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Monday, April 11, 2005

In the buff for Lake Simcoe

Annabel Slaight wants to bring attention to the declining condition of Lake Simcoe and she has chosen an unusual method - Slaight and 59 other women are baring it all for nature.



The Keswick resident is one of 60 women in their 40s, 50s and 60s who will be appearing semi-nude in the 2006 Ladies of the Lake Calendar.
Last fall, Slaight, in her birthday suit, sat in the middle of the woods, tastefully posed behind a pile of books.

This week, five more ladies of the lake met with Toronto photographer Jim Panou at Don Campbell's sugar bush in Oro-Medonte Township, north of Barrie. The models believe the photographer is the perfect fit for the project. "He seemed to have the right sensitivity for this," said Jane Meredith.

While the calendar is intended to bring attention to the lake's health, it will also help raise money to support WAVE Healthy Yards/Healthy Lawns, a project tested last year in Keswick by the Lake Simcoe Rescue Coalition.

The coalition started about 18 months ago when residents living around the lake decided it was time to bring attention to the damage being done to the lake. See LAKE on page 22

The lake has been damaged by phosphorous overloads and other chemicals leaching into the water. "The lake's health has been in a decline for the past 30 years," said Meredith.

Slaight was among people who decided to get organized and force residents to care about the lake. They, in turn, will make the politicians pay attention, organizers believe.

The WAVE Healthy Yards/Healthy Lawns encourages residents to replace chemical fertilizers and pesticides with natural, environmentally-friendly alternatives.

Coalition members decided it was time to raise some money to expand the program.

One of the first ideas was to auction off a canoe, then someone jokingly suggested filling it up with naked women first. That led to dropping the canoe and sticking with naked women.

The idea of a calendar featuring nude women who aren't professional models isn't new. The idea was a success with a women's club in England and led to the movie Calendar Girls.

Meredith explained the difference with this calendar. "We're not hiding behind potted plants," she said. Instead, all the backdrops feature stunning views in and around Lake Simcoe.

Last September, the group put the call out for volunteer models. The first meeting attracted about 40 women, and the numbers climbed to about 60 who made the final cut.

"It was just electrifying," said Meredith.

Margaret Hyvarinen is one of February's cover girls.

During the warmest day in February, a balmy 8 C, she and another model bundled up in a dog sled out on the ice. All was well until the six Siberian huskies attached to the sled spotted some people walking their pets some distance away and took off.

The dog handler managed to call the dogs back before the walkers were exposed to more nature than they bargained for.

"I live on the lake," said the 49-year-old Pefferlaw resident, "and I've seen a deterioration of the lake.

"I see my neighbours still putting pesticides and chemical fertilizers on their lawns, and it ends up in the lake. It's time for awareness," she said.

The women share a similar motivation for baring it all: the future of the lake.

"Unless people start paying attention to Lake Simcoe, its future is bleak," said Shanty Bay resident and model Rosaleen Crooks. "Do we have to wait until it's completely covered in green slime and weeds to fix it?"

Sponsors will be paying the production costs of the calendar, so all proceeds will go towards the coalition project.

The goal is to raise $250,000 for the Lake Simcoe Rescue Coalition's WAVE Healthy Yards/Healthy Waters.

The calendar will be available in August for $15. Calendars will be available at area retail outlets, and through not-for-profit organizations, which will be sharing the proceeds with the coalition.

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