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Influx of new boaters not always following rules, according to Safe Quiet Lakes’ survey

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The latest survey from Safe Quiet Lakes shows that more people than ever are boating in Muskoka.

Colleen Kennedy, Director of the Board of Safe Quiet Lakes, says 5,951 people took their latest survey, which they recently discussed with Gravenhurst council on April 12, and just over two-thirds believe there is more boat traffic, noise, and wakes causing an impact than when the non-profit did their previous survey in 2017.

The survey included respondents from the Georgian Bay region for the first time. Over 130 lakes were represented in the results, including Lake Muskoka, Lake Rosseau, and Lake Joseph. 

“The biggest thing we learned is that there’s an increase of people feeling unsafe on the lakes,” Kennedy says.

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The nearly 6,000 respondents represent an increase of 81-percent from the 2017 survey. The results show that 44-percent rate their lake experience as “close to ideal” which is up from 35-percent in 2017.

Meanwhile, 34-percent view their lake as “very safe” which is slightly up from 31-percent five years. However, 52-percent of respondents feel like safety has declined. 

Kennedy says the statistics show a “significant decline” in the overall quality of experience rating for the big three Muskoka lakes. She cites the increase in boat traffic and noise as the reasons behind the decline.

“I think, for the first time, there was increased readiness for action on a lot of levels, whether it’s education and communication about responsible boating, more enforcement – people had an appetite for more enforcement, which they hadn’t in the last two surveys – and a need for additional and stronger regulations,” Kennedy says.

The survey results show that 57-percent of people support increased patrolling of lakes, while 18-percent believe no additional enforcement is needed.

The survey lists eight recommendations that came from the findings:

  • Provide more education about responsible and respectful boating
  • Ensure greater protection of shortlines and people from wakes
  • Develop limits on noise levels on lakes
  • Enforce existing laws and regulations and increase police visibility
  • Enhance laws and regulations, especially regarding boat wakes, speed, and noise
  • Celebrate and build on the approaches of successful lakes, bays, and rivers that share the space respectfully
  • Continue to conduct comprehensive surveys of lake activity
  • Monitor emerging issues and ideas raised in participant comments

She explains that Safe Quiet Lakes is working to do more on the education side of things. Part of that will see them continue to virtually touch base with town councils and hold other online education sessions but, with restrictions starting to lift, Kennedy hopes to be able to do more in-person education. She says she wants to visit marinas in hopes of getting material in the hands that don’t live in the area year-round. 

The organization was awarded $750 in February through the Town of Gravenhurst’s Terance Haight Financial Assistance Committee to go towards purchasing education materials. 

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