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Friday, May 30, 2008

Growth plan given the OK; Controversial plan puts emphasis on creating strong urban boundaries

Growth plan given the OK; Controversial plan puts emphasis on creating strong urban boundaries

After years of planning, the county finally has a growth plan in place as the newest puzzle piece in the creation of its new official plan.

"We've been talking about (the growth plan) for over three years. From where we are and where we want to go, there will be challenges along the way. We tend to look internally rather than at the common good. We need to position ourselves for the future," said Dennis Roughley, deputy-mayor of Bradford-West Gwillimbury.

The new growth plan puts emphasis on creating strong urban boundaries to avoid sprawl throughout rural areas, as well as population density targets, which call for 50 people and jobs per hectare by 2031.

"There will be more people coming to Simcoe County. The plan offers the flexibility for municipalities to seize any economic opportunity that comes their way," said Doug White, mayor of Bradford-West Gwillimbury.

Barrie city council members have criticized the plan, saying it doesn't create 'complete communities'.

"I've watched and read many comments coming out of Barrie city council where they say none of our communities are complete communities. I take great offence to that," Essa Mayor David Guergis said.

"As a ratepayer in the city of Barrie, I can say my property taxes have skyrocketed compared to my taxes in Essa. The roads in Barrie are not good and there is a landfill that is about to become full.

"I think Barrie has to get away from their 'centre of the universe' philosophy. If they want to participate, they should come back to the table. Essa wasn't represented at the table because we stepped back to allow two spaces for Barrie, which they chose not to use," Guergis said.

The plan was approved yesterday with 104 votes in favour and 12 votes against. The votes were weighted in relation to a municipality's population. Chris Carrier, mayor of Collingwood, James Downer, mayor of Midland, and Ruth Hackney, deputy-mayor of Midland, voted in opposition.

"Lake Simcoe has water quality issues already," said Carrier, adding the county would have trouble finding a place to build a sewage treatment plant that would accommodate the forecasted growth without approval complications.

"When Site 41 came before council, I was told it was too late

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Aurora Bassmasters - Keswick

The season’s first big fishing tournament is going to be catch-and-release ... sort of.

A pike tournament, held by the Aurora Bassmasters, will be held Saturday in Keswick with the pike caught there being released later on in Fairy Lake in Newmarket.

With the help of the Ministry of Natural Resource’s community fish and wildlife improvement program, volunteers and ministry staff will select a cross-section of pike that will be put into an aerated transfer tank and moved to Fairy Lake.

In the past, pike from Lake Simcoe used to be able to swim as far as the Holland River.

However, due to dams and obstructions over the years, they aren’t able to do so on their own these days.

In their new home as top predator, the pike will help balance the fish community.

Unlike other Aurora Bassmasters tournaments, this will be an open event, meaning all anglers, not just members of the club, are eligible to compete.

Anglers will begin at Pasadena Marina at 534 Lake Dr. S. The tournament starts at 6 a.m. with registration at the marina.

Cost is $110 per team, which includes $10 for the big fish pot and $10 for launch.

Paybacks will be 80 per cent of entry fees.

Anglers fish from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will bring in the heaviest three pike they catch per two-person team.

Heaviest limit wins.

Fully functioning livewells and all the standard boating safety requirements are in effect. No live bait is permitted and standard tournament rules apply.

Other tournaments

The last tournament of the year is still a long way off, but you can note the Bass Pro Shops Lake Simcoe Open will take place out of Sibbald Point Provincial Park Oct. 25.

This tournament holds the all-time Canadian record for the heaviest five bass ever weighed in during a one-day tournament at 29.90 lbs and is sure to be another success in 2008.

Catching Early Season Pike In Simcoe:

Regardless of whether you are fishing competitively or recreationally for northern pike, early spring pike action can be some of the finest you will experience.

It can, however, also be tough.

And, similar to other fishing ventures at this time of year, weather is the deciding factor.

Generally speaking, warming trends with a steady or rising barometer can be fabulous, so spring pike love stable weather conditions.

Although they do feed during the winter, they don’t during the strenuous spawning period which has just finished.

So, given the opportunity, they will be eager to voraciously search for and capture your baits.

Spring is the best time of year in Simcoe to work surface and subsurface lures such as the Rapala Husky Jerk or big X Rap’s.

Newly emerging weed growth can be difficult to find, especially with late winter ice outs and cool springs such as we have had so far, but if you find some fresh, green aquatic plant growth, you can often find the big hungry northern not too far off.

If action near the surface subsides, throwing bright flashy Terminator Spinnerbaits can be deadly ... and with this model made from titanium, they won’t get all bent out of shape once engulfed by a thrashing pike.

As is often the case on the day of your fishing excursion, the weather suddenly turns cold and blustery or even one of those dreaded blue bird days after the front.
Knowing that fishing could be tough from the onset will help you prepare mentally for what could be a long day on the water.
After fishing pike tournaments for at about 20 years, I have had my share of cold fronts to fish through and these spring northerns can be negatively affected big time.
However, you can use this to your advantage if you slow down your presentations and possibly even revert to throwing jigs tipped with various plastics.

Another secret I am willing to reveal is watch the temperature gauge on your sonar units.

Look for the warmest water you can find, preferably with the presence of new weed growth.

In early spring, under cold front conditions, finding areas where the temperature is only a few degrees warmer, can make all the difference in the world.

And while others are bemoaning their misfortune in colder waters you will finesse your way to some pike.

For more information on the pike tournament or transfer contact the club’s tournament director Tom Tsatskas at or visit

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kayakers saved on Lake Simcoe

Kayakers saved on Lake Simcoe

The choppy waters causing problems for a couple of kayakers on Lake Simcoe near Innisfil.

The two drifted out into the rough water and couldn't make their way back to shore yesterday.

South Simcoe Police marine patrol escorted them back to safety.

The pair was exhausted but not hurt.

Police remind you to check the weather conditions before you head out on the water

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ladies of the Lake!

The serious business of lake-water protection took a cheeky turn in a remote section of Simcoe County this week.

Under a sunless sky, a caravan of women wearing little else but bathrobes and rubber boots tromped into the woods at Orillia’s Scout Valley nature park for a revealing photo shoot.

It would be the last in a series of nudes to be featured in a fundraising calendar supporting the health and welfare of Lake Simcoe.

“It is a wonderful, liberating experience,” declared a still-clothed Margaret Hyvarinen moments before trudging into the bush where a professional photographer awaited. “I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

It was the Georgina woman’s second time in front of the lens, having posed for the inaugural Ladies of the Lake calendar in 2006.

“I was the lady on the dog sled,” she said of the frigid February photo session.

Innisfil’s Mary Jane Brinkos, rain boots peeking out from beneath a red robe, concurred with the sense of liberation. “And you are trying to save the environment.”

Others came to cheer on those going in front of the lens.

“The first time you drop your towel is a little hard,” remarked Keswick’s Martine Evans, formerly Miss June 2006. “But you realize you are doing it for a good cause, and it becomes easy.”

The non-profit group sold 12,000 copies of the original calendar and raised $250,000 to raise awareness of the environmental challenges facing Lake Simcoe.

“We were completely blown away,” calendar co-founder Jane Meredith said of the response.

Retailers happily offered the eye-catching publication for sale while sponsors jumped on board with additional support.

The group is aiming to raise an equal amount when it releases its 2009 calendar in July.

Reporters were invited to view portions of the yet-to-be produced publication, which will reflect the aboriginal message of hope and guidance.

In one scene, a cross-country skier strides bare-skinned across a snow-draped landscape in backpack, gloves, and boots.

In another, the sun-kissed subject reclines on a hefty willow branch overhanging the lake.

The images are shot with an eye toward the tasteful rather than the titillating and are meant to complement nature’s beauty, organizers said.

In the two years that have passed since the initial calendar’s release, federal and provincial governments have stepped forward with commitments of support for the widely-used lake, Meredith noted.

“We can’t take all the credit, because there are a lot of people who have the lake in their minds,” she added. “But truly we have made a huge contribution to the awareness of the lake.”

Thursday, May 08, 2008

OPP, fire crews rescue stricken pedal boater on Lake Simcoe

OPP, fire crews rescue stricken pedal boater on Lake Simcoe
Date: May 06, 2008

A Toronto man is facing a barrage of charges, and police say he should count himself lucky to be alive, after police and fire crews had to scramble to rescue him over the weekend on Lake Simcoe.

OPP say the man went out for a pedal boat ride early Sunday morning after leaving a party at a waterfront house in Oro-Medonte. His boat was soon blown into open waters on an unseasonably cold day (6 degrees Celsius). Officers from Barrie OPP came to the house and spotted the boater – without a lifejacket – adrift due to a reported difficulty with the pedal system.

An OPP launch, which normally patrols in Lake Simcoe, began to make its way into the area into which the man had ventured. Oro-Medonte firefighters soon arrived in their airboat and managed to bring the man aboard. Shortly afterwards, their vessel was swamped by a wave and sank in about 25 metres of water.

OPP rescued the partygoer and the four firefighters, all of whom were examined by paramedics at the government dock and released a short time later.

The 18-year-old man faces charges including impaired boating. He’ll be in Barrie court June 9 to answer the charges.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Dion talking 'fast and loose'

Dion talking 'fast and loose'; Local MP says Dion's promises ring hollow
Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton says Stephane Dion was long on promises and short on specifics during his visit to Orillia last week.

Stanton criticized the federal Liberal leader for his vague vows to help Orillia clean up a brownfield on West Street for a new recreation facility.

"First off, on the question of the MURF (Orillia's Multi Use Recreation Facility), I think the leader of the opposition really talked in general terms," said Stanton Saturday. "Sort of philosophic support for brownfield remediation and sport centres and I don't think anyone in public service could disagree with that and I certainly support those sentiments as well."

In terms of brownfield clean up, Dion told The Packet & Times a Liberal government under his leadership would spend a large portion of any surplus on green infrastructure that would include brownfield clean up.

But Stanton says promises can't be made to specific projects until a program is in place and criteria are set out.

"My worry is without there being any kind of mechanism to allocate funds, as a politician you just can't be fast and loose with that kind of commitment," said Stanton.

Once approvals come through for the MURF and the West Street site, Stanton said he will work within the available programs to get funding for the facility itself as well as the brownfield rehabilitation.

The continuing clean up and monitoring of Lake Simcoe was also targeted by Dion on his trip to the Sunshine City. Dion said that while the federal government has committed money to the cause (totalling $30 million), that money isn't being put into programs in a timely fashion.

But Stanton said the Conservative government is waiting for recommendations from a citizens committee on how the money can best be used.

Local representation on the committee includes Orillia naturalist Bob Bowles, Neil Roe from Ramara Township, a founding member of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, and former municipal councillor Dave Edwards from Oro-Medonte. Stanton said the results of that are expected sometime this spring.

When it comes to Lake Simcoe he doesn't think much of Dion's own record.

For more, please see Politics on A2.

"While he was the Minister of the Environment in the previous government his government did nothing with Lake Simcoe despite the years it was signalled to the federal government that it was continuing to be a problem for phosphorous loading and other pollution issues."

With the federal government set to make an announcement about the Trent Severn Waterway today Stanton said Dion was in error last week when he said Environment Minister John Baird had the report on the Trent Severn since December. While originally scheduled to be to the Minister in December, Stanton said delays meant the report didn't get there until February.

He understands the benefit of having a high profile party member such as Dion come to the riding as a way to raise the profile of candidate Steve Clarke and said it did much the same for him when then leader of the Official Opposition Stephen Harper visited the area in October of 2005.