Muskoka survey raises concerns about lake noise

Jan Pitman/What's Up Muskoka

We’ve all experienced it. You’re sitting lakeside, relaxing, letting the silence of natural surroundings sink into your soul, when suddenly a boat zips across the lake sounding like a fleet of chainsaws, trailing a massive wake behind it.

And now a survey of Muskoka cottagers confirms: inconsiderate boating is the main problem being reported in the region. Specifically, the worst nuisances were found to be boat noise, wakes, and high-speed boating.

The survey, conducted by the organization Safe Quiet Lakes, asked 3,300 respondents from over 130 lakes various questions about how they spend time at the lake, what they hope to get out of a lake experience, and what are the biggest problems with their time there. “The survey was created to allow cottagers and residents to have their say on important lake issues,” Frances Carmichael, chair of Safe Quiet Lakes, told MuskokaRegion.com. “The principal focus of our organization is to encourage and maintain a culture of respect on the lakes.”

Photo by LesPalenik/Shutterstock

According to the survey, respondents overwhelmingly said that relaxing on a dock or near the water is the activity they value most. After that came swimming and observing nature, with various forms of boating filling in the next few spots.

But while disruptive boating was found to be a problem for many cottagers, it seems the call may be coming from inside the house. Ninety-eight percent of survey respondents said they have at least one boat, and 87% have one or more power boats.

It can’t be denied that cottagers love their boats, and the survey results did not seem to indicate a call to ban boating. Instead, it appears there is a demand for increased education and regulations around boating. While 31% of respondents said there is no need for additional laws and regulations, 45% disagreed, saying they support additional rules. Possible regulations include no-wake zones (71% of respondents supported this proposal), stronger enforcement of laws around exhaust (67% supported), and stronger enforcement around boating under the influence, as well as having a decibel limit on onboard sound systems (62% supported). Only one fifth of respondents supported requiring everyone to wear a personal flotation device while onboard a boat.

So if you’re looking to blast across the lake, speakers blaring, you may soon find Muskoka is not the place for you. As Carmichael says, “The results show that we need more and better education and communication and probably some changes to enforcement and policies to get us there.”