Haliburton property owners presented to county council March 27 to try and get the municipality to step up efforts to protect natural shorelines.

The Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners Associations (CHA) detailed the importance of natural shorelines to lake health and asked the county to implement a new bylaw towards maintaining them. CHA board chair Paul MacInnes said protecting lake health is vital for the county.

“The lakes are the foundation of Haliburton County. They’re the foundation of our economy,” MacInnes said. “They are our way of life. They’re the reason so many of us are here.”

MacInnes explained that 80-90 per cent of all lake life depends on natural shorelines at some point in their life cycle. He also said if lake health continues to deteriorate, it could have a massive impact on property assessment values and taxation.

“Even from a financial point of view, it makes a heck of a lot of sense to protect our lakes,” MacInnes said.

The CHA said a bylaw is urgently needed to prevent people from taking down natural shorelines. MacInnes said the CHA cannot reach everyone and people are stripping shorelines in anticipation of regulation, to improve sightlines and create small beaches.

“That’s happening on an ongoing basis on a number of our lakes,” MacInnes said. “Without healthy lakes, Haliburton County is in trouble.”

Warden Liz Danielsen thanked CHA for its efforts to address the issue and inform people about it.

“You have given us some stark bits of information and facts and things to think about if we want to be able to continue with the lifestyle we have today,” Danielsen said.

She added the county is taking steps to work on a tree-cutting bylaw and shoreline preservation.

The county has also worked with the province to increase the fines under the county’s existing shoreline tree preservation bylaw. The province authorized the fines to increase to $800 as of Feb. 20, but Danielsen said that is not enough. “

We were allowed to increase them marginally,” Danielsen said. “If we don’t have reasonable fines, people aren’t going to care.”

Council voted to receive the presentation for information. MacInnes said he was aware he was “preaching to the converted” but it was still important to keep working on the issue.

“We’ve made incredible strides,” MacInnes said. “Do we still have a lot of people that just don’t care, just don’t want to know and don’t want to take action? Absolutely. We’re fighting the good fight and the only thing we can do is keep fighting.”

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