Reader supports Hastings Highlands proposed shoreline bylaw

The following letter was received from a resident concerned about maintaining healthy waterways in the area.

Dear Editor,

The Madawaska Valley Current generally covers issues specific to Madawaska Valley but a proposed Shoreline Preservation bylaw currently under consideration in Hastings Highlands will impact many residents on Kamaniskeg Lake. The municipality has scheduled the next reading of the bylaw for May 19. To residents of Hastings Highlands, the draft bylaw and accompanying documents, including public input forms are all available on the Municipal website at  https://hastingshighlands.ca/2021/02/04/6300/.  I would encourage property owners to read all of the literature available and not rely solely on the opinions of your local lake association. Residents have until April 30 to submit their views.

Without getting into details, the bylaw will be enacted to preserve the natural state of shorelines and adjacent 30m on shore with the aim to preserve and protect our lakes and rivers. The goal as stated on the municipal website is “to fulfill the legislation from the Province of Ontario and the County of Hastings to regulate shoreline activity and vegetative buffers.” 

The top 3 objectives listed on page 2 of the draft are:

  • Achieving consistency with the Provincial Policy Statement, 2020; 
  • Achieving the objectives of the Official Plan for the County of Hastings; 
  • No further loss of natural shorelines within the Municipality of Hastings Highlands.

The first two objectives would align the township with the County Official Plan and new Provincial Legislation making the passing of this bylaw, or at least some version of it, inevitable. 

Rumours and misinformation are widespread regarding the third objective. Here’s another quote from the municipal website. “The Shoreline Preservation Bylaw will apply fines to future occurrences.”  That statement makes it clear that properties currently not compliant with the new rules will not be subject to fines or forced to restore their properties back to a more natural state, as long as any work done prior does not contravene bylaws already in place. 

The Libertarians among us feel they should have the right to do whatever they wish on their property. That attitude may be fair if you have an isolated acreage far away from anything or anybody, but it’s different if your property is on a waterbody shared by many. Kamaniskeg is a precious resource and all lakefront property owners share the responsibility to preserve and protect the lake. 

More than anything, this bylaw to me represents a change of mindset we all need to embrace. This isn’t a witch hunt meant to punish property owners for cutting a tree down on their shoreline. It’s meant to nudge some of us toward a more respectful approach to the lakes, rivers and adjacent shorelines where we live. Our neighbours in Renfrew County placed some very strict conditions on the Chippawa Shores development. Development restrictions were put in place to protect the adjacent water bodies. In some lots the setback for construction is 100m from the shoreline with only a narrow path down to the water allowed. That’s a football field away from the water. This is the direction we are now headed provincewide and it’s about time. 

The Madawaska River and Kamaniskeg Lake are part of a complex ecosystem that include the shoreline and adjacent lands. The health of our waterways is directly tied to the health of the shoreline and adjacent lands and vice versa. This is an indisputable fact. 

I applaud Council for pressing forward on this bylaw. We owe it to the next generation to be good stewards of our lakes and rivers. 

Frank Mallany, Barry’s Bay

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