New lease proposal for Algonquin cottagers

What would you do if your summer getaway was taken away from you?

In five years, that could be the case for a number of cottagers who reside on lakes in Algonquin Provincial Park. Currently, there are more than 300 private cottage leases in the park, and all of them are scheduled to end in 2017.

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, the renewable, 21-year leases were first made available in the early 1900s, when the park was still young, as a way to promote tourism and generate additional revenue for the provincial government.

Now, with deadlines looming, the province is deliberating on a proposal to renew cottage leases within the park, which would extend them until December 31, 2038.

According to the proposal, in order for the leases to be renewed, the cottages could not be used as permanent residences; environmental protection would be ensured, which would include limiting access to sensitive areas and limiting the ability to build new structures; lease fees would be based on current market value and the associated service fees would be based on full cost recovery; and leaseholders would be required to pay all applicable property taxes.

The Ministry of Natural resources is seeking input on the new proposal, and according to a recent report, cottagers have already approached the District of Muskoka, the Town of Huntsville, the Township of Lake of Bays, Muskoka Algonquin Health Care, and the Huntsville District Memorial Hospital Foundation, requesting their support in renewing the leases for the next 21 years. So far, the renewals have been met with mixed reviews. While the proposal has garnered supporters, Lake of Bays Mayor Bob Young was recently quoted saying: “A park is where you don’t want to see modern life or motor boats and cottages, it’s remote. Now if you go on Canoe Lake, Tea Lake or Smoke Lake, it’s busy. So I struggle with this.”

The public is invited to submit comments on the new proposal as well as transferability of the leases until December 13, 2012. To view the full proposal or submit a comment of your own, go to the website for Ontario’s Environment Registry.