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Anger over new lock hours

posted Oct 15, 2009, 1:20 PM by Cheryl Hollows   [ updated May 13, 2010, 3:25 PM ]

Bracebridge Examiner by Karen Longwell - May 4th, 2010

MUSKOKA LAKES — Muskoka boaters don’t want a midnight closure of the locks in Port Carling.

Cottagers now returning to properties on Lakes Joseph, Muskoka and Rosseau are learning of a district decision to close the small lock at 8 p.m. The large lock hours have been extended, but the large lock, too, will close at midnight on the weekend. The decision, made this March, has upset many, according to Lake Rosseau cottager and Muskoka Lakes Association board member Phil Harding.

“People are coming to the cottage now and … welcome again to the way the district and the township do things. They make all the changes when no one is here to hear about it,” said Harding.

The small lock used to be open 24 hours a day. Now it will close at 8 p.m. during the peak season. The large lock will be open longer hours to compensate, but cottagers will be stranded if they want to use the locks past midnight on the weekend. The locks opened on April 15.

The change in hours comes after the small lock began to malfunction and was out of operation at times beginning in the fall of 2008 and in 2009.

The lock staff canvassed approximately 500 boaters over a period of three months last summer and found the majority of people wanted to increase the hours of the large locks, said Tony White, district commissioner of engineering and public works.

“It became fairly clear that there weren’t an awful lot of people that were using or needed to have service after midnight; in fact, most service was not required after 10 p.m.,” said White.

Based on the results of the survey, and the municipality’s desire to prolong the life of the small lock, council voted in favour of changing the operating hours.

Harding said he is looking into the situation on behalf of the Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) and he has requested a written response to his concerns from the District of Muskoka, which operates the locks.

The locks are used at night, Harding insisted.

“Their (the district) statement of ‘they are not used at night’ is not true,” said Harding.

Harding sent out an email to fellow cottagers and as of April 27 more than 100 cottagers responded stating they would like the small lock open 24 hours a day, he said.

There is no formal petition at this time. However, the MLA is trying to set up a meeting with District Chair Gord Adams.

Property owners on the lakes have been used to 24-hour access for many years, Harding noted.

“I have had access to all three lakes seven days a week, 24 hours a day for over 50 years. They are taking that away.”

The change in hours will affect boaters who fish early in the morning, people who work early in the morning, babysitters or people who travel by boat to dinner parties, he said.

He hopes the district will look at other options to keep the 24-hour service available.

“My biggest frustration is that they have not explored options,” said Harding.

Harding thinks there should be a way to attach a switch to the lock pump so boaters could switch it on before operation. “So that if nobody used the locks at all after midnight, there is no extra cost.”

White suggested there are other possibilities for the locks, but raised concerns about the ease of operation.

“There are all kinds of things you can do to increase flexibility of operation, but that is one more thing that can go wrong and one more requirement for the operator to know about,” said White.

The locks are simple to operate, but they don’t always function as they are supposed to and could present difficulties for first-time visitors, said White.

“When you open the facility 24-7 like that, you open it to everybody, not just people who know what they are doing,” said White.

Costs to continue 24-hour service would not impact the district budget immediately, but there could be more frequent costs for repairs to the small lock, said White.

The hours of operation for the locks are posted on the District of Muskoka’s website at www.muskoka.on.ca.

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