Leech Lake, Muskoka

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Coping with Disaster

"On Friday April 19th, Bracebridge was declared a state of emergency along with other parts of Muskoka" The flooding of this magnitude was a once in a lifetime event, we hope, and has closed and damaged many roads within Muskoka. For those of us who live here or those who come up on a regular basis, this is all part of everday life and survival in the north. Imagine not being able to return to your home at night and the fear of not being able to return or leave your home for a week! A handful of us are experiencing this right now and have acted on repairing and gaining access to the cottages and homes on the lake. The next time that you feel that the road is a little rough, please stop to think, your property is in a rural area that is prone to the conditions of mother nature and you have to accept the risk of this fact. Quite often access is possible through the hard work of a small group of volunteers that pull together to make things happen.

Its been quite the experience these past two days and we would like to thank the few who have helped to get the road passable, unfortunately the north side and Fraserburg Rd have extensive damage that will require major work.

The Stewarts

PS: from Alan Greenwood.

We are in Florida until the end of the week. We brought along a little computer to keep us in touch with the e-world. I did not think it would cope with pictures etc but it seems to have functioned just fine. Our kudos to all those that are coping with, and overcoming the disaster Mother Nature has wrought.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Lake Executive Resignation

Below is a post request I received that is the rationale behind Larry Jacobs recent resignation from the Association executive but with some very positive suggestions about the way ahead for the Lake Association."
Blog Administrator

As Chair of the Stewardship Committee over the past two years, I coordinated efforts to develop robust and actionable knowledge of the factors impacting water quality and community enjoyment around Leech Lake.  This effort includes work with Fleming College; educational pieces on loons, septic systems, E Coli levels, invasive species, water levels, small aquatic life and fish stocking.  This work is by no means complete.   I believe our stewardship accomplishments represent the type of energy and effort that members expect of all Executive members.   
Unfortunately, the current Executive is letting down members in a number of key areas.  They want to hold on to outdated methods of working despite the fact there is a growing number of people who have chosen to not pay dues.   Don Hill and I came onto the Executive with an activist perspective and passion for change.  We proposed a number of changes to the way in which spending was managed and contractors should be managed.  These were rejected.  In my opinion, the current Executive lacks the vision and passion needed to move the Association forward. 
Let’s look at the accomplishments of the current Executive
Arguably, summer road conditions in 2012 were the worst in recent memory.   This traces directly to over-spending in 2011 when road maintenance spending was 110% of collected dues.  Of course, the replacement of outflow culverts was a significant part of this.  The Executive failed to act on proven, identified cost savings for the culvert project and Don Hill and I were asked to butt out.
The Association did win a FOCA environmental award, but this was accomplished with little funding and resistance on several issues by some members of this Executive.
The Regatta was neglected and was not held in 2012.  And it may not happen in 2013 even though I offered to provide prizes and all of the food free of charge. 
Winter road maintenance this winter has been outstanding.  Road reports are a great feature for visitors.   Unfortunately, the relationship between a valued contractor and neighbour and key members of the Executive does not represent the Association in a positive manner.  The Executive also failed to act on recommendations that would have reduced the cost of this valuable service this winter and going forward. 
Effective teams have the ability to entertain good ideas from anyone and embrace shared leadership.  That is not something this Executive could embrace and the process became extremely fractious.   I chose to resign over this dysfunctional process of meeting after meeting of valuable time, effort and money wasted.  
A Vision for the Path Forward
Rather than simply withdraw from Association activities, I prefer to move the reform agenda further by becoming more involved.   I will be running for the position of President this year.  I don’t know whether the current President plans to stand for re-election.  I have a platform for reform to make the Association more responsive to members and in particular the growing number of individuals who have chosen to not pay dues because of the issues they have with the manner in which the Association’s Executive has managed lake affairs over the past several years.
Here are the types of changes to the constitution I would pursue with the energy to get it done.
·         Make the Association more democratic.  Initially I would institute an annual survey of all stakeholders.  The results of the survey would be used to set the direction for the Executive for the next year.  All of the points below will be pursued if stakeholders indicate their approval through surveys.
·         If stakeholder interest is sufficient, I would explore absentee / internet voting on key issues such as Executive elections, dues changes etc.  This is designed to address member’s concerns about the AGM meetings which can also be fractious.
·         Install a proper budgeting process and define Executive roles within this process with less ambiguity than currently exists.  Expand the role of the Treasurer to that of a chief financial officer.  This will ensure that the financial problems which occurred in 2011 / 12 and currently exist, will not be repeated.
·         Implement purchasing policies and procedures which will attain better value for the Association.  I estimate that the Association could save more than $5000 versus current execution.  (I have extensive experience managing procurement of construction services.)  Ensure that the Association has positive relationships with a number of local contractors and that the Association is represented positively within the broader community.
·         Expend the necessary effort to pursue a grant or tax rebate from the Town of Bracebridge to cover the cost of summer road maintenance.  16 other lakes in Ontario already receive such a grant and I believe that Leech Lake should pursue this.  The budgeting and purchasing procedures mentioned above would be a pre-requisite for this.  Some members believe the Town should take over road maintenance.  I think moving to get some relief from the Town is a solid and actionable objective for the near term.
·         Improve summer road conditions by delivering better value for money.
·         Work with survey results and the Road Committee to revise winter road maintenance specifications with the aim of reducing costs.
·         If the membership agrees, move to register the Association to collect HST on dues.  In 2011, HST was a $4000 expense for the Association.  This money could be better spent on frontline member services rather than being paid out in taxes with no offsets.  I would rescind and modify the 2013 dues increase to compensate members for the impact of this change. 
·         Step up Stewardship efforts with additional funding and activities that have positive results for the lake and community.  Funding will come from cost savings elsewhere and donations from interested members.
·         Work to ensure that the Regatta and perhaps an additional social event for adults become annual community building events for the lake.
·         Introduce a program for Safe & Quiet Boating, building on the MLA program.
·         Don Hill has introduced a Code of Ethics for Executive members, and I support this effort.
Some of these reforms have been presented to the current Executive.  Ideally, these will be put to the membership by the current Executive at the AGM in July.   I am sharing my entire vision for the Association now to provide time for input from you as members, cottagers or residents of Leech Lake.
If you support or are not in favor of some or all of these potential initiatives, please let the current Executive know your thoughts.  You may write to me at ljacobs@packtrax.com.  Or post comments, positive or negative on this blog.
Thank you for your interest in Leech Lake.
Larry Jacobs

Road Report April3, 2013

 Hello Leech Lakers,
We have had some calls and emails asking just how much snow we still have. Well there you have it, these photos of the unsightly snow were taken this afternoon, (Wednesday) as you can see by the date stamped.   
Now don't get too depressed! We do have signs of spring, yes we dare say the word spring.  Our birds are back and as you can see hungry...the owl (in all the years we have owned this place have never seen an owl) was right outside out door and he was a hungry little fella as again we seen a first, he helped himself to one of our neighbours squirrels stealing our bird seed.  Neighbours keep your squirrels at  home and maybe they will be safe...lol... 
So we still have the snow as mentioned, however the roads are pretty much clear at this time, however they are very soft and muddy with sink holes and rocks sticking up from the frost.  So, drive with care and fingers crossed you don't get stuck in the mud.

Sorry we missed the blog last week but nothing really happened weather wise and as some of you know by comments on our last blog by fellow Leech Lakers, we had some unpleasant stuff going on. We did not personally express any comment nor did we discuss it with anyone at that time, except with a few of the executive members. 
We at this time are asking our blogger to submit the event that occurred while clearing the roads.

Enjoy the photos.

Jerry and Carol Cragg
1195 North Side

Dreaming of Summer

Winter is stubbornly hanging on. There is too much snow and temperatures are too low. Its depressing at this time of year. If you are like me you are dreaming of summer on Leech Lake.

To help you in your reverie, muse over the pictures below that are from the camera of Barry Shepherd.