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How to build community on your lake

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At the cottage, good neighbours are priceless. They keep an eye on your place when you’re gone, lend a hand when you need to paint the deck, and are happy to give you a ride when your boat runs out of gas. If you’ve got a cottage on a lake, chances are you’ve got a whole community of neighbours to get to know–it’s just a matter of putting yourself out there. Here are some tips for building a strong community in your neck of the woods.

Introduce yourself

This one’s pretty simple. If you’re new to the area, or if your neighbours have just moved in, pop by with some muffins and say hello. If they’re new, let them know some key facts–that the local porcupines have developed a particular fondness for plywood sheds, for example, or that the water stays really cold until mid-June. If you’re new, see what everyone does for fun. And if they’re standoffish, don’t worry–some people come to the cottage for peace and quiet and just don’t want to socialize. Don’t take it personally.

Look for opportunities to get involved

Lake clean-ups, bake sales, bathtub regattas–anything that’s going on, get yourself involved. Volunteer for the yucky jobs once in a while, and make a point of talking to as many people as possible. The next time you run into your neighbour across the lake at the grocery store, you’ll have something to chat about besides the weather and the mosquitoes.

Attend community events

Is there a spaghetti supper at the Lions Hall in town? A movie night at the park? A square dance at the seniors’ centre? Getting out of the cottage and into the community can be a nice way to connect with your neighbours.

Host (or organize) get-togethers

Pot-lucks–especially on holiday weekends–are a great way to get everyone together in a casual, relaxed setting. If there’s a park or beach nearby, hold your party there. If you’ve got the space, invite folks over. Provide nametags and ice-breaking games, kids’ activities, and plan something fun like fireworks or an outdoor movie to cap off the evening.

Help out

Are your neighbours painting their deck? Clearing out trees? Volunteer to give them a hand, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. If manual labour isn’t your thing, see if you can watch their kids for while, or get their dog out of the way. Everything’s reciprocal in cottage country–what goes around, comes around!

Plan fun competitions

Best dressed dock for Canada Day? Chili cook-offs? An around-the-lake scavenger hunt?  All ingredients for having fun and bringing people together. If there are numerous people interested in getting involved (polling the neighbourhood is a good way to meet people) then switch who hosts to share the work.

Set up a social media presence

Obviously, this only works if you have a good internet connection–but if you do, a Facebook group or Twitter hashtag can be a good way to connect people even when they’re not at the lake. Plus, an online presence can be a great way to publicize events and share info–or just get rid of the new chainsaw you just can’t seem to get the hang of.

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