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March, 2002

March Edition

In like a lion, out like a lamb, right? Not in Muskoka. Here March screams in like a VMAX doing 160 kph on the nearby trail... and slogs out like a Big Bear loaded down with some gun-totting camo-dude in my back bush. Spring is in the air. Best to wear orange and keep your presence known.

Bracebridge's annual mid-winter storefront shuffle is on! The Little Moose Bakery is gone. Muskoka Outfitters is going to move into the Little Moose space and will have a coffee shop inside the store a la Chapters/Starbucks. I have no idea what will go in where Muskoka Outfitters is now. The Thatcher Studio is gone - it's now Bird's Variety. What? Two variety stores? No... just one. Armstrong's Variety has closed. Browser's Paradise is no more - it's now a lapidary shop. You may sprint for your dictionary now...

You can now get lost hiking around here and end up in Midland, thanks to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund and the cash they kicked in to help connect various trail systems in the area.

Bracebridge may have parking meters downtown but Huntsville is getting playing meters on their soccer fields! The free ride is over - people have to pay for 'pitch time' now. They're hoping this will keep organizations from group blocking excess time. Need I mention the soccer crowd is cheesed?

It used to be that you just had to be a good driver. Then you had to be a defensive driver and watch out for drunks. Now you have to be a paranoid driver on the alert for pretty much anything. Case in point: a truck driver has been charged after ramming a car from behind on Hwy 11, presumably while dozing off at 120 kph. If that doesn't make you feel like Dennis Weaver in Duel, what does?

Gravenhurst Home Hardware is open 24 hrs now - or so some outstanding young citizens think, anyway. An inventory is being conducted to see what's missing after a recent unscheduled Midnight Madness event.

Ontario's new Lieutenant Governor, ex-Muskokan James Bartleman, was installed on March 7th. It's best to get Lieutenant Governors professionally installed - if you do it yourself and there's a problem down the road your warranty can be null and void.

All those worrying about the viability of the new street plans for downtown Bracebridge felt much better when they learned that the Town has hired top-flight consultants who'll spend weeks studying the situation at a cost expected to surpass $5,000. Sounds exhaustive!

It's great to live in Bracebridge but it's getting more and more expensive to die in Bracebridge - a recent amendment to the cemetery by-law increased the cost of interment by 25%. The cost of disinterment has gone up as well. So if you're thinking of coming back - better pack at least $500.

Huntsville is going to be implementing 'youth justice circles' to deal with yutes charged with minor offenses. Punishments handed down could include: no Pizza Pockets after school for 6 weeks; no earrings or piercing hardware for a month; and no GameBoy privileges for, like, the next while, dude! Bummer...

I don't know about you but when I think of Parry Sound, I think of... a
thriving Asian/Canadian community! As such Parry Sound will usher in the summer with The Parry Sound Dragon Boat Festival June 21 - 22. Ni-ho-mah!

It's spring in Muskoka and that can only mean one thing - some of our roads are going to look like Vimy Ridge. You know you're a 705 kinda guy when you're all-too aware that March 12 - May 6 is designated 'half loads' on local roads (unless signs dictate otherwise). So if your family are heifers, you'd better leave some of them at home. And watch out for frost heaves - they can put some unexpected 'air' in your Aerostar.

South Muskoka Memorial Hospital is one step closer to having a CTscan unit. Whether that's a 12-step program or a 22-step one was not part of the news release.

'Zamina headline: "Josh Yanchus Hunts Terrorists". And you don't need a permit for that neither - it's open season on them terrorists. But the photo of Josh that accompanied the article had him wearing a red full-dress uniform and holding a sabre. Ah, the Zulu Wars revisited... Line up, men!

Another Beaver Creek 'guest' is missing. They don't call it a "break out" anymore since that would imply there was a lock... or a door... or a wall. No, now they just say that an inmate has taken a page from Elvis and 'left the building'. So, what's New Agey Inclusive-Speak for recapture? Ah - got it! Said errant inmate was 'escorted back' 10 days later when discovered 'gaining midnight entry' into a car dealership in Orangeville. So much for the 'Correctional' part.

Representative's of the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario delivered over 100 angry letters to MPP Norm Miller's office recently protesting mandatory recertification. Something about tests being demeaning...

Maple syrup may be at a premium this year due to an insane sap run that started... stopped... started again... slowed down... This winter was not known for being predictable.

This month's What If: What if you went off the road on Hwy #11 and were found standing beside your van smelling of alcohol. What if motorists had phoned the O.P.P. about a van wandering all over the road and the license number they'd given them matched yours. What if the Crown attorney dug up a bar waitress who says she poured over 80 ounces of draft into you that very evening. You'd be screwed, right? Not if you're a member of the North Bay O.P.P. - you'd be found not guilty on the D.W.I. charge due to some technicality involved with the blood sample the arresting officers took. If that sounds like there's a little more professional courtesy going on around here than you're comfortable with you're not alone in this crowd.

A Salmonella outbreak in Muskoka is killing... no, not people - birds! People are being asked not to feed birds as messy feeders allow the disease to spread to other birds. People are safe unless they eat moldy white seeds from below a feeder.

Two on a pole, guys! Rogers AT&T is being denied an application to build a cell phone tower in Huntsville until they can show proof on paper that other tower operators have refused to share their tower space with them. I love it when the big boys have to come back with a note...

Note to bored husbands waiting for their wives at the hospital: slipping out to your car to start in on that two-four in the trunk can be a slippery slope if she's in there for 5 hours. The result - getting involved in two (count 'em TWO) accidents in the parking lot at Shoppers Drug Mart as you try to pick up her prescription on the way home.

Twenty-six students from BMLSS were off on 'the trip of a lifetime' to England, France, and Amsterdam this month (apparently Amsterdam is a country now). The trip of a lifetime is right - it's not every day you can get mad cow disease, cholera and a venereal disease all in 12 days.

This hot tip just in courtesy of the 'Zamina's new BIDniz section: it's a seller's market for Muskoka real estate! Whodda thought? When did this start??

Port Carling's most controversial restaurant just got more so... or less so, depending on how you look at it. The bizarrely named Mahogany Emporium, built where Murdon Marine used to stand, was constantly in the news: their liquor license was revoked at one point; there were zoning concerns about the size of the establishment; and neighbours complained of noisy patrons and boat traffic. Well, it's checkered history just got weirder - someone torched the place in mid-March. So did the owners light it up for insurance purposes... or did angry townsfolk raze the joint? Or maybe it was just an itinerant pyro out for some fun? Look for this little soap opera to play out quite quickly - the O.P.P. chased a vehicle from the scene and have a suspect in custody. (NOTE TO UP AND COMING TORCHES: There's blending in to the crowd... and there's poor planing. Trying to outrun the cops in a pickup is tough sleddin'.)

An Allensville man is lucky to be alive after a chimney fire set the outside of his roof on fire. Smoke alarms only work when there's smoke INside the building. Said house was smoke free - with the roof fully ablaze. Neighbours woke up the lone occupant and got him outside before the roof came in.

The Port Carling lift bridge is going to be resurfaced. Hope it works out better than last time - after a lengthy construction period they raised the newly surfaced bridge for that ceremonial first time... and the asphalt slid off! Oops...

A few months ago I mentioned that the pool at the Centennial Centre needed a major excavation to fix a leaky pipe. I hate to sound like a broken record but Houston... we have a second leak. Round up the usual contractors.

The O.P.P. are starting a new program - vigilante D.W.I Busters! All you have to do is dial *O.P.P. on your cell phone and describe the car in question to the police. Then you can sit back and bask in the afterglow of a job well done. We here at Guardian Publications would like to remind readers that calling in an O.P.P. roadside strip-search is serious business and should not be used capriciously to get back at ex-lovers, ex-employers or bad drivers who've flipped you the bird.

In a related story, students at Bracebridge Muskoka Lakes Secondary School got a lecture in economics recently when the folks from Crime Stoppers dropped by to tell them about the fabulous cash and prizes that are rewarded for information passed along to them. If you think that sounds a little like Monty Hall meets the Stasi you're not alone.

Muskoka got hit with a major wind storm mid-month which resulted in power outages all over - in some cases for days. There were trees down, limbs down, and the Lady Muskoka was ripped from its moorings and blown offshore - which in this case is a bad thing.

Zeller's has opposed Official Plan Amendment #7 - the one that will allow anyone to build anything they want to retail-wise. This would remove the if-I-build-it-will-you-come market survey that is currently required for proposed retail spaces over 2000 sq metres. Those in favour of new retail competition claim that Zeller's promised to expand during the last threat of competition - then never did when the threat subsided.

Muskoka Lakes Township has designated its first building under the Ontario Heritage Act: the one-time Burgess Memorial Church in Bala. The church is currently operating as Jasmine's Antiques. At least it doesn't have a liquor license...

Speaking of Muskoka Lakes Township, their town council has passed the budget for 2002 and word has it that taxes will be going up 6.5%, not the 7.9% they projected. Whew...

Foul. Foulest. What's missing? Fowler! First Muskoka's red-letter construction company was drawing a lot of fire for draining a quarry into an adjacent stream possibly screwing up both the local water-table and the stream in the process. Now they're applying for permits to discharge fumes from two asphalt plants they have on the property. Need I mention the locals aren't in favour of these bold entrepreneurial ventures?

If you're a big fan of the Bracebridge falls, drop by real soon and take your last unobstructed picture of it - a 41-unit, five-floor high rise condo has been given the green light to go in on the hill above the Hydro plant.

Speaking of which, the Bracebridge Festival of the Falls (soon to be redubbed The Festival of Condos) is set for the May 4th weekend this year.

The census numbers are in and Bracebridge is bang on the national average - it grew 4% in the past four years. I'm amazed it grew that much since obituaries consistently outnumber birth announcements in local papers. Huntsville and Gravenhurst tied for who could swell up the biggest - they've both increased in size by almost 9%. But this number may be misleading in Gravenhurst's case since many of the people included in that 9% didn't come here by choice - they're inmates at Fenbrook Correctional and Beaver Creek Golf and Country Club. Port Carling, like the Wicked Witch of the West after a good bucket of water, appears to be shrinking.

The maiden voyage of the Wenonah II will be on May 18th when they're sure the iceberg season is over. Its first day will feature many short cruises to allow as many people as possible to pay... I mean, to get a chance to experience the majesty of... well, you know what mean. The Wenonah II is sort of Segwun-ish looking but will have none of the smoky, steam whistle charm of it's older sister - it runs on diesel engines. Hopefully it won't sound as utilitarian as The Lady Muskoka, which I think appeared in the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan.

This month's 'Zamina Headline of the Month: "Women Glad To Be Alive". Were they stranded on an ice flow? Savagely mauled by bears? Trapped in a car during a three-day blizzard? No... they're members of a traveling Christian ministry called Women Alive. And no, they didn't burn Grateful Dead records in the street, either. Talk about all sizzle and no steak.

Rudolph et. al. have dodged a bullet - Santa's Village has been able to get a special exemption to a new Bracebridge by-law that bans wild and exotic animals. Regardless of the fact that there's nothing wild or exotic about these pay-as-you-pet ruminant whores, for a while there it looked like they'd have to be replaced with those cedar log stick figure deer that are so popular with the Suburban craft-sale set.

The Township of Muskoka Lakes is putting a stop to weaselly 'two-storey accessory structures'. It seems to boil down to two things - single storey boathouses have to be less than 16 feet high (no sneaking accommodations up there) and there can only be one two-storey accessory structure on the property. So if your garage is two-storey - there ain't gonna be a bunkie.

Speaking of getting tough with the plebes, the Township of Muskoka Lakes has decided to clamp down on illegal builders. Seems some contractors just build what they want where they want when they want and consider the Town's penalty for lack of a building permit just part of the cost of doing business.

This just in as Easter approaches: The Factory Store has risen! Local sports store owner Paul Campbell has purchased the store and it will function much the same as it always has but without hemorrhaging cash, hopefully.

A whole lotta shakin' going on in the Port Carling restaurant scene: the Mahogany Emporium will be tough to get a table at this summer - it burned to the ground under felonious circumstances; the Greene Slate Inn will now be run by (not OWNED by) the folks who run The Snooty Fox; and the gal who ran the GSI and operated Eileen's there is moving on to open a restaurant just outside of town where the Gerber Tea Room used to be. I want to know where the Gerber Tea Room is going - I liked that place and it was usually packed!!!

The Muskoka Heritage Foundation hit the cover of one of the local organs recently when it paused to present awards. To its own organizers. Again.

ATTENTION DOOR-TO-DOOR SALESMEN: A local couple just bagged $25,000 in the Heart and Stroke lottery. You figure out who - I'm not doing ALL your work for you.

Here's a headline for you: Twins Switched Identities To Evade Police. Sounds more interesting than it was - two local 'yutes decided to do the Patty Duke thing when they were pulled over by the Bracebridge O.P.P. Two problems here: one of them was wanted on a warrant, and one of them was holding 11 grams of dope. With choices like that what cops would care who's who - everyone's invited back to the station for a sit-down.

Attention International Jet-Setter Cottagers: Muskoka Airport is now open to international traffic again. The Canada Customs entry point there was shut down for a while after Sept. 11 but it's back in business again with new improved air-tight security. Sounds like somebody's bringing Rex to work these days.

Two young Bracebridge gals recently finished fourth at the World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships held in Croatia. I've never seen synchro skating before but if it's anything like the aquatic version there are bound to be a lot of forced smiles and grand gestures. Still, fourth in the world is pretty damn good and hey, if you get out of Croatia with your life these days you're doing better than most Croats.

Speaking of jocks, what is it with Port Carling and hockey? Teams from 'Port' just wrapped up the Ontario Novice and Atom rep titles. Maybe it's the water...

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the polling booth: recently-retired Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Ernie Eves has come back from the grave and secured the leadership of the Ontario PC Party. And no one expects his retirement settlement back, either! That's my kinda biz...

A group of Acton Island cottagers are banding together to fight a group who want to build a retreat nearby. Are they fighting boozed-up rowdies? Renegade bikers? No - try religious types. It just goes to prove - too many of anything is bad.

Muskoka Small Business News: A Milford Bay man has pleaded guilty to theft under $5000 - WAY under $5000 - for stealing lamb chops from the Port Carling IGA. In similar news a yute was arrested for attempting to remove the coins from a newspaper vending box outside the Post Office.
And a 2002 Chrysler Concorde recently walked off the lot from Muskoka Chrysler and turned up the next day somewhat worse for wear minus three tires. The newspaper account actually stated that police were on the lookout for three Michelin tires. They're a-ROUND here somewhere...

Muskoka Big Business News: A Huntsville woman recently became a two-year guest of the Crown for selling almost a kilo of cocaine to undercover RCMP officers. (NOTE TO STREET-LEVEL ENTREPRENEURS: anyone with $42,000 in their pocket has connections with someone that you don't want to know.)

And finally, is it just me or is the new McDonald's ad - the one that says, "This is how long it takes a psychiatrist to make enough money to buy one of our new $2.00 McNugget Happy Meals. [yawn!]" - not totally insulting? Okay, smarty - let's see how long it takes a McDonald's employee to make enough money for one of those little toxic nightmares.
That would make for one marathon commercial break!

READ ON (April Edition)

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