By Paul Coffey
If you have lived in the Muskoka community for any length of time you are among the many fortunate people who love the outstanding natural beauty of the region. This natural beauty is just one of the many reasons why the Muskoka Lakes community has become such a cherished cottage and boating community.
The increase in boat traffic threatens the region. The growth in the size, power and number of boats has created safety and excessive boat noise issues that cottagers want to address.
Cottagers have formed Safe Quiet Lakes (SQL), which is a regional advocacy group that works in cooperation with the OPP and other groups to promote respect, responsible boating and safety among all lake users. Each year the SQL runs a summer long public awareness campaign to educate lake users and promote a voluntary boating code of conduct.
This summer the SQL education campaign is highlighting the issue of excessive noise created by some powerboats, including those that boaters can choose to operate with their muffler system disengaged. The campaign will remind boaters that it is not only inconsistent with the culture of the lakes but also against the law to operate a boat without a muffler on the Muskoka lakes.
If a few boat owners continue to operate without considering the impact of noise caused by disengaging their mufflers they risk ruining the enjoyment of the vast majority of cottagers who treasure Muskoka’s quiet and peacefulness.
Surveys conducted by Safe Quiet Lakes confirm that the majority of cottage owners and residents in the Muskoka region place a high value on quiet and are unhappy with excessive noise from some powerboats. In fact, the same surveys indicate that enjoyment of the lakes for paddlers, sailors and powerboat owners is directly correlated to perceptions of safety and quiet.
Throughout the summer long campaign, Safe Quiet Lakes and the OPP will be educating boat owners to be aware of the different types of muffler systems and configurations that are found in the wide variety of vessels throughout Muskoka and the regulations that govern them.
During the campaign volunteers from Safe Quiet Lakes and officers from the OPP Marine Unit will be working with boat operators to educate them on the ways to operate their vessels safely, quietly and respectfully. The OPP will be enforcing the regulations and want the public to be able to identify what meets regulation and what is prohibited under the Canada Shipping Act. More information about the Boaters Always Care campaign and how to operate your boat quietly and respectfully can be found at safequiet.ca.
Almost everyone in the Muskoka Region is a boater. The time has come for all boaters to sign on to a positive and considerate boating culture. That way we can all enjoy the lakes that we treasure.
Paul Coffey is a Muskoka cottager and former NHL player.