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The Outsider: The horrow of the howling

“I was woken by ‘the howling’ last night, whoa it was loud.” These were the words of a somewhat ornery colleague of mine one morning last week.

I pictured a pack of wolves serenading the bright moon in his backyard, or a band of wily coyotes yipping and laughing as they celebrated coming upon nearby road kill. But my sleep deprived friend meant other deadly denizens of the dark. 

“Millions of them, that’s what it sounded like, clamouring to get in. And that noise, the incessant high-pitched scream. Oh, it was bloodthirsty.” He’s grinning now, knowing that his description is somewhat exaggerated but we get his drift. His ‘howling’ is the sound of hordes of mosquitoes buzzing at the bug screen of his open bedroom window, their aggravating individual whining reaching a crescendo as more and more insects join the fray.

And that got me thinking, why is it that mosquitoes make that noise? Even a single one in your bedroom will wake you as it searches for a tasty spot for dinner. 

The sound is intensely annoying in the middle of the night, or anytime for that matter but imagine if there were no sound – mosquitoes in stealth mode – and these vampiric villains could fly in and attack with no warning whatsoever. It seems to me that the mosquito’s buzz is its Achilles heel, if a bug can have a heel, the one thing that gives us a chance, affords us a modicum of warning before the strike. 

Then, as my mind fell further into this rabbit hole of useless thought, I began to see a pattern. Blackflies, hate em’. Clouds of the tiny blighters swarm you and it should be a bloodbath but they don’t bite immediately, instead landing and then wandering around for a while to find a nice secluded spot to dine. That’s your chance to squish them but don’t take too long or they’ll be in your hairline, under your shirt cuff and munching. 

Deer and horseflies, too. Just think what kind of hell a hot summer afternoon would be if these chompers with wings were actually any good at landing first time, rather than bashing into the back of your head for five minutes before getting their bearings. 

I guess we should be thankful. While affording all these annoying bugs life, Mother Nature was looking out for us somewhat when she made them. “Hmm, food for birds and spiders … ah yes, blood eating bugs, they’re nice and nutritious. Best not make them too good at it though or the pesky humans will go completely crazy as they get eaten alive.” 

And, so it is the howling, not of wolves but mosquitoes that he and I, and many of you listen to as we drift off into an uneasy sleep, wondering how long it will be before the insects join forces. Asking wearily how long before the insects evolve and the mozzies employ the deerflies with their sharp gnashers to chew through the bug screen so they can suck my blood en masse in the middle of the night?  


Kushog Lake doing well

Meagan Secord

Barb Elliot, a professor in the ecosystem management program at Fleming College, said Kushog Lake is healthy and doing well, at the annual Kushog Lake Property Owners Association general meeting.  

Elliot brings four students to the lake every fall to complete tests and she said the results show no major issues or decline in the health of the water and surrounding habitats.  

One of these tests is called a ‘secchi disk’ and it is used to measure the clarity of the water. Throughout her presentation, she showed cottagers tools, such as the disk, that researchers use to collect samples and measure levels from the water.

She also described the four main problems with the lake and how people can help.

 According to Elliot, the four major challenges are: water temperature, habitat loss, excessive nutrients and non-native species. She said cottagers and property owners can help alleviate these problems by not using fertilizers, making sure their septic tank isn’t leaking, cleaning their boats before putting them in the lake and keeping a natural shoreline. 

 Brenda Pearcey, a property owner on Kushog Lake, said the information was very enlightening but not enough people showed up to hear it.  

“I think it’s great but the people that are here are the considerate people,” she said. “It’s the ones that aren’t attending the meetings that this information should be getting to.”  

Pearcey says she keeps a natural shoreline at her property so she doesn’t disrupt the habitats of native wildlife. Her property is on the narrows where the trout spawn and she is very concerned about their numbers.

 “It was terrible last year. I saw maybe three mates. Three females and two males and that was because they lowered the water the year before when the fish spawn hadn’t hatched yet,” she said.  

Elliot said the turnout for the event was very good considering the nice day and was happy to have so many questions from people concerned about the environment.  

To find out how your lake is doing, the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners Associations recently released a report on 118 lakes in Haliburton County.

The Lake Health Report for the Haliburton Highlands is available for purchase for $10.


George Brown professors learn about aging well

Meagan Secord

Many Haliburton County residents aren’t ready to give up living on their own to move into a retirement home.

The Age-Friendly Master Plan, designed to address questions like this, caught the eye of some George Brown College professors recently. 

 On June 21, four faculty from the college made the trip to Haliburton to meet with the Aging Well Committee about the plan and how it works.  

Doreen Boville, aging well chair, said they were excited the plan had attracted attention to the growing issues older adults face. 

 “Because they’re teaching students to work with older adults, they want to see what older adults do,” she said about the meeting. 

 The boardroom buzzed with excitement as the committee and the faculty of the Activation Co-ordinator/Gerontology Program exchanged stories and ideas.  

One issue that was discussed by the group is housing. Questions such as ‘what happens if seniors aren’t ready to enter a retirement home yet but aren’t fully capable of being on their own?’ were asked and talked about in depth. 

 Solutions such as Airbnb, foreign caretakers and live-in PSW’s were brought forward.  

Pamela Gauci, a professor at George Brown, said they are teaching the next generation of caretakers so they need to be informed of what is happening, even in small communities.  

The college became interested in the plan after starting a new course in the program.  

“A new course for us, started a couple years ago, called aging in place,” said Molly Marrack, the program co-ordinator.“

I couldn’t find a curriculum for it so I started reading master plans.” She said a student had found Haliburton’s online and sent it to her.

She included the plan in the course as an example to students of what it means to try and make services accessible to an aging population. 

Marrack said the plan “presented an opportunity (to learn) because it’s the future of a lot of communities.”  

The organization’s master plan came together after they received funding from New Horizons in 2012.  

It includes both seasonal and full-time residents and narrowed down older adults’ needs to four top priorities: transportation, housing, access to community and health services and social participation.  

The committee continues to work to improve life for older adults in the county by holding events such as bridging the gap: independence to assistance on September 27 and the housing summit October 18.


Donald chemical building partnership breaks down

Joseph Quigley

The future of the historic Donald chemical building is now in doubt with the non-profit co-operative trying to restore it contemplating litigation against the structure’s owner.  

The partnership between a local co-op and owner Jim O’Connor is no more.

After the co-op invested more than $90,000 in grant funding and donations to help restore the building, the planned lifetime lease of the property to the group never came to pass.  

Co-op member, The Land Between, received a legal opinion on a potential lawsuit May 29.

Co-founder of The Land Between, Leora Berman, who has also managed the project for the co-op, said legal action would be a last resort.  

“I’m hoping Jim sees the light. Sees the importance of the building,” Berman said. “No one will fund a private individual for their personal gain. It should be in public hands.”  

The Highlander reached out repeatedly to O’Connor. He declined an interview and did not provide any answers to a submitted list of questions. He instead said to refer to a story published in the June 18 edition of The Haliburton Echo. 

The only comment from O’Connor in the story was indirect, and stated: “O’Connor said as the owner of the building, he wanted to move forward with the restoration and was working on it himself now.”  

The partnership between the co-op and O’Connor began in 2010.

With the structure decaying, Berman gathered organizations out of a desire to preserve the historic building.

It is the last remaining from the Standard Chemical Company Plant, at one time the largest producer of iron coke in North America.  

The informal co-op, which also included the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association (HHOA), the Haliburton Highlands Stewardship Council, the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO) and the Canadian Industrial Heritage Centre, signed a memorandum of understanding with O’Connor.

The lease agreement stated that once the Donald Innovation Centre Cooperative had been created, a “life-time lease” would be drafted and come into place. 

 About $92,000 was invested by the co-op towards the initiative, according to Berman. She planned to utilize the space as a marketing hub for the local construction sector.  

After the co-op formally came into being in March 2015, Berman said she tried repeatedly to get a new contract signed.

But nothing had been settled by the time the original agreement expired in July 2015.  

“He had indicated to me he felt the property was valuable,” Berman said. “That’s why the tide seemed to turn.” 

 Between 2010-2013, the co-op invested grant funding to stabilize the building, which had major portions of its roof leaking and collapsing.

In 2013, it was deemed safe and secure, according to Berman.  

Conflict over work done 

Berman said O’Connor did irreparable damage to the facility when he renovated it for use as part of a private storage business.  

“We still thought there was hope until we saw the building,” Berman said. “We realized the brick was destroyed, the rust was not removed and the concrete did not match.”  

The legal opinion from Lindsay’s Whitford and Nagel Associates states it is unlikely a lawsuit based on breach of contract would succeed, given the previous agreement expired in 2015 and lacked in some details.  

However, the opinion said a case for unjust enrichment would have more merit.  

“As a result of the actions by DIPC (Donald Innovation Project Collaborative), the owner has benefited in that the building is now structurally safe and secure which should result in a direct increase in property value,” Garth Lee Whitford wrote. “The court would be sympathetic to your plight and would not want the owner to benefit from public funds that were intended for an entirely different purpose.”  

None of the claims made by Berman or Whitford have been tested in court. HHOA president Eric Christensen said they are trusting Berman to handle the situation. 

 “We are very disappointed that the owner has gone back on his verbal and written agreements.,” Christensen said. 

ACO chief operating officer William Coukell said although they still support the co-op, they have “not had any direct connection to this particular site in a long time.”  

But any legal effort against O’Connor will need consultation with stakeholders, Berman said. She added a new public fundraising campaign would be necessary to pay for it. 

 “This is too important a building to give up hope on. I wouldn’t still be here if this building wasn’t that important,” she said. 


County progresses on merger talks

Joseph Quigley

The County of Haliburton is edging toward a process to decide whether to amalgamate its lower-tier townships. 

Council had a lengthy debate on the matter during its June 26 meeting. Councillors voted to have Haliburton’s chief administrative officer draft a report outlining a process to follow should council proceed with a governance model review.  

Coun. Brent Devolin called the dialogue a watershed moment. 

 “This discussion we’re going to have, for the balance of this term, for all councils,” he said. “This is the biggest thing.” 

 Talk began with a staff report highlighting the current county-wide municipal collaborations and where more could be done.

But the report went largely undiscussed to focus on the bigger-picture issue.  Coun. Carol Moffatt said in a February discussion, no county council member indicated they were “married” to any specific outcome on the amalgamation debate. 

She said although hard facts about efficiencies and funding are important to the discussion, so too is community identity. 

 “While they are critically important to our existence and our growth, equally important is what we could gain and what we could lose as communities,” Moffatt said. 

 Warden Liz Danielsen agreed but noted that idea got shot down at a Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce breakfast in May. 

 “The assumption by the public is that we’re going to save money if we move toward amalgamation,” Danielsen said. “I don’t see any evidence that that’s the case and I think we’d have to have that evidence before we move too much further.”  

However, Devolin said there is need for structural change. He highlighted the struggle to fill staff positions across all five municipalities.  

“Not sure going forward we can continue to populate those positions with four or five of a particular skill set,” Devolin said. “We’re going to hit a wall.” 

He added asset management would also require significant change, given the number of similar facilities across the five municipalities. C

AO Mike Rutter said it would make sense to leave the discussion on collaborations until governance is decided on.

He added there is a reason not to wait to pursue an answer.  

“The longer these questions drag on, the more difficult it will be to attract or maintain staff,” Rutter said. “If someone doesn’t know if they’re going to have a job in a year or two years, why would they leave their job to come here?” 

Council also discussed preparing an RFP for a governance review and seeking qualified third-parties for guidance on how the process should go.  

Moffatt said she does not expect job losses with amalgamation, other than CAO positions. She added it was good to make progress on the topic. 

 “This is a great discussion, I’m pleased to have it and I think it’s exciting,” she said.


HCSA: Sledders spent $29 million last winter

Joseph Quigley

The Haliburton County Snowmobile Association (HCSA) is pushing to make the area more snowmobile-friendly by highlighting its multimillion-dollar contribution to the economy. 

 The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) released a new economic impact study June 13, its first in five years. Based on the report’s data, the HCSA is estimating that snowmobilers spent approximately $28.843 million in Haliburton in the 2018-19 season, contributing a total of $8.276 million in taxes across all government levels. 

 HCSA director of community relations John Enright said it is an important indicator for snowmobiling in the county and a reason why the tourism sector needs to support it.

 “The tourism industry here should bear down and focus on this as the top outdoor experience in this county because of the huge dollars snowmobilers deliver,” Enright said.  

County of Haliburton director of tourism Amanda Virtanen complimented the work of the HCSA and its economic impact.  

“The amount of work that the Haliburton County Snowmobile Association does to ensure that visitors and residents have some of the best sledding in Ontario, is pretty incredible,” Virtanen said.  

She added establishments do cater to the snowmobile community and the county is working on a special section of its tourism website dedicated to snowmobile promotion.  

The HCSA figures are based on the OFSC’s district statistics. In District 6, made up of 14 clubs including Haliburton, snowmobiling visitors spent approximately $99.458 million and contributed $28.5 million in taxes.

HCSA’s stats for Haliburton County are 29 per cent of those figures, based on the HCSA having 29 per cent of the total snowmobile club memberships in the district. 

It is not an exact calculation. Enright said the club suspects the HCSA figures may actually undersell snowmobiling in Haliburton.

Regardless, Enright said the club plans to present these numbers to area municipal councils to show why they should introduce more snowmobile-friendly initiatives, such as staging areas. 

 “Staging areas are desperately needed,” Enright said. “That would do so much for us.”  

Across the province, snowmobilers contributed $842 million in expenditures in the 2018-19 season, amounting to $403 million in direct GDP.

District 6 also ranked as the most visited region by snowmobilers this season, capturing 11.8 per cent of total trips. 

 “From job creation to taxation revenue to keeping a small business open all winter, snowmobilers certainly contribute across the board,” OFSC chief executive offer Ryan Eickmeier said.  

Enright said the club has a good relationship with all County of Haliburton municipalities. But he said more could be done to improve snowmobiling promotion without costing many dollars.

This study is a way to help deliver that, Enright said.  

“We’re going to share this far and wide and tell our story to anyone who wants to listen,” he said.


Turtle project shell-ebrates global success


What started as a Haliburton Highlands Land Trust project has now gone global.  

Sheila Ziman, a Land Trust member who helped recruit people for the Turtle Project, said it has received a lot of attention from other countries.  

“Paul Heaven, the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust’s project biologist, was contacted by an ecologist working with the U.S. Department of Interior’s International Technical Assistance Program,” a newsletter sent out by the Land Trust said. “He asked Paul for permission to present our project as a case study at a workshop entitled, ‘Highway Crossings for Wildlife’.”  

The workshop took place in Thailand at the end of May and discussed the rapid development of The Delta and surrounding areas and included ministries from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Burma.  

In addition, Montana State University has asked to use the initiative’s data collecting methods. And, most recently, an ecologist from Quebec has requested to build the Haliburton-designed barrier wall.  

The three-year Turtle Project started in 2015 with the hope of reducing turtle road mortality.

According to Ziman, there were more than 100 volunteers and 1,000 hours involved in the project.  In the first year, the Land Trust chose eight monitoring sites based on previously collected data about turtles in the area.

For the months of May and June, volunteers walked the one km routes, for eight hours a day, seven days a week keeping track of the number of turtles that crossed the road and cars that drove by.  

“I think there’s so many people who care very deeply for the environment, that’s why they’re here,” said Ziman. “I corralled a lot of my friends to do it and they all said they were so happy to help because they felt they were making a difference.”  

In 2016, a barrier wall was designed by Heaven to direct turtles under and through a culvert instead of over the road.

It was installed on Gelert Road and monitored through 2017 to see if it would work.  

“So, this was the first one (turtle barrier) that people got really excited about because it wasn’t that expensive, it was very robust and it was doable and it worked,” said Ziman. We proved that where the wall was, no turtles got onto the road.”


Dysart takes on winter plowing in Harcourt

Joseph Quigley

Dysart et al is officially taking over winter maintenance in Harcourt township despite some uncertainty about the cost of the change.  

Council decided on the shift during its June 25 meeting. They approved purchasing a new heavy-duty snow plow costing an estimated $265,000 and hiring a new staff person at approximately $73,880 per year to handle additional landfill maintenance and Harcourt road maintenance.

The Harcourt winter maintenance was previously handled by a contractor, but uncertainty in their continuation prompted staff to recommend the change.  

Staff expect this will result in a service level increase in Harcourt. 

 “Having the work done properly, done to our level of service, should be the first priority,” Mayor Andrea Roberts said.  

Director of public works Rob Camelon presented a cost analysis for the shift. He estimated it would cost the municipality $71,101 to do the work, compared to the $82,186 paid to the contractor last winter.  

The gap does not take into account the additional level of service, with the previous contractor out 16 operational days less compared to the rest of the municipal fleet.

Were the contractor to meet municipal standards, it would have cost the municipality at least $107,474.  

The municipally-estimated costs do not factor in the capital expense of a truck, which costs $15,200 per five-and-a-half month winter season, amortized over eight years.

 Coun. John Smith questioned the figures and whether they properly factored in things like fuel and insurance.  

“I’m not opposed to service level adjustment, but if we make those decisions without understanding the costs, I think we’re not doing the job,” he said. 

 Council pushed back and said Smith’s calculations were off and the staff numbers did factor in truck operational costs.  

Roberts said regardless of the contractor’s old cost, if they cannot take on the contract again, the municipality would be hard pressed to find a replacement. 

 “If we put out an RFP, we’d get someone from Bancroft and it’d be expensive,” she said.  

Deputy mayor Patrick Kennedy said even though the cost was disagreed on, the municipality should provide residents with a similar level of service.  

“I don’t feel the people of Ward 3 need to be treated any less than the people of Kennisis Lake when we took that (winter maintenance) in-house or anybody else in the municipality,” Kennedy said.


Red Hawks honour soaring athletes at banquet

Joseph Quigley

The Haliburton Highlands Secondary School athletic banquet was a crowning night for Natalya Gimon after a winning school sporting career.  

Gimon was named 2019 female athlete of the year at the 41st annual event June 12. The school celebrated her and dozens of other athletes at the awards ceremony.  

Her volleyball coach and father Dan Gimon embraced her after talking about her leading the team to COSSA silver.   

“It has been an amazing four years,” the younger Gimon, who also competed in soccer and badminton, said. “Sport is such a big part of our lives and it makes high school for me. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I didn’t have sports.”  

The male athlete of the year is Aidan Coles, who competed in football and capped off a decorated high school wrestling career with a fifth-place finish at provincials.

Coles said he felt honoured to have his wrestling coach Paul Klose praise him and his career. 

 He credited his teammates for helping him succeed.

“Ultimately, it comes down to the people you’re practicing and playing with. Nothing accomplished this year, or any year, would have been possible without my teammates,” Coles said.  

Teacher and coach Janice Scheffee reflected positively about the year. She highlighted the school’s 21 sports teams, who collectively won five Kawartha titles, two COSSA championships, in boys curling and junior girls soccer, three individual COSSA gold medals in wrestling and two fifth place finishes at provincials, including Coles and boys curling.  

“Way to go, Haliburton,” Scheffee said. “We may be a small school but we sure are mighty.”  

Both Coles and Gimon have plans to continue their sporting in university, Coles in football and Gimon in volleyball.  

Gimon said she is unsure of the legacy she has left at HHSS. But she said was glad to help other athletes in her time at school.  

“I hope other people see opportunities in what I’ve done, like going for club volleyball,” Gimon said. “I really hope others reach out for that opportunity.”


Minor Athletic Award: Emma Casey, Tyson Clements, Nicole Cox, Desi Davies, Jacob Dobson, Nik Dollo, Owen Gilbert, Brian Kim, Alex Little, Caden Little, Isaac Little, Maya Meraw, Chloe Samson, Nigel Smith and Owen Smith.  

Major Athletic Award: Aidan Coles, Coleman Heaven, Freya Moran, Carson Sisson and Shawn Walker.  

Award of Excellence: Natalya Gimon, Arden Harrop, Liam Little and Dakota MacDonald. 


OPP investigate boating death

Haliburton Highlands OPP is investigating the death of an Oshawa man who was found at McCaslim Lake after his boat capsized June 22.

OPP said in a press release three friends were fishing in an aluminum boat on the lake. Although two were able to grab onto life-jackets floating on the water after the capsize, the third disappeared under the water. The Underwater Search and Recovery Unit recovered his body the next day.

OPP central region media relations Sgt. J.T. Folz said police are awaiting a coroner’s report and toxicology results.

“As with any collision or marine incident, we’re looking at the totality of maybe who was operating the boat at the time, who was in charge of the boat at the time,” Folz said. “Toxicology results will tell us if there was alcohol in the system. Maybe alcohol was a factor. We’re not sure at this time.”

Police have identified the deceased as the 36-year-old Jeffrey Daniel St-Cyr.

The boat did have proper safety equipment on board, OPP said. But none of the people involved were wearing a life jacket as the boat overturned.

Folz said it is important people take proper safety precautions on the water.

“If you’re out boating, then it’s appropriate you wear your life jacket. Much like the seatbelt in a car, you can’t anticipate the crash and put your seatbelt on before it happens. It’s the same with boating,” Folz said. “It might have saved a life in this case.”