It’s almost always the first reaction when a cottager learns of the proposal to develop the Fraser Estate on Stony Lake into a gated community with 60 housing units, recreational facilities, docks and boats: “But the lake is already so busy!”
It may seem that way, particularly to cottagers who’ve been on the lake long enough to recall a time when paddling across open water on a long weekend didn’t mean taking your life in your hands, but is it really that busy?
According to the Trent Severn Waterway folks, the number of boats travelling through the system has dropped in recent years. But what of lake-generated boat traffic?
In an effort to document the real numbers, Jen Lewis of the Friends of the Fraser Wetlands devised a survey to catalogue the number and kinds of boats on the water during specific times and in specific areas of the lake. Jen was the first fill out the survey, devoting several hours on the July long weekend to counting the boats that passed in view of her cottage on Fairy Lake Island.
The results? Between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Sunday June 29th, Jen counted 310 boats! They included:
• 43 open boats under 25 hp
• 24 open boats over 25 hp
• 119 larger outboards or inboards
• 34 cabin cruisers
• 10 houseboats
• 47 jet skis
• 23 pontoon boats
• 1 tour boat
• 3 airplanes
• 6 kayaks or canoes
This seemed remarkable, even to those of us who’ve argued that boat traffic on the lake is reaching a critical point. So on Monday, June 30th – a seemingly quiet but sunny day on the lake – I decided to use Jen’s template to do my own count of the traffic in front of my family cottage, which is on the Burleigh Shore at the entrance to Juniper Point – the area of highest density on the lake, and a stone’s throw from the Fraser Estate.
I had only an hour to spare, and didn’t expect to count many boats. I was shocked that at the end of the hour – having endeavoured not to count any boats more than once (in other words if someone went past our place 10 times dragging kids on skis or tubes, I would only count them once) – I logged 75 boats! In one hour.
This is only one measure of the pressure we’re placing on our water, but these kinds of numbers beg the question: How much is too much? And will another (potential) 120 boats on the lake, in an area of the lake that boasts the highest density of development, make for safe waters?
What do you think?
– Jennifer David