that the neighbours to the west might want to add the property to their own but in any other scenario, there is a lot of process to happen before the property could be sold including a survey, addition of property from the fairgrounds (either by moving the entrance or taking some from the children’s play area), determination of fair market value and quite likely a zoning change, depending on what the new owners might want to use it for.
Former Coun. John Purdon was sworn in to replace the departed Jamie Riddell around the Council table. Riddell was also at the meeting in his capacity as Dep. Fire Chief and wished Purdon luck “considering the size of the shoes you have to fill.”
At their meeting this week (Mayu 21) Frontenac County is being asked to initiate expropriation proceedings to deal with three properties on the former K&P rail line. The owners of the three properties, one of which is located south of Oconto Road in South Frontenac, and two are located in Central Frontenac closer to Sharbot Lake. The owner of the properties have rebuffed attempts by the county to negotiate a land purchase of the former railway corridor.
The county has secured most of the privately held sections of the rail/trail line, and has completed construction at the north and south ends of the final section of trail between Tichborne and Sharbot Lake, but these outstanding pieces, along with the challenges posed by some of swampier sections that the trail passes through, are a challenge to be met as the trail is overdue for completion.
In a report to council, staff explained why they are seeking to use legal means after attempting a less confrontational approach.
“The County's efforts to purchase three sections of privately owned lands at market value for the purpose of connecting the Frontenac K&P Trail have been unsuccessful and staff have determined that it is now necessary and in the public interest to apply for approval to expropriate these private lands. The purpose of acquiring these three parcels of land is to link two sections of the Frontenac K&P Trail and thereby ensure its continued longterm viability as a public trail within the Frontenac County Trail System in accordance with the County of Frontenac Trails Master Plan,” said he rport, which was co-authored by Janette Amini (Manager of Legislative Services) and Kevin Farrell (Manager of Continuous Improvement/GIS)
The Frontenac Heritage Festival returns to Central Frontenac Township this weekend for its 12th year.
Things get underway Friday night with an opening gala at GREC and the annual local talent show — Frontenac’s Got Talent.
The Festival swings into high gear on Saturday with a variety of events and activities in Sharbot Lake, Tichborne, Arden and Kennebec Lake. You can skate for free at the Tichborne rink all day.
Sharbot Lake will be busy starting with the Lions All You Can Eat Breakfast, a bonfire at the CF Train Museum and a Bucket Drumming Workshop for kids at the Child Centre.
But the Arden area has historically been the busiest area on the Saturday and this year is no exception with the Empty Bowls lunch with proceeds going to the food bank, the annual fur-traders camp reenactment, indoor displays from the Historical Society and Trappers Council along with games for the kids outside and chainsaw wood carving demonstrations. There’s a chili cook-off at the Legion too.
And over at the Kennebec Lake public boat launch, the Kennebec Lake Association is holding its 7th annual Winter Fun Day with skating, hockey, ring-toss, snow shoeing, ice fishing, campfire and hot food and drinks.
On Sunday, the focus shifts back to Sharbot Lake for the annual Polar Bear Plunge followed by live music and chili at the Legion. At 6 p.m., the winners of the photo contest will be announced at Oso Hall followed by a family movie.
On Monday, there will be games and activities at the ball field in Sharbot Lake and demonstrations of logging skills at Glen Matson’s farm in Arden.
Although there’s no official ‘chair’ of the festival committee for this year (founder/showrunner Janet Gutowski has stepped down), Mike Procter, who’s busy with different events three of the four days, said they’re always looking for volunteers (they’re good for this year), especially when it comes to planning next year’s event.
“All it would take is a 10-15 hour commitment, all indoors if you want,” Procter said. “We will train you.”
You can call Procter at 613-279-2572.
(And you can look for Procter at his “jockularity and prestidigitation” at the talent show, the fur traders camp on Saturday and with the Frontenac Blades tomahawk/knife throwers at Matson’s Farm.)