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February, 2002

February Edition

Need I mention that February was a banner month for single vehicle accidents and domestic dust-ups? Of course not. Such is Muskoka when you step back from the big lakes.

I have to admit though, there were fewer drunks on the roads in Muskoka in February. Did everybody suddenly get smarter? Of course not! It's just that now they're on the skidoo trails. Note to drunken snowmobilers: the trails are patrolled as much or more than the roads. R.I.D.E. checkpoints abound. Charges result.

Our most notable single vehicle accident this month was exceptional in that it did NOT involve excessive drinking - just excessive age. Two octogenarians went off the road in a minivan and ended up trapped inside it at the bottom of an embankment. If it weren't for the keen ears of The Recycle Guy they'd still be there. I guess the new Blue Box motto should read: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rescue.

This just in from the 'Zamina, "If you see a convoy of women snowmobiling through the area on Saturday that'll be the Kelly Shires' Snow Run for Fun!" Now don't get me wrong - I'm all for charity events that benefit breast cancer research. But is there a human alive who can tell the sex of a passing snowmobiler?

The Port Carling Winter Carnival was an event and a half! I battled white-out conditions to get to their pancake breakfast - only to find no one had plowed the parking lot! You didn't know we were coming? Then we got inside and they were out of sausages. My arteries thank them but still... Hats off to the Chief Executive Pancake Officer - they were primo. After breakfast we headed off to see the Polar Bear Dip. Only one problem: no one thought to plow the parking lot there, either. And it was at the bottom of a hill on a dead end street. I was left backing out the way I came in for fear of getting bogged down in the lot like the Donner Expedition. And after all this rigmarole the Polar Bear dip consisted of 2 people and took 15 seconds.

Maybe I shouldn't complain about the Port Carling Winter carnival - many other winter events haven't even gotten off the ground this year. Pond hockey tourney - canceled due to lack of ice. Snowmobile Poker Run - canceled due to lack of snow. Ouch.

Last month I mentioned that an agreement had been reached with the Wahta Mohawks that would allow the road through the reserve to be widened. Well cancel the celebrations - they didn't get enough voters. Those on the reserve voted to accept the deal but they needed the support of 50% +1 of the band members and many of them live off the reserve.

Speaking of last month, I also touched on my fav rav Bracebridge rant - why does the Town penalize people who shop downtown? Well this just in: the Town makes $69,000 in gross parking revenues and it costs $64,000 to collect and administer the process. So we chase people away for a measly five grand a year. Go figure.

And while we're in Retraction Mode, may I warn you that funding for Bracebridge's much-talked about Centennial Centre revamp has not come through. We're now short something like $7 million due to a rejected FedNor grant application. Looks like it's back to bake sales and car washes. Better make those brownies Amsterdam-style or we'll be at this for the next hundred years.

Show and Tell ain't what it used to be - a student at Macaulay Public School showed up at school with a small box containing cigarettes and oh hey... joints! Somebody's parents are getting a detention...

Tourism ain't what it used to be either. Just ask the seasonal residents who showed up in May 2000 and found someone living in their cottage. Goldilocks is now a guest of the Crown where he gets complimentary porridge and his choice of chairs.

Good News/ Bad News Department. First the good news - the king of Norway is coming to Muskoka for the launching of The Norwegian/ Canadian Memorial Building at Muskoka Airport. Apparently Norwegian airmen trained there during WWII. The bad news - government funding for the building project didn't come through so we're going to be about $900,000 short for the renovations. Maybe if we don't tell His Norwegian Highness about the funding problems we can just do the sod-turning, present him with the chrome spade, wave goodbye as he drives off and that'll be that - project started and completed in a day. A commemorative plaque can brag of the King's attendance.

Let's hear it for Bracebridge councillor Heather Coupland who lead the fight against a widening of Muskoka Beach Road on the grounds that the construction would ruin the most picturesque full-canopy road around. The Muskoka Sands Resort Condo Conglomerate Monstrosity, Inc. wants Muskoka Beach Road up-graded ASAP so that their guests aren't trapped in Gravenhurst. And what Muskoka Sands wants... Muskoka Sands usually gets. But this time even the Sands got the hint that people wanted the road left alone. Word now has it that the road will be resurfaced but not widened.

In Toronto they have Neighbourhood Watch. Here it's Moose Watch. And no, we're not watching out for mooses, we're watching out for people poaching mooses. And if you think I'm talking about gently boiling a moose, you're definitely not a 705 person.

Six Toronto-area men were fined a total of $5,650 recently for catching Lake Trout out of season and for catching more than the legal limit of smallmouth bass. Let's see... $5650.00 plus gas to get up here and back plus food and accommodations - they all could have stayed in Toronto, checked into the Four Seasons and ordered beluga caviar and a Swedish massage from room service for that kind of coin!

Great Moments in Driving, Part 47: The Respect of Your Piers. A Foot's Bay resident has been charged with dangerous driving causing death after deep-sixing his vehicle off the end of a local pier. Mr. Cousteau managed to get out of the sinking vehicle but a passenger and his dog ended up meeting the chef in 10 metres of water. But what looked like an accident at first turns out to have been an accident waiting to happen for years - seems Jacques had a habit of trying to scare his passengers by screaming down the pier and nailing the brakes for a four-wheel lock-up to the edge. This time he was a bit off.

Persistence in Crime Award 2001: This was close! The Award almost went to a Kilworthy rocket-scientist who broke into the gas bar across the highway from his trailer park four times, always stealing smokes and lottery tickets. But then there was the genius from Huntsville who broke into the same restaurant 35 times, always scooping $50 - $100 out of the till. Both doofus's were caught on camera - literally - which proves that being a return customer isn't always good.

Muskoka Tourism has a new head honcho who they seem to have hired away from Proctor & Gamble. He says his goal is to build the Muskoka brand name. The heart sinks - I live in a brand! I think I'll move to Pampers, Manitoba before this gets too ugly.

The Ontario Realty Board has delayed listing the Muskoka Centre for sale until the Town of Gravenhurst has a shot at coming up for a use for it. The Centre, idle since its closing some years ago, was originally a sanatorium for TB patients. Think open spaces. Shoreline. The kind of property resort developers have erotic dreams of. Hopefully Gravenhurst can keep the ball in their court, otherwise the property gets sold off at bargain basement rates to some ORB crony's lacrosse buddy with the explanation, "We're lucky to get rid of that kind of liability..."

I was greatly encouraged by a news story in the Ads-vance that cited an increase in rural mailbox vandalism. I have a rural mailbox. It has been beaten to a pulp on several occasions by someone with a lot of pent up hostilities. But that was in the summer - I thought it was a bored cottage-rat thing. But this is February so I guess they're locals! I owe 416 hipster-doofuses an apology.

Government of Ontario SuperBuild Sweepstakes results so far. Bracebridge Centennial Centre - miss; Muskoka Airport Norwegian Memorial - miss; Bala Arena - hit; Port Carling Arena - hit! Township of Muskoka Lakes mayor Susan Pryke seems much better at playing SuperBuild Battleship than anyone Bracebridge can field.

Mon dieu - the Trillium Lakelands District School Board is expanding their French immersion program to include senior kindergarten. Seems waiting until Grade One was resulting in some kids being left behind. Drew Barrymore will tell you - there's nothing more pathetic than a washed up six-year-old.

Bracebridge's Sexual Health Clinic is moving to Gravenhurst! At least one youth-savy town councillor has warned that if this is allowed to happen, teen pregnancy rates and teenage S.T.D.s will skyrocket. Apparently that office is all that's keeping us from being Sodom & Gomorrah North.

What do you do if you're drunk and bored in downtown Bracebridge? Why not do what one of our Outstanding Young Citizen's did recently - go to the Mike's Mart and threaten to kill the kid behind the counter. Said clerk was not in fact killed but Mr. Overly-Refreshed meant business - last year he was in court for vandalizing municipal flowerpots in a similar drunken stupour. He'll be a guest of the Crown for three months this time. If that seems like a light sentence to you take heart - he'll be back...

A lecture entitled "Principles and Practices of Sugar Bush Management" is being offered at the Leslie M. Frost Natural Resource Centre. And no, it has nothing to do with being a pimp. Think maple syrup.

Someone made off with 50 pairs of sunglasses stolen from the Muskoka Store. I figured this was a fairly minor crime until I read that they were worth $4000. Can you tell I don't wear trendy shades?

Bracebridge's Factory Store has gone into receivership. Legion's of sweatsuited fans mourn. But leading the mourning are the ex-employees, who were apparently left holding the bag for pay, back pay, and vacation pay. Remarkably, the employees the receiver chose to conduct the liquidation sell-off turned out to be, coincidentally, the family members of the ex-owner. Go figure!

It's been a mild winter, right? The big lakes haven't even frozen over completely, right? So you'd think there'd be less snowmobile travel over ice, right? Wrong. Snowmobilers are daring... unafraid... and basically stupid. How can I say that? Easy. Example #1: A convoy of sleds from New York found out the hard way that the ice is rarely very thick near river mouths when their lead sled joined the Hunt for Red October. While one of their group helped Captain Nemo out of the water, the others headed for home. Except that in all the excitement they forgot which way home was and headed out into open water instead. Exit sleds Two and Three - stage south. By this time the rescue squad was on the scene and a couple of sleds were convinced to stay on this side of the ice. Looks like the hot new sport this Spring is going to be deep water jigging for Arctic Cats.

Sometimes the basically stupid make sane people do dumb things. Example #2: Buddy sends the sled to Davey Jones' Locker at 11 p.m., drags himself out of the water, crawls to shore, and gets treated for severe hypothermia by waterfront homeowner #1. The next morning waterfront homeowner #2 awakens to see a helmet and boots beside a large hole in the ice and calls the rescue squad thinking there's a guy out there drowning. The rescue squad rushes to the scene and sends one of its guys out on his belly in a drysuit while an air ambulance is called in from Toronto to help in the rescue. The air ambulance brilliantly tries to land their helicopter on the ice but the rescue squad narrowly averts disaster by convincing the pilot that the ice is less than an inch thick (which is why the snowmobile went through in the first place, right?). Amidst all this fun homeowner #1 walks out of his place and tells everyone that the snowmobiler took the first train into town hours ago. Wanna guess what that little well-meaning sitcom cost?

You may remember from last month that a life-long Muskoka cottager was going to walk from Torrance to Toronto to raise money for Camp Oochigeas - a summer camp for kids with cancer. We're pleased to report that he made it in 6 days raising over $10,000. If there's a fund-raising Olympics Billy Anderson gets a gold.

Headlines that give you chills: First place - Nuclear Missiles Headed Our Way. Second place - Red Tape Cut for Big New Retail Stores. Bracebridge used to have a 2,000 square metre maximum commercial building size but not any more - now it's anything goes as councillor's gush, "Bracebridge is open for business!" Look for big box stores to be springing up around Bracebridge like zebra mussels on an intake pipe.

Junior Entrepreneurs Take Note: Just because they say, "Bracebridge is open for business!" doesn't mean they'll take kindly to your grow house. Sure 'Weed Means Jobs' but for some reason we prefer casino workers to street level dope vendors. Beaumont Drive has one less indoor farm.

Speaking of changes not necessarily for the better - they're building a new hydroelectric dam in Bracebridge. Good news: we'll be burning less coal in the future. Bad news: we'll be seeing less of High Falls in the future too. It'll be there... just minus the water.

The Pines retirement home is laying a few people off because of a bed cut-back caused by renovations. Makes sense - you can't rip off one wing if there are people in it. It's the language of the story that got me - they are accomplishing the bed cut-back 'by attrition'. Ouch! On the Discovery Channel that's called 'winter die-off'.

'Zamina headline: Mayors Want More Police. It's ALWAYS like that.... You never read "Police Want More Mayors".

Bracebridge's 5th Annual Festival of the Falls is on for May 3 - 4 this year and for ONCE I'm going to be in town that weekend.

It's brother against brother in Huntsville as the debate rages on: is Wal-Mart a godsend or the First Horseman of the Apocalypse? The lines are being drawn. More on this as skirmishes develop.

Get out your Birkenstocks and drop that razor, gals - the Green Party is having a policy conference in Parry Sound on April 6!

What's Bala known for... quick! The KEE. The Cranberry Festival. That's about it, right? Guess again. The Bala Youth Boxing Club is putting the place on the map with a bronze in the Nationals recently. Cut me, Mick...

'Zamina headline of the month: "No More Mr. Nice Guy". Apparently Bracebridge OPP's 'Mr. Radar' is retiring after 29 years as a traffic cop with the force. After three decades with a radar gun in his lap the guy must be able to take a whizz at night without turning on the bathroom light.

Muskoka Lakes Township is putting an immediate hold on houses over 10,000 square feet. Consider the barn door locked! Shame about the horse.

The Muskoka Homeless Advisory Group was turned down for federal funds, most likely on the grounds that the nameless, faceless civil servants who process those forms pay big bucks to sleep under the stars in Muskoka.

Speaking of relaxing in Muskoka, it is now officially illegal to swim at a public beach after dark and doubly illegal if you're not wearing your swim trunks. You wanna swim tackle out? Buy a cottage...

It's not how long it is... it's what you do with it! A cottager who took the Township of Muskoka Lakes to the OMB over the length of his dock has come out on top. The Township has a bylaw restricting docks to 66 feet in length. In his extremely shallow bay, said cottager's boat would have been sitting in 2.5 feet of water. He had to build a dock 150 feet long to get into reasonably deep water. Now the only problem is that by the time he walks out to untie the boat he's too tired to go for a cruise.

And finally, is it just me or is McDonald's new slogan just a little too telling? "There's a little McDonald's in all of us...". Yeah, that blockage in my aorta - a little McDonald's. That cellulite on your wife's thighs - a little McDonald's (maybe a lot of McDonald's). There IS a little McDonald's in all of us and without serious exercise it ain't going anywhere anytime soon. Hardly seems like a selling point, though.

READ ON (March Edition)

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