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Monday, June 27, 2005

Students offer lawn advice

Students offer lawn advice

Jun 23, 2005

Lake Simcoe basin residents can make a difference to the health Lake Simcoe this summer.

A team of nine university students, called The Wave Patrol, are visiting homes around the lake for 10 weeks to offer friendly advice on phosphorus-free lawn and yard care.

Too much phosphorus, much of it from chemical lawn fertilizers, is contributing to the overgrowth of algae and weeds endangering the lake.

The students are part of The Wave, Healthy Yards, Healthy Waters, the first educational initiative of Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, a non-profit group.

The project began in Keswick last summer and won a Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority award for excellence. It has endorsements from many communities including Georgina, King Township, Newmarket and the region.

More than $200 million is generated annually in Lake Simcoe-related tourism. Proponents said the health of the economy and vitality of recreational opportunities in the region are tied to the health of the lake.

The Wave focuses on methods for reducing phosphorus run-off, from wiser watering to using less lawn fertilizer.

"If people can only do one thing to help our rivers and Lake Simcoe, it is in the area of yard care," project co-ordinator Catherine Gilchrist said.

"Change starts with a ripple; if people take action in their homes, it sends a strong message to government and others that we all need to take action."

There is no fee for this service.

Support for The Wave comes from The Ladies of the Lake 2006 calendar project, Environment Canada Eco Action program, The Alliance for a Better Georgina, Town of Georgina, King Township, TD Friends of the Environment, South Lake Community Futures Program and The Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network and Fund.

To get The Wave Patrol to visit your community, go to, call 1-866-329-8688 or e-mail

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

LSRCA expands

Authority grows naturally

It will probably be the most environmentally friendly building in the region, but that's only to be expected when it will serve as headquarters for the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority. A sod-turning ceremony for a 17,000-square-foot addition to the authority's Newmarket headquarters -- using the latest in environmentally friendly construction techniques and materials -- was held Tuesday. The siting of what will be new southern and western wings of the building was done to minimize removal of trees and take advantage of the natural sun shade to minimize summer heat retention, said Brian Kemp, the authority's communications manager. "We did have to cut down some trees, but they will be utilized in the construction of the new wings," he said. The $3.6-million addition, which will be completed by October, will also feature geothermal heating, solar energy panels and a "green roof".

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Skinny dipping for sake of lake

Skinny dipping for sake of lake

Jun 2, 2005

The way Deborah Barnes remembers it, she didn't have much time to think before it actually happened.

She remembers a phone call from Jane Meredith, a neighbour and friend, who told Ms Barnes she and Annabel Slaight, another resident of their Georgina neighbourhood, had a way to bring public attention to the state of Lake Simcoe.

Naturally, Ms Barnes, 37, a sales representative for a Toronto furniture company and mother of three, couldn't say no to her friends and agreed to do whatever it took to help with their project.

And that, basically, is how she ended up standing nude on the Lake Simcoe shoreline one blustery afternoon last November, holding her daughter, Paris, in her arms.

"It was chilly and my daughter was clinging to me," she said, laughing. "But it was kind of nice because she was keeping me warm as much as I was comforting her."

Baring it all for a good cause -- in this case posing for a calendar designed to raise $250,000 for conservation efforts -- isn't a new idea, as anyone who saw the movie Calendar Girls can tell you.

Based on a true story, the movie told the tale of a group of middle-aged British women who decided it might be fun to raise money for leukemia research by posing semi-nude for a calendar, inadvertently causing a worldwide sensation and selling millions more calendars than they ever dreamed.

But as Ms Meredith, a grandmother and one of the Ladies of the Lake puts it, it's not quite the same idea.

"We are not inside sitting behind a potted plant," she said, pointing to a group photo showing her wearing a long silken scarf, and little else, in an autumnal setting near Sibbald Point. "We're outside in the elements on, in or beside the lake."

In one photo, a group of women huddle inside an ice-fishing hut off Innisfil's De Grassi Point, while another winter shot shows two semi-clad women mushing across the ice in a dogsled ... a photo shoot that went smoothly until the six Siberian huskies spotted some people walking their dogs and took off.

Fortunately, the dog handler was able to get the dogs back before the dog walkers got a view of nature they didn't expect.

The prospect of appearing unclothed in these open spaces might not appeal to everyone, but Ms Barnes, who had never posed nude before, said it wasn't that big a deal.

"It wasn't about me and Paris so much as it was about capturing the beauty of the lake at that time," she said.

"When we arrived on site, it was more, 'OK, jump in.' It was quite quick, very spontaneous and natural. I wasn't even aware I was naked; I didn't have time to reflect on it."

The calendar, which is available in August for $15, came about when members of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition thought of ways to bring attention to the lake's health, which is being endangered by an estimated 100 tons of phosphorus annually.

Last year, the coalition launched the WAVE Healthy Yards/Healthy Lawns program, a campaign to educate Georgina residents about the need to reduce fertilizer runoff, which contributes to excessive weed and algae growth in the water.

"I've been here every summer of my life and lived here full-time 10 years," Ms Meredith said.

"We didn't even think about drinking the water from the lake then, but you certainly would now."

Last fall, Ms Meredith and Ms Slaight were throwing around suggestions for raising more money for the campaign when the idea of auctioning off a handmade canoe came up.

"Then someone mentioned bringing the canoe into the room with naked ladies carrying it or have naked women sitting in it and that will really raise the roof," Ms Meredith said. "We just kind of took it from there."

After some quick research and meetings with publishing experts, they hired Toronto photographer Jim Panou, scouted locations and set about finding local women brave enough to bare all for a good cause.

Surprisingly, as in the case of Ms Barnes, it wasn't that hard a sell, with about 40 women coming out for the first meeting.

"I didn't think too much about it because I knew the people involved and I knew it would be well-executed," Ms Barnes said. "I knew it was going to be very tasteful."

Since then, the Ladies of the Lake calendar project has grown to include dozens of women in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

Hilary Van Welter, owner of Ascentia Business Spa in Newmarket, came on board in January to lend her expertise to the project, which she said is an example of "serendipity and spontaneity" working together.

Ms Van Welter is one of the organizers of a rally at De Grassi Point Saturday at 10 a.m., a chance to muster the troops and welcome new volunteers who want to help spread word of the calendar to area businesses and non-profit groups.

Want to get involved? Phone Jane Meredith at 905-476-4045 or visit

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Good coverage of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario discussion on Greenbelt and the health of the Lake Simcoe watershed:


Trash washing in from lake overwhelming

Trash washing in from lake overwhelming

May 26, 2005

I recently cleared out my boat slip at the back of my property. Every year I accumulate debris. The last couple of years, I have cleared out an array of items from partial docks to a lawn chair.

This year was three times more than usual. After the Lake Simcoe weed removal program started, we have been overwhelmed with leftover debris in our slip.

Yes, I know, I should put up a mesh barrier to stop this from happening. I have recently done so. Who else has been bombarded with weeds?

The bigger issue is the garbage I have removed from the water. Recently, I cleared out more than three dozen plastic ammunition shell covers, plastic bags and baggies, condoms, bleach bottles, lighters, pop cans, wine corks, beer bottles, plastic beer can rings, lures and other unidentified debris.

I do not use pesticides on my lawn and I am an avid recycler. In our family of five, on average we put out only a one-third to one-half bag of garbage.

Yes, we could do better and we're working on it. How can people litter our lake? The small animals living in it are at risk with this waste. I found all these items just in my boat slip. Imagine the whole of the lake.

One final note. every year I pull a car tire out of the water. Again, another tire has appeared at our waterfront this year. Stop dumping in our lake.