FOCA Elert ~ late September 2023

We have tons of news! Make sure you see all the updates -

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Catch up with the Executive Director

Terry Rees has your quick recap about FOCA's most recent event last weekend, and your invitation for our next two events: a new Cottage Succession Seminar with estate lawyer Peter Lillico, and the FOCA Fall Seminar for Lake Associations. Click below to launch the 1 minute YouTube video:

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the FOCA Association Insurance Program and CottageFirst

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Enjoy your cottage with reliable and fast internet

Get a big city connection (and big savings) wherever you are with Ignite Internet powered by wireless home internet technology. Connect your home or cottage to the ultimate WiFi experience with fast, reliable internet in every room. Plus, if you’re planning to be away for an extended period, simply pause your service until you return — hassle-free.

Call us at 1-866-256-2138 for personalized assistance (press "1") to check availability at your address.

Or, visit the Rogers booth at an upcoming cottage country show:

> Bala Cranberry Festival (Oct.13-15/23)

See you there!

Event Recap: "Connections" Gathering

We had a great time on September 23rd at our celebratory 60th anniversary fundraiser, held at the historic Market Hall in Peterborough.

Thank you to special guest speaker Michelle Kelly (Editor of Cottage Life Magazine and host of the Cottage Life podcast), and our Speaker Sponsor, Travelers Canada.

Thanks also to our donors, our current and past FOCA Board Directors and Staff, and fellow lake association members from across Ontario who came together for music, art, mingling, memories, and more.

Was the highlight the s'mores cake, the fast-and-furious bidding on the amazing silent auction items, or the campfire sing-along? It's hard to say.

More thanks go to our volunteer event photographer Jordan Lyall, who not only captured the event (look for all the images in a follow-up message from FOCA next week), but also donated a family photo shoot package as our Door Prize for one lucky winner (that's you, John McG.), and she is now extending a 10% discount to all FOCA members on photo packages booked for 2024. Thank you, Jordan!

Upcoming FOCA Events

FOCA Fall Seminar for Associations

Saturday, November 4, 2023 by webinar (9am-noon) - register to join us for our next member event, titled "Understanding the Changing State of our Lakes".

The event includes a range of environmental topics, including:

  • an overview of the recent Ontario Climate Change Impact Assessment Technical Report by the President of the Climate Risk Institute
  • the nature of our lakes and how they're changing over time by our feature speaker Dr. John Smol, the Canadian Research Chair in Environmental Change
  • the state of our loons - an indicator species for waterfront health by Bird Studies Canada
  • updates from partners on the top aquatic invasive plants threatening our waters, and the most recent news about recent Grass carp sightings in Ontario
  • an update on our longstanding citizen science program, the Lake Partner Program

among other topics. Register now for this webinar!

FOCA Cottage Succession Seminars

Register for one of our remaining 2023 Cottage Succession Planning Seminars with estate lawyer Peter Lillico!

Remember to indicate your FOCA affiliation when you register to be confirmed for an event, as FOCA members attend for FREE (non-members can request to register for $10 each). Click the dates for upcoming webinars:

  • Wed. Oct. 18th at 7pm by webinar for all FOCA members – “It’s All About the Kids.” This session provides a "deeper dive" into considerations around which kids to include in the ownership plan, how to protect them, and how to secure your family cottage legacy. Register using this link.
  • Wed. Oct. 25th at 7pm by webinar for all FOCA members, hosted by the Lake Weslemkoon Conservation Association – “Cottage Succession A to Z” – this is the introductory session with an overview of the topic including cottage sharing agreements, capital gains tax, trusts and more. Register using this link.

Registrants will receive a copy of the slides, but NOT a recording, so please plan to attend during the webinar times: 7:00 to 8:30pm. Bring your questions for the lawyer!

FOCA Champions Safe & Affordable Rural Living

Fall Boating Safety

Our partners at the Canadian Safe Boating Council (CSBC) remind everyone that Fall boating is breathtaking and can be much quieter than high season boating. For this reason, you need to be self-sufficient because there may be fewer boats in the vicinity should you require assistance. Get Fall boating safety tips online here from CSBC:

Property Assessments Postponed Again

In August, the Ontario government filed a regulation to amend the Assessment Act, extending the postponement of a province-wide reassessment through the end of the 2021-2024 assessment cycle. This means that property assessments for the 2023 and 2024 property tax years will continue to be based on fully phased-in January 1, 2016 current values. The government also announced that it will conduct a review of Ontario’s property assessment and taxation system. 

For a refresher on the municipal property assessment system, and how assessments are calculated by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), members can login on our Property Taxation & Assessment webpage to review slides from the webinar given by MPAC to our membership in 2022.

Cottage Closing - sigh...

For those who use their waterfront property seasonally, it may be getting close to closing time. Consider the following tips from the Electrical Safety Authority about cottage closing electrical safety, and get a full cottage closing checklist from FOCA (download PDF, see page 2 for closing tips).

Short-Term Rental

Ontario Municipalities continue to grapple with ways to manage the proliferation of short-term rentals in cottage country, using everything from educational campaigns to licensing, fines and demerit points. Read the latest developments from the City of Kawartha Lakes and from the County of Haliburton on our webpage:


Are you looking for funding opportunities for your community FireSmart initiatives? Every year between November 1 and January 31 you can apply for the FireSmart Community Preparedness Day grant through FireSmart Canada to receive $500 to put towards your FireSmart event in the coming year! You can apply every year, even if you’ve already received the funding previously. In 2023, 230 neighbourhoods across Canada received the grant! More information is available at For wildland fire updates visit

FOCA's Gold Level Sponsors

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FOCA Advocates for Responsive Government

Licenses of Occupation

FOCA continues to hear from members in various regions who are being pressed by their municipalities to purchase shoreline allowances or enter into License of Occupation contracts with the municipality, including legal deposits and proof of insurance requirements, wherever private infrastructure (e.g., a private dock) exists on municipally-owned land (i.e., an unopened road allowance, or on the water-side of a township road).

As one example, the Township of Algonquin Highlands held a significant Council meeting in early September that was attended by many concerned citizens. As a result of that turnout, the Township agreed to receive and respond to a list of questions from residents about the proposed Policy before proceeding with a vote. Review the questions and responses here (download PDF, 8 pages). According to the Township, discussions on the matter continue.

Ontario Land Tribunal Decision on Shoreline Preservation Bylaw

On September 11, 2023 the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLF) issued their decision regarding an appeal related to the Municipality of Hastings Highlands' Shoreline Preservation Bylaw (which had been approved by Council in May 2022). The OLT approved the Bylaw and dismissed the appeal, also amending the Bylaw to add a definition of "vegetative buffer" and include clarification as to what level of maintenance of vegetation is permitted within the buffer. Read a media release about the Tribunal's decision (download PDF, 3 pages), circulated by our member group the Lake St. Peter Property Owners' Association.

Looking for resources to bring to your own municipal council to encourage them to support regulations that protect shorelines? Visit FOCA's Land Use Planning webpage for publications created with our partners on the Watersheds Canada "Planning for our Shorelands" steering committee, including "Environmental Net Gain" - a regulatory guide with municipal by-law, policy and Official Plan examples worth emulating:

FOCA Promotes Healthy Lands, Lakes & Rivers

Grass Carp

What happens when a Grass carp is found in Canadian waters? (NOTE: the most recent captures were in July and August this year.) A Response Plan is implemented by Fisheries & Oceans Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry and their partners.

Learn more in this short video about what happens after a capture, and why the fish is tested for fertility: Then find out how you can be part of the detection of aquatic invaders on the Great Lakes: (image: Asian Carp Canada)

Clean + Drain + Dry your Boat

Planning one (or more) trips out on the boat before you call it a season? If you're going to put your watercraft in a new waterbody, you need to follow the law in Ontario and CLEAN, DRAIN AND DRY it before switching waterbodies. Help prevent the spread of invasive hitchhikers like zebra mussels, spiny water flea, or fragments of aquatic plants. Don't forget to check your boat trailer and gear as well! Learn more, and then spread the word:

Lake Partner Program

Our 600 Lake Partner Program volunteers take water samples once in May if they are on the Canadian Shield, or monthly from May to October for lakes that are off the shield. Thank you to our volunteers who are still out in the cooler weather, completing their sampling for the year! Pictured is our volunteer on Lake St. John, doing some mid-September sampling. (image copied from the Facebook post of the Lake St. John Cottage & Home Owners Association)

Learn more about the program here:

The Myth of Water Abundance in Ontario

A new study out of the University of Waterloo challenges the myth of water abundance in the Great Lakes watershed. In their review, they found high or moderate water risks in at least half of 38 sub-watersheds in the study. Find out more and get the full report from this article in Water Canada Magazine.


Our water samplers have returned their samples from dozens of sites across the province for the IsampleON program (Invasive Species Awareness and Monitoring Program for Lakes Education Ontario). Thank you volunteers! Learn more about the program here:

(images: volunteer Bruce Moore of the Mink Lake Property Owners Association in Hastings Highlands sampling in late August 2023)

Invasive Phragmites

Our members are actively working on many local projects across the province to manage invasive Phragmites. Thank you to all our dedicated volunteers involved in fighting the spread! Keep sending us pictures of your community efforts.

(images: invasive Phragmites management projects underway - TOP: Carson Trout Lepine Greenan volunteers in Renfrew County; BOTTOM: Greenough Harbour volunteers in Northern Bruce Peninsula)

Phragmites is a very tall and fast-growing perennial grass now covering nearly 17,000 hectares of Ontario shoreline, wetlands and roadsides. It creates ecological dead-zones and impacts at-risk species. Invasive Phragmites has been called Canada’s worst invasive species, and management and eradication of invasive Phragmites has become an increasing cost for municipalities across Ontario. Learn more about the plant and the Green Shovels Collaborative that is funding these management projects:

Costly Invaders

On that note, a major new report on invasive alien species by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) outlines the serious threats that many of these species pose to nature, and nature’s contributions to people and a good quality of life. In addition to the dramatic changes to biodiversity and ecosystems, the global economic cost of invasive alien species exceeded $423 billion annually in 2019! Read the news from IPBES: (source of the image above)

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Partner Updates & Regional Notices

Lake Links 2023

Saturday, October 21, 2023 - FOCA is a proud funder of this annual meeting of lake associations in eastern Ontario at Lake Links. Join us in Perth for this year's program: "Hooked on Habitat: Sustainable Fisheries for the Future." For more about the event, click the image at the side to download a one page PDF with more details. Register online here:

Monitoring the "Bugs in the Mud" to gauge lake health

A number of lake groups have studied lake benthos (the “bugs in the mud”) as one way to monitor their lake. This approach is used because these organisms are sensitive to changes in their aquatic environment. Different species have different tolerance levels to pollution, so by assessing the presence and abundance of various macroinvertebrate species, researchers can gauge the level of pollution in the water. A diverse and healthy population of sensitive species indicates good water quality, while a dominance of pollution-tolerant species suggests poor water quality.

The Ontario Benthos Biomonitoring Network (OBBN) is offering a 3-day course at Fleming College Frost campus (Lindsay, Ontario) which will train you to properly identify aquatic macroinvertebrates, and the proper collection techniques to use in the field so that data can be used as an indicator of water and habitat quality. Find out more:

(image source: Mitchell, Mark K., Stapp, William B. 2008. Field Manual for Water Quality Monitoring 13th Edition, as reproduced in FOCA's Guide to Citizen Science, p.46)

Partner Resource: Ontario Energy Map

Do you know where Ontario's energy generation is located across the province? How about the location of transmission lines or gas pipelines? You can consult the interactive map from the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) for details:

Lake of the Woods Algae Bloom 2023

As reported recently by the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation (LOWWSF), the annual algae bloom on Lake of the Woods has been developing since later July. By late August, the bloom covered 34% of the lake. Satellite-derrived measures of chlorophyll-a (a pigment in the algae) ranged above 40 µg/L (red in the satellite image), indicating high severity in those regions. Read more from LOWWSF here.

(image: Environment and Climate Change Canada, via LOWWSF blog, 28 August 2023)

Other Algae Blooms

Lake of the Woods is by no means the only Ontario lake experiencing algae blooms this season! Over the past few months, Public Health units have issued blue-green algae advisories for lakes in the Simcoe Muskoka District, in Peterborough County, in Sudbury District, Thunder Bay and other regions.

If you're wondering what causes algae blooms, and what the difference is between "good" and "bad" algae (really - they're not all bad), visit FOCA's webpage:

(archival image of a blue-green algae bloom from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks)

Historic Bathymetric Maps

Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) has improved access to historic bathymetry maps from the 1940s to 1990s, through Ontario GeoHub. Access over 11,000 maps here. Select "Historic Bathymetry Maps" from the Legend tab, zoom in and double click a waterbody to reveal map options that you can download. (pictured: part of Upper Rideau Lake)

As MNRF notes: "these maps should not be used for navigation purposes."

FOCA's Bronze level sponsors
Dock in a Box

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FOCA Serves Lake & Road Associations

Electronic Meetings

A reminder to all of our Member Associations that are incorporated in Ontario:


Effective October 1, 2023 you are no longer permitted to hold your board meetings or member meetings electronically if your bylaws prohibit this. During COVID-19, the province temporarily suspended this condition, allowing associations to meet electronically even if their bylaws said otherwise. Get more information and links to related governance resources on our webpage:

FOCA Achievement Award - it's time to apply!

We've been reading your Association newsletters and following your social media posts, and we KNOW you've been busy doing great things this year. Be sure to apply on behalf of your Association for the 2023 FOCA Achievement Award. Nominations are due by October 30, 2023 at the latest! The award recipient will be announced in the early new year, with the award presentation at the next FOCA Annual General Meeting (save the date: Saturday March 2, 2024 in Toronto and by webinar). For inspiring stories of past recipients, the nomination form, and more information, visit our webpage:

Celebrating 60 Years of FOCA

There are many ways YOU can contribute to FOCA's 60th anniversary celebrations:

  1. submit pictures to our archival photo project
  2. make a donation today to support the future of FOCA's work on behalf of waterfront Ontario
  3. PSSST! Pass it on. Be part of our campaign to refer a friend or an association to become a new FOCA Member, and you could win a prize this year.

Thank you for your ongoing support. Volunteers like you make this organization strong.

Here's another great submission from Ontario's cottage country past:

Andrea Smith Derungs sent these ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of their cottage, built in 1933 on Thompson Island on Lake of the Woods, Ontario. The first one is ca.1935 depicting (from left) her grandparents Marjorie and Bill Smith & maternal great-grandmother Clara Carruthers, who built the cottage from a kit log cabin. They would have had to drive out by horse and sleigh from the town of Kenora, about 8km. The second picture is of the cottage as it looks now, taken from the same angle!

Keep those great pictures coming - they make our day. Review other images we've featured in Elerts this year, and use the link to upload yours and tell us all about it!

In Memoriam

Robert Carlson & the Great Secchi Dip-In

FOCA was saddened to hear of the recent passing of Dr. Robert E. Carlson. Bob created the Great Secchi Dip-In in 1994, an annual event across North America enlisting thousands of volunteers to measure Secchi depth, providing valuable data about the health of inland lakes in the US and Canada. The North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) is renaming the program the Robert Carlson Secchi Dip-In in his honour. (image source: NALMS Notes - September 2023 e-news)

FOCA is a proud member of NALMS, and received their 2015 Leadership and Service Award for the work of our hundreds of Lake Partner Program Volunteers.

Final Thoughts

Enjoy an Autumn Hike

No doubt you've got your own favourite hiking trail, but if you're looking for something new this fall, check out Parks Canada's list of the "best" hiking in Ontario. Remember to hike safe, know your limits, check trail conditions and stay on marked trails. Get more tips from Parks Canada about hike safety, here. Enjoy the crunch of the leaves underfoot!

FOCA is the Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations,
the voice of the waterfront for the past 60 years.
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