By Chad Ingram
Haliburton County council is attempting to open a dialogue with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry about the ongoing inappropriate use of Crown land within the county’s borders.
Councillors received a memo from Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt during a June 23 online meeting,
“The comments that are contained in the report to council, they’re a fraction of what I’m sure we’ve all heard off and on over many years, and many are anecdotal,” Moffatt told her colleagues. “There is definitely a change in attitude these days … and if we don’t make it clear what kind of community we want to have and then work toward it, we could end up with the wild west.”
Ongoing issues near Livingston Lake in Algonquin Highlands include a pit that is being used for camping and target shooting. The use of firearms is particularly problematic since there are residences, concealed by vegetation, close by.
Moffatt’s memo referenced other areas, such as a piece of Crown land on the west side of Boshkung Lake, into which ATV trails have been cut.
To be crystal clear, this is not an anti-firearm or anti-ATV issue … This is more an issue of compatible uses and appropriate stewardship, and there’s a lot of Crown land out there and people can absolutely go and continue to use Crown land, that’s what it’s to be enjoyed for,” she said. “But not just carte blanche, whenever, wherever, however you want, and that’s where the conflict is arising. People more and more are choosing Crown land locations that are closest and most convenient and in many cases are just simply too close to private property, or in conflicting uses.”
There have been similar issues within the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park, part of which is located within the southern portion of the Township of Minden Hills. Issues there have also included the use of firearms close to private residences, causing concerns for safety.
Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin said he thought it was time for a wider plan to deal with the ongoing misuse of various pieces of public property.
“Basically, I’ve reached with a boiling point with individuals using public lands, whether they’re federal, provincial, municipal, disrespectfully, and that they’re interfering with the enjoyment of private property,” Devolin sad. “This is particularly Crown, but this is a bigger thing, and it’s an animal that I think if we don’t do something substantial, and this is maybe a really good first piece, I think is going to eat us up, and we’re not going to like what it does to our community.”
Minden Hills council has been dealing with complaints stemming from use of a public access to Gull Lake, located at the end of Murdoch. There, trees have been cut down, residents have constructed a road on public property, and adjacent property owners have reported people urinating and defecating on the property.
Highlands East Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall said he supported Moffatt’s request, noting similar problems within his municipality.
“I had people complain to me last year or the year before,” Ryall said. “First off, they had committed a crime by cutting a small trail into a marshy area, the sweet spot for moose, and so they did that. And then they had the audacity to complain after the fact that a bunch of ATVers came in and tore up the whole area and turned it into a mud bog. So, like, where does it all go?”
Moffatt and Devolin will attempt to facilitate a conversation with the MNRF through its Bancroft and Parry Sound district offices, addressing uses on pieces of Crown land that have been proven to be problematic. The county will also draft a correspondence that could be used by other municipalities facing the same problems.