District of Muskoka plans to remove unlicensed garbage sites

Garbage Bins Photo by Shutterstock/ Dave Cutts

Muskoka cottagers are going to have to find a new place to put their trash. The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks has told the District of Muskoka that they must eliminate all unlicensed garbage bin sites by 2023. The district has 88 unlicensed sites in total with the first 13 to be removed this spring.

“The sites we’re talking about are unsupervised sites,” says Gordon Larock, owner of Allport Marina, a 10 minute drive west of Bracebridge. “The ministry will not license unsupervised sites anymore.”

Allport Marina is home to one of these unsupervised sites that is used by cottagers with properties on nearby islands. According to Larock, Muskoka has between 400 to 500 islanders who pay taxes for waste collection. Allport Marina serves approximately 160 of them.

Currently, cottagers drop their garbage off at one of the unsupervised bins and a company contracted by the district removes the garbage once a week. Ten full-time district employees attend to the maintenance of these sites throughout the week.

The removal of these sites will force cottagers to look for new places to drop off their garbage. The district has proposed six alternatives after the sites are removed, ranging from redirecting cottagers to an established and licensed site, to expanding curbside pickup in the community, or introducing a barge or dockside collection along waterways.

Larock, having accepted that the site removals are happening, is trying to stay positive about the alternatives, but he says many of them aren’t realistic. The current licensed garbage drop-off sites where cottagers might be redirected are all in inconvenient locations, he says. One site is north of Allport Marina, meaning cottagers from the Greater Toronto Area would have to drive out of their way to get to it, and the next closest site is south of Gravenhurst, a 20 minute drive from the marina.

“Imagine the family with mom and dad, two or three kids and a dog, and all this luggage, and then they’ve got to load up their separated waste,” Larock says. “If the dog doesn’t get into it and the garbage makes it to the dump site, they still have to have a pretty big vehicle to accommodate that.”

As for the barge option, Larock says much of the water around the islands wouldn’t be navigable for a bigger vessel.

To help find a solution, Larock has submitted his own alternatives to the district. He proposes that the district needs to build a new dump site off Highway 11 where cottagers won’t be inconvenienced or they need to expand curbside pickup.

The curbside pickup option “would entail the district sending garbage and recycling trucks to the Browning Island launch town dock on Sundays between May 1st and mid-October,” Larock wrote in an email to his marina’s customers on February 25. “Those trucks would park dockside for part of the day (we hope late morning until late afternoon to accommodate varying departure times and weather conditions). You would be able to dock your boat less than 25 feet from the trucks and hand off your waste. This, in our minds, is the island equivalent of curbside pickup.”

The district was accepting alternative servicing options until March 1, and is now deliberating over which option will best serve the community. “We think there’s an opportunity to find a solution,” Larock says. “In a perfect world, it works for the cottagers, it saves some money for the district, and it works better for the environment.”

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