By Sue Tiffin
Each year, the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations honours the accomplishments of lake associations in the categories of environmental stewardship, land use planning initiatives, research and education, political involvement or other similar innovations with achievement awards.
In March, FOCA awarded the Halls and Hawk Lakes Property Owners Association with an honourable mention for their new youth and adult events, increased membership – from 100 in 2018 to over 200 last year – and a book created to celebrate their 75 years.
“I want folks in the area to feel proud,” said Joan Hamilton, HHLPOA director and curator of the Lure of the Lakes book. “There are close to 600 members in FOCA, and we’re hitting close to the top. Second from the top, I think, is pretty good.”
FOCA, said Hamilton, was helpful in pointing her in the right direction when she began creating content for the lake association’s website in 2020, in planning for the 75th anniversary in 2021. The website and digital newsletters have helped the association communicate with members as well as the broader community.
“The whole pandemic actually provided us with a couple of really good changes,” said Hamilton. “The website being the first, the digital newsletter following up on that. But then we couldn’t do an annual general meeting in person. Like so many other activities, we had to pivot. So we went to a virtual AGM on Zoom and it was actually quite well attended – maybe because people didn’t have things to do, I don’t know – but it was so well attended we had no hesitation to do a second one in 2021 when it was apparent we couldn’t gather.”
The second annual general meeting to be held virtually was also a great success.
“And that has now led us to realize, people do not want to spend their cottage time, if they’re only coming up on the weekend, they don’t want to go to a meeting and not use the time with their family or on the dock,” said Hamilton. “So now our annual general meetings will be in the middle of the week prior to cottage season starting.”
Hamilton said at those meetings, the association plans on hosting an ‘Ask the Expert’ series they’ll call Cottage Chats. The first detailed some of the history of the area [see story on this page], the next will focus on native plants and gardens with a local master gardener.
And while the online component is helping to bring people virtually to the area, the association is making long lasting connections offline.
The Lure of the Lakes book created for the 75th anniversary began as a feature called Cottage Tales, telling the story of homes and cottages on the lake. FOCA was pivotal, Hamilton said, in helping her connect with others, and so she learned from what Canning Lake residents had done in creating a book of the history of that lake.
“We sold 400 copies, and now it’s into its second printing,” said Hamilton. “We did it in about two-and-a-half-months. That’s mind boggling, isn’t it?”
The HHLPOA has an annual photo contest for their calendar, floating markets and painting sessions, and added activities to their regatta: a kid’s rock bass derby, a baker’s contest and a scavenger hunt by boat. A photo laureate will be named, with a two-year commitment on the part of the photographer to help gather photos so that as Hamilton says, “what did it look like in 2022, so when they celebrate another 50 years, or 75 years, we’ll have this recorded.” All of this, said Hamilton, led to the award, and the increased awareness and membership.
“The challenge now of course is not just to continue at that level, but we want to up it even more,” said Hamilton. “We’re not satisfied with 200 members, we want to get to at least 225 or 250.”
Similar to a reflection area at Canning Lake, a spot called Memory Lookout was installed on Big Hawk Lake, in part to commemorate the lives lost in a 1976 bridge collapse. Now area families are adding memorial plaques, some for those who first purchased on the lake, and the association plans to have a pollinator garden planted at the spot.
“We’re hoping it will be a place of serenity, calmness, and hopefully many people will come by there and feel the goodness that we hope comes from it,” said Hamilton.
“I think all lake associations need to set aside a space to sit and reflect, look back on your memories,” she said. “We have a mission statement of preserve and enhance. It does both – preserving our past and hopefully enhancing it, too.”
The Lake Bernard Property Owners’ Association won the 2021 FOCA Achievement Award. Honourable mentions were also awarded to the Lake St. Peter Property Owners Association, the Golden Lake and Bonnechere River Property Owners Association and the Loon and Turtle Lakes Cottage Association.
For more information about the Halls and Hawk Lakes Property Owners Association, visit hallshawklakes.ca. For more information about the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations visit foca.on.ca.