Local group worries about increasing noise on Muskoka lakes

Two chairs looking over a lake in Ontario

Muskoka is the rugged vacationing hot spot for both A-listers like Stephen Spielberg and Martin Short, as well as generations of Canadian families who have cottaged on the Big Three for decades.

And according to new research, the coveted area that’s now been dubbed the “Hamptons of the North” will see even more luxury cottages punctuating the sublime landscape.

In a recent report by Christie’s International Real Estate, high-end waterfront purchases in Muskoka increased 66 percent from 2013 to 2014.

As the Big Three (Lake Joseph, Lake Muskoka, and Lake Rosseau) become even more popular with the rich and famous, some locals are yearning for a little peace and quiet.

Greg Wilkinson, who has cottaged on Lake Rousseau since he was a kid, is a leader of the Safe Quiet Lakes Association, a Muskoka-based group whose goal “is to make the lakes safer and quieter to ensure the sustainable enjoyment of a treasured shared resource.”

In 2013, the volunteer group surveyed nearly 2,300 cottagers in Muskoka and the surrounding area to better understand who lives on these lakes and the kind of cottage-related activities they take part in.

“We decided we needed to do something, and it needed to be data-driven,” says Wilkinson in an interview with the Toronto Star. “It couldn’t just be about somebody whining on the dock, saying ‘It’s the guy down the lake who is the problem.’”

The survey found that nearly all respondents agree that swimming and relaxing on the dock or near the water are “fundamental cottage activities.”

Beyond that, however, each cottagers’ view on the lake was different.

One respondent wrote, “fast, noisy large boats do no long belong on the Muskoka lakes. They belong on oceans offshore.” Meanwhile, another wrote, “We enjoy our boats above all else, and had we wanted the quiet little cabin in the woods with a canoe, we would have not chosen the Muskoka lakes”

On average, each cottage has five different boats: two power boats and three non-powered boats. The two most popular boats were canoes and power boats over 40 hp, with 90 percent of families owning boats in the 40-199 hp range.

“It’s wealth and the diversity of boats available out there now,” Wilikinson says on the large number of boats being used. “Families might have a canoe, a kayak, a paddle boat, a runabout for the kids, as well as wake boats and jet skis.”

Although the activities enjoyed on the lake differed, from jet skiing to kayaking, the survey found that respondents almost universally agreed that it was important to be able to hear the sounds of nature when out on the lake.

“I have changed my boating behavior as a result of my involvement with this group,” Wikinson says. “We just want people to share the lakes in a respectful way, and we think this is a reasonable objective.”

The survey found that the greatest concerns for cottagers were watercrafts going too fast close to the shore, large boat wakes, excessive noise, inconsiderate boating, and dissatisfaction with the current boating licensing system.