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Enough is Enough

Posted by on June 23, 2018 in Save The Bala Falls

Enough is Enough

Enough is Enough. A Final Appeal:
To: Premier-Elect Doug Ford
To: Norm Miller MPP Parry Sound-Muskoka
And…
To: Ontario Citizens – (see contact info below for Premier Doug Ford and Norm Miller, MPP)

In the District of Muskoka Lakes, we have had plenty enough of our Mayor. There will be shouts of “Good Riddance” this fall when he is finally ousted. This Mayor and several ‘Crone Councilors’ have repeatedly displayed their stripes to create havoc with development issues in Muskoka and most importantly, done everything possible to advance the work of a private developer towards a useless Power Plant in the village of Bala.

Further, in the larger picture, the Provincial Liberals have completely ignored the cries for environmental help and safety towards construction of this monstrosity that has been planned for over a decade. The giant turbine of the power plant represents a horrible danger to the public, up and downstream of the site, and also to the Muskoka watershed.

On June 21st, 2018, (which is in fact, ironically our summer solstice), a direct mail piece was delivered by the the proponent (the private developer) in Muskoka outlining that:

“The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests currently operates the Bala North and South dam. After Bala’s power plant is up and running, our company will operate these dams.”

God help Muskoka!

Perhaps in the name of Premier-Elect Doug Ford, who visited Bala and spoke to the community PROMISING that once elected:

“As sure as I’m standing here, I’m going to come back, and each and every one of you can hold me accountable. I will be back in the same spot to STOP this project”.

Recent chants of ‘foul play’ have echoed throughout the province towards Government. The current distaste for politicians ramping up deficits is a key issue. The stench of politics is reaching far and wide. No doubt Mr Ford’s success is a result of his straight talk to cut Government spending and cancel contracts like the one so onerous in Bala.

Ontario residents now understand why the cost of Hydro is so debilitating to our provincial finances. The deficit is out of control and energy costs are having a significant impact on ordinary citizens who cannot afford the whiplash effect of a horribly planned green energy program. Much has been written of late about the hordes of Solar fields (and wind farms) taking advantage of contracts which should never have been offered or issued in the first place. It has become obvious that the investment in Ontario Energy programs is bankrupting the province. It is quite telling that both the Ontario Auditor AND the Federal Auditor General have written scathing reports on the accounting policies of Ontario Hydro and the Liberal bean counters.

The Bala Hydro plant falls under all these headings. Check off all the boxes to see a small community decimated by poor communication, divisive politics, and just plain bad decision making on the part of elected officials.

Those that know me, are well aware that this diatribe could go on and on to explain why Ontario does not need an unsafe 4.5 megawatt power plant in the middle of the tourist friendly town of Bala on Lake Muskoka. But mercifully, I will not. I have produced to the best of my abilities, with help from compatriots, several videos to help explain this. And, please review Mitchell Shnier’s excellent and persistent work on the Save The Bala Falls website.

No. Today all I ask, and all, that the vast majority of the people in Muskoka ask…. of the Citizens of Ontario … is to type TWO simple emails: (copy and paste)

Send to: Doug@FordNation.ca
and
Send to: Norm.Miller@pc.ola.org

Subject:
“Please cancel the Power Plant in Bala !”

That’s it folks.

Feel free to watch this latest video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EY5WY-RFnJA

This video paints a new picture.

The community of Bala has many ideas what to do, with what is left of the mess created by the private developer, once the contract is cancelled. Making room for a proper historical Portage Landing is one of them. This is a heritage site. Our First Nations friends and neighbours have a long and storied history here. We MUST be allowed to celebrate our past, in particular, the work of David Thompson, the Canadian explorer who paddled up the Moon River in 1837. A man we are so proud of, yet is so unheralded.

Thank you.

Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

Posted by on December 23, 2017 in Life @ North45

Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

The following is a remarkable Newsletter from Howard Smith, the Managing Director of the Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary here in Muskoka that we receive periodically. This one grabbed my heart and squeezed until I decided to do something about the aching it produced.

Those of you who have followed my ‘stories’ know about our significant attempt to save a loon in distress. That peice is here if you’d like to reacquaint yourself with it.

PLEASE, read Howard’s Newsletter below, which he yesterday agreed to let me share with those of you who are either not familiar with the great works of the Sanctuary or who have never donated to their efforts. We do, or would not ask the same of you.

******************

“Happy Holidays, friends of Aspen Valley!

All too soon, another successful year of wildlife rescue and rehabilitation has come and gone! In 2017, we at Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary were able to care for over six hundred and fifty wild animals in need. Looking back on the year, our hearts are warm with gratitude to YOU, for all of your generous support that makes our work possible on your behalf.

The year began busily, with many injured and orphaned animal arrivals in the spring. Our three bear cubs from Banff National Park arrived in April, and after many months of careful care, have grown from 6lbs to over 100lbs.! They are now hibernating cozily in their outdoor enclosure. In the spring of 2018 they will be sent back to Banff for release, and return to the wild where they belong.

In September, a bobcat kitten was hit by a vehicle in Northern Ontario, and became our very first bobcat rehabilitation case. X-rays showed a broken front leg, which was able to be pinned and braced externally. After one month of healing, the brace was successful in correcting the break, and was removed. As he is too young to survive in the wild without a mother at this age, he will stay with us overwinter in our rehab program. In the spring he will be old enough for release. In the meantime, his attitude is feisty, and his spirits are high!

Later in the year, in October, we worked closely with a concerned resident on a very tricky rescue. The resident had noticed a deer with an arrow stuck into its side, towards its back leg. The deer had fed outside this citizen’s home for a week, with a growing abscess around the puncture site, until we were able to safely tranquilize him. He was brought back to the sanctuary where our vet, Dr. Sherri Cox, performed the difficult procedure of removing the arrow, which was stuck a deep ten inches into the deer’s abdomen. Luckily, the arrow did not puncture any internal organs, and he made an amazing recovery. He will stay in our care over winter in an outdoor enclosure before he is released in the spring.

A recent difficult rescue which is still ongoing involves capturing a family of sick and injured red foxes in Algonquin Park. The adult pair are quite old and estimated to be 10 to 12 years old. There is also one juvenile with them. These foxes are probably the most photographed foxes in North America, as they have been conditioned by the public, through feeding, to come to the roadside along an interior Park road. In early November we received a call that the adult male had lost all the hair on his tail and appeared to have a broken front leg and was having considerable difficulty moving about and would not likely survive the winter. Working with the approval of the Algonquin Park biologist, 5 live traps were set and monitored daily. Even though these foxes seem tame, they are extremely difficult to catch even when sick and injured. After 25 days and over 4000 km of driving to check traps, the old male and a juvenile female were finally caught. We are still hoping to catch the adult female, who has an injured hind leg.

On examination and x ray by our wildlife vet, an incredible set of issues were found on the male. He had a recent break in his front leg, the other front leg had an old break and a hind leg had an old break as well. In addition, he had mange which resulted in total hair loss on his tail. Had he not been captured, he would have soon lost his tail from frost bite as winter approaches. As well, he had severe gum disease. The two-year-old female had a broken pelvis and a dislocated hip, which were old injuries that had healed over. The pain these animals had lived with over the years was incredible and yet they still carried on – a testament to the will to live in these foxes and really all wildlife.

All these broken bones were consistent with vehicle collisions and were not the result from fights. The adult male probably was hit two or three times. This points to the tremendous injustice done to these foxes by the public in feeding them, so they would come to the road to be seen. Most of what was fed to them was totally inappropriate and unhealthy. Even though many people thought they were helping the foxes they, in fact, were subjecting them to great suffering and pain in the end.
Even though the adults are quite old, their pain and suffering are the result of human interference and therefore, it is our moral obligation to treat them as best we can.
Both foxes are in our care now and receiving medical treatment for their conditions. Hopefully, we will catch the remaining adult.

We would like to sincerely thank you again for making this year’s success possible. We are grateful in knowing we have your support as we move into the new year. We wish you and your families a warm holiday season and happy new year.

Together, let’s make 2018 another year of great wildlife-rescue success.

Sincerely yours,

Howard Smith
Managing Director
Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

P.S. Our 2018 Aspen Valley calendar is available to order online and has some great photos of our animals.”

*******

Think it is fair to say that we have a lot to be thankful for living in Muskoka, and Canada for that matter. This non-profit is a very worthwhile location to park some funds before year end or anytime you feel, what we have felt, towards their excellent team of caregivers. Their website is here and their telephone number is 705 732 6368.

Best of the season to you all…

John

Scavenging for Nautical Treasures

Posted by on November 29, 2017 in Life @ North45

Scavenging for Nautical Treasures

There are several people in my life who enjoy confirming, that on occasion, I appear to have too much time on my hands. As expressions go, there is some truth in sarcasm.

When it comes to grandchildren however, time takes a back seat: schedules altered, creative juices flow, and the desire to be, and feel like, a child again, can be overwhelming.

This past summer during quiet moments alone, thinking about family, an idea was hatched that I knew would take some planning, props and tricky execution. I also knew the grand-kids would love it!

We all know about scavenger hunts, but this nautical version took on a life of its own. The plan was to send my two daughters out in our little 12 foot boat (a ten on the back) with the three g-kids on a hunt for buried treasure. Buried that is, under water! Instructions were printed, placed in an envelope and off they went. Presenting itself, was one of the few perfect, sunny, 80 degree weekend days of the entire summer. Sunscreen galore! To be safe, my bride Pammy went with our two sons-in-law in another boat to keep an eye on everyone. A full family affair. I stayed behind to enjoy some peace and quiet.

The ‘crew’ were directed to drive to four different locations where to begin with, more instructions were found taped under a wooden bridge by the Bala Town Dock. These instructions provided a treasure map to the first of three underwater locations!

What took my time and effort was organizing and ‘placing’ the treasures. New, empty, one quart paint tins were loaded with granite stones and topped up with gummies for the kids in sandwich baggies. The stones added so the tins would sink. Lids were hammered on tight. The tins in turn, were placed in double-bagged grocery bags with more rocks and tied off with pieces of ski-rope and then….dropped into specific locations which were, in turn, tied to…. floating buoys. Yikes! I hoped no other marauding pirates would find this booty and make off with it before our crew arrived.

If anyone had of seen me sinking the treasure, and videoed my actions, it would have been a gigantic viral hit on YouTube. On one occasion, the grocery bags somehow became untied and the paint tin, that I was sure would sink on its own, miraculously floated to the surface as I was idling away from the secret location. Thank God, because had I not seen it, the pirates would still be looking for it! I can only imagine the look on my face! Here I was thinking I had covered every detail, and 20 feet away was a paint can treasure chest, floating away in the wind! I managed to retrieve it and go through the whole process again. One attribute of Muskoka is that granite rocks of all shapes and sizes are beyond plentiful, so I was able to gather more rocks hanging over the side of the boat! Crazy. So I again sank the now very tightly tied off bags with paint can cargo and goodies secured for future discovery, hopefully attached to stay to the floating buoy.

The second YouTube event may have been even more amusing to the voyeur. Difficult to describe, but a memory I won’t soon forget. Out in the middle of Bala Bay is the well-known and dangerous ‘center marker’ (see picture at top). At night, the marker flashes brightly to keep boats away from its shallow rise from the depths. The wind was quite brisk so managing the little boat was tricky in the shallow water. Here I was dropping another treasure into the lake tied off with rocks and a buoy. As the little boat turned, and was pushed leeward, I did not notice that the rope attached to the treasure, went under the boat and towards the engine’s prop which was running the whole time. The next thing I knew, the prop tangled the ski-rope and UP came the plastic bags with treasure attached! I could not believe my eyes. I turned off the engine, swearing several expletives as the wind blew me totally off course and the whole routine had to be repeated yet again. Leaning over the back of the boat, unraveling the ski rope off the prop of the 10 horsepower (which was still attached to the plastic bags with treasure included), I wondered, what would go wrong next? Was an unplanned swim in my future?

In retrospect, I could not believe that I had brought enough grocery bags to resupply the badly managed paint cans. THAT was good fortune.

In the space of 90 minutes, ‘Murphy’ had once again perched on my shoulder, laughing at me while sabotaging my treasure hunting plans.

My girls were great. They were able to figure out the ‘chicken-scratched’ treasure maps and navigate the route around Bala Park Island, and eventually return home with three children who had worked hard to recover the bootie and eat enough of it to spike their sugar levels.

The reward for accomplishing their tasks? Gran and Grandad took the three youngsters out for a special brunch the following week.

For fun, those of you who have 3 more minutes or so, this Video will show some of the antics that day: taken by my girls and Ava, one of our grandkids.

What will we think of next? Perhaps the secret is to continue to ensure that we DO have a little extra time on our hands, because as we all know… it passes far too quickly.

Unabashed Promo

Posted by on March 30, 2017 in Business & Marketing

Unabashed Promo

There are times you are so happy with customer service you want to crow about it.
A while back, we made a decision to ‘safety’ our property by adding a set of special railings for three sets of our stairs. Having looked around and seen different styles at various cottages we frequent, a mental consumer report was developed. We chatted with a few friends and envisioned the look and features of this important element at North45.
We were motivated to ensure that all members of the family could manage our topography without mishap. My Dad had a fairly serious fall many years ago negotiating the original old granite stairs down to the dock with broken ribs the result. More recently, about ten years ago, a Welshman buddy took a serious dive off the same stairs, northbound, tumbling wine glass in hand, and was most fortunate to land feet first, lakeside. Think we were both emotionally bruised. Could have been nasty. Liability was paid up, but it’s hard to put a price on a friends body parts.
So long-time friend, Randy Bennett, who does our amazing dock and crib work, basically did us a favor, and was first to install cottage-to-lake railings for us. They were very creatively conceived and crafted to prevent any further libelous events. Made from cedar trees, the stocks were planted solidly into the ground and the railings curved beautifully down the stairs to the dock from the cottage. Beautiful.
Fast forward another 12 years and the cedar, not un-expectantly, rot-softened in the ground, grew weary, a little long in the tooth.
So….. back on point, we were in the market again for railings, and as a 60 + year old, this was to be a lasting investment that our G-kids and all members of the family would appreciate.
Many folks in these parts are familiar with The Smithy, the wrought iron specialists. I’ve been in their shop at Glenn Orchard, just north of Bala many times, looking over fire place tools, grill grates, andirons (firedogs to some) outdoor lights and sundry item produced by professional welders.
By chance, I had met a local fiberglass expert who was connected to The Smithy and mentioned to me that the good folks made custom railings. I took the bait and started communicating with Chris and Cathy.
The long and short of it, was that we hired their team to do our new railings, and it was not a small or simple task. They visited our property several times – measured, probed the ground, asked all the right questions, and then when the time came arrived late fall to do their handiwork.
Talk about impressed. As merchandizing and marketing people know, the combination of great customer service, quality products and where applicable, an excellent installation is a winning combination.
After the job was completed we were just thrilled. The railings perfectly mirrored the difficult curves and slope of our topography. In effect they are solid, stylish, and effective. Everyone in the family uses the railings for support, and everyone who visits North45 comments on the quality and style of a job well done.

There is no motivation to promote The Smithy, other than to say THANK YOU. Occasionally you make an investment in your home or cottage and you are reminded, almost on a daily basis, what a great decision is was to do so. Hard to put a price on safety for friends and family.

The Trek

Posted by on November 29, 2016 in Life @ North45

The Trek

There are times when I feel compelled to write about a topic, communicating a passion to associates and friends.  This is about one of these proud passions.

Our hamlet of Bala, Ontario produces such an amazing spirit. A small community that overcomes significant obstacles, coming together time and time again as a shining example of what can be accomplished as a team, with persistence, creativity, and ingenuity.

Once again Bala will provide for others an event for the ages to enjoy. An event known to many as:

                                                                         The Trek to Bethlehem.

 

“When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us. When our community is in a state of peace, it can share that peace with neighboring communities.” — Dalai Lama

If you have never been to Bala to enjoy ‘The Trek’, you might consider planning now to make time this Saturday to do so. It is not too late, because I for one, think it is one of the most amazing spectacles you will ever attend.  The reality is that mere words do not do justice to the spirit of this small community and what actually transpires for guests as you join in, and walk about.  Pound for pound, Bala continues to be one of the finest fighting promotional fish in our fair land of Canada.

This Trek, for many, signals a start to our Muskoka winter, and of course, the many holiday traditions we enjoy at Christmas.

Here below, is a piece written for local Muskoka media by Patricia Gidley, the long time, and tireless Chair of the event.  Read on to find the many reasons why you and your family will enjoy a magical evening here in Bala at The Trek to Bethlehem:

*************

On Saturday, Dec. 3rd, Bala will be offering a family-friendly, true–meaning–of-Christmas event, the Trek to Bethlehem, for the 24th year in a row.  A circle of Bala streets will be transformed into biblical scenes that suggest what the first Christmas night might have been like 2,000 years ago.  Many families come back year after year for this totally free event.

On Trek night, beginning at 5:30 p.m., visitors line up outside the Bala Community Centre where they soon enter, to start singing Christmas carols.  Each person is given a decree stating they have been summoned to the city of their fathers to be ‘counted’ and to pay taxes. Tours from the Community Centre begin at 6 p.m. as small groups are led around the Trek route by costumed guides.

Along the route, visitors meet up with “Abigail and Ezra”, another family on their way to Bethlehem to pay taxes and be counted. The three kings are soon encountered and their wealth and gifts for the Messiah are in evidence. An angel choir sings of wondrous things.  The group journeys on, greeting shepherds, avoiding Roman soldiers and finally arriving at the tax collector’s tent to be counted and to pay taxes.

trek-market-112916

After a visit to the marketplace, the Inn, and after hearing from a prophet that a child has been born, the family continues on to the manger scene. The journey ends at the Bala Arena, known for the evening as the Bethlehem Inn, where the family enjoys hot chocolate and cookies.

The whole evening is a Christmas gift to you and your family from the citizens of Bala.  Further information is available at 705-762-5663.

Patricia Gidley,

Chair, Trek to Bethlehem organizing committee

**************

My parting gift to you all, is a gift from the outstanding creative team at ‘Pure Muskoka’, Andy and Ben, who produced this video a few years ago. A small taste of the Trek and the local passion behind our community. Enjoy.

Muskoka Traditions

Posted by on October 31, 2016 in Life @ North45

Muskoka Traditions

Recently I received a complimentary communication from an old friend.  The gist of it centred on life style and how Muskoka traditions and balance in our lives has had a positive impact on our children and now, our grandchildren.

Like many other aspects of life, I am opinionated about traditions.

While it is now late fall, memories of this past summer still loudly resonate.  Many of our friends are now experiencing the joys of an expanding family tree, so it is no surprise to my bride of 39 years and me that our three grandchildren now take a form of main stage in most proceedings at the cottage.

With two amazing daughters, (yes – and two great sons-in-law), summer 2016 presented us with a magical brood aged 6, 5 and 4.  This was my first summer where all three kids could ‘do stuff’ with Grandad – and we did!

Editors note: Now, before I get too deep into this, ‘Gran’ for the most part, is by far the favourite. No surprise.  Selfless, caring, understanding and patient beyond words, Gran is the centre of the universe.

In the morning, I am the early riser, 100% of the time.  When the youngsters appear, it’s “Morning Grandad, where’s Gran?”  Too funny.  Leave your ego in the bedroom.

BUT…. then the little muggers will follow that up with “Can we go to the bakery in the boat Grandad?”  Heart rate jumps. A knowing nod brings smiles all around.  Back in business.

Incredibly, we literally had a portion of the ‘family’ in residence every day of the summer proper, which as you know, is measured by the end of one school year and the week prior to the start of the next.  Mothers’ back to school readiness always takes precedence over cottage culture, so a disappearance was in order the last week of August.

I’d be the first of two to admit, that we LOVED the company.  This past summer, as we’re still able to recall, we were blessed with such perfect weather that it was unlikely that any family became bored (with ‘cottage fever’), due to rain — so we were an active group all around.

Back to traditions.  Do we create them or extend them?  Do traditions morph, or does the imagination motivate us to greatness?  My answer is a full on yes.

Canada, and Muskoka in particular, is infamous for changing seasons and weather that promotes every form of indoor and outdoor activity imaginable.  We take advantage of that, and do our very best, to have fun doing it.

This means, pending what divisions of the genetic tree are in the kitchen in the early morning, quietly gathering ball caps, sunglasses, socks, shoes or sandals, pullovers, or windbreakers and heading out the sliding glass door, carefully negotiating old stone stairs down to the boathouse – destination:  Don’s Bakery!

gkids-donsstairs

Once inside the boathouse, unannounced roles take over.  Bowlines are carefully removed, with the understanding that falling between the dock and the boat would have dire consequences.   “Permissions to go board Captain?” are queried.  Life jackets sought out from the tightly doored cuddy cabin.  One of the ‘Vice Commanders’ turns on the engine’s blower.  Once the engine has turned over, the rear lines are removed with care.  Anticipation of another adventure looms.  We exit the boathouse in reverse and once underway, the bumpers are tightened and the blower is shut off by another of the junior rank and file.

Fresh, hot coffee in hand, my joy is palpable.  Smiles abound as we plane the Fury7 to a perfect cruising speed of 25 miles an hour.  Hoots of “alligator” echo as knowing eyes describe the changing rooster tail off the back of the boat.  No idea where THAT term came from.  Often one of the munchkins, will sit on my lap handling the steering wheel and assist the motion of the throttle.

Traditions.  For as long as I can remember, once parked a mile down the bay from the cottage, at the scenic Town Dock in the hamlet of Bala, we all take the ‘secret passageway’ over the train tracks, to then cross the road to the celebrated bakery.  There is more than one secret passageway to the bakery, but since it involves a wooden bridge and very involved parking skills in a ‘tinny’ boat this may remain a secret.

Once up the stairs, and through the squeaky screen door inside Don’s Bakery, we take a number and wait our turn, which can be lengthy given the popularity of this establishment.

3gkidsatdonscounter

Proudly I wait with these hungry monkeys, as they discuss and broadcast their daily choice of treat:  various cupcakes, chocolate donut with sprinkles, apple fritter, cinnamon roll, or “Just a scone Grandad”.  Of course these items are all child-eye-level, so the merchandising is VERY effective, and mouthwatering.

Exiting Don’s, everyone carrying goodies, we “look both ways” prior to crossing Highway 169 to once again navigate the CP railroad tracks.  “Any trains coming?” I ask always.  Skilled feet and youthful legs walk the tops of the tracks for 10 paces, imaginations balancing steel like a high wire act.

Carefully, we go through all the same ‘commander’ motions of getting underway from the town dock, baked goods in hand.  This time it might be a ‘Lieutenant Commander’ doing the deeds.

Tradition:  “Can we go to Purk’s Grandad!?” — “Yes, PLEEEASE, can we go see Mr Bill?”

3gkids-inboat-frontofpurks

Incredibly, since I was a child, I traveled to this same famed location.  In those days it was “Cunningham’s”, and for me, this was where I deposited my allowance for worms and the ability to go fishing.  Today, Bill Purkis owns what is likely the coolest old bait and tackle store in the province.  Most folks don’t realize that Purk’s Place is located on an island between two sets of often raging waterfalls, and, no more than fifteen feet from the previously mentioned CP rail line.  The building reeks of history.

For the youngsters in this decade, the prize is still worms for fishing, but also the tradition of ‘nickel candy’.  Bill, and his lovely family, also rent boats, videos, sell fireworks, and various family boating and swimming float-toys.  If you love fishing, you’ll love Purks Place.  Rods and reels, lures and fishing paraphernalia of every description are presented along with worms, leeches, and one of the favourites: minnows.  The kids love climbing up on the available padded high chair, and peering over into the dark depths of the big tank full of the miniature ‘fishies’ as they jump and dart around.

“Okay team, get a baggy and you can each pick two treats.”  All the nickel candy, of which there is probably a selection of ten, are in glass jars with rubber rimmed lids to keep the product fresh.  Inside are tiny tongs providing the kids a means to extract the goodies.  Then it’s always the challenge:  “Grandad, can we have one now?”

3gkidswith-billinstore

Mr. Bill, smiling, looks at me, wondering how I’ll handle the choral request.  “Nooo, you know the drill.  You can have ONE, when we get back to the cottage.”

Bill’s floating docks feel like a ride at the CNE as we walk along back to the boat.  A wee tipsy.  Certainly not dangerous, but the kids love it.  Since the dock is located very close to the falls down to the Moon River, a current is always running here, so managing the boat is a priority.  There are emergency booms with floats crossing close by, so it adds to the adventure. ‘Commanders’ don life jackets once again.  Blower is engaged by another ‘Sub-Commander’ (everyone works a turn) and off we go, idling out of the little bay towards open water.

Traditions.  I would not be exaggerating to report that our family has a ton of traditions.  Ice rinks, ‘skate the bay’, boat rides to the center marker, jumping out the boathouse window, walking Muskoka trails, fishing well-kept-secret-locations, boathouse games, swimming in the rain.  Realistically, every Canadian family has their traditions:  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Canada Day….New Years….. many involving food and beverages.  We are SO fortunate to live in a country where our freedom allows us the ability to be individuals, while celebrating our cultural and historical past.

A little project that I have been anxious to get off my list of new endeavors, has now been completed.  This video, hopefully will set in motion, a new tradition.

Seven years ago, we had no idea what it meant to be Grandparents.  Now, as our time flies by, we hope to be so fortunate, and pray that ‘it’ will be possible….. to add another word to our monikers, and make it ‘Great’ Grandparents !

“There was a time in this fair land….”

Posted by on May 20, 2016 in Life @ North45

“There was a time in this fair land….”

music-note-SH-icon   “when the railroad did not run …”

This is a lyric from one of the greatest songs ever written by Gordon Lightfoot: “The Canadian Railroad Trilogy”.  A fitting opening line to this latest note to you all about Life on Bala Bay in Muskoka.

This month, we discovered that CN Rail was to do some major rail repair to our ‘Middle Bridge’ right across the bay from us.  So the trains were halted for this repair.  The ‘Trilogy’ came to mind, so the track hit the turntable for a nice loud spin.

We have a most fortunate and remarkable view across Bala Bay which looks upon a unique, three quarter mile section of undeveloped land.  Virtually no cottages, no boathouses, no docks.  The reason?  The CN rail line weaves north from Toronto and crosses three bridges that join our Muskoka mainland to two islands: Bala Park and Wanilah.  The line occupies the western half of Bala Park ensuring no cottage development.

This ‘middle’ bridge (seen at top of page) is quite famous, as it was historically a ‘swing’ bridge back in the day, that welcomed, and allowed the steamships passage into Bala Bay travelling from Gravenhurst Wharf.  Vessels like Sagamo, Segwun, and Cherokee, adorn posters and old postcards of the day.  I have included a picture here of the old CPR train station in Bala with the S.S. Cherokee docked at the old town dock.

bala_summer_stn3

The history of our railroads, steamships, and our dance hall, Dunn’s Pavilion, are all worthy of a great book.  Most folks do not know, that both CN and CP rails clickety-clack though our small hamlet of Bala.

Back to the repairs.  Being a boater, I was intent on seeing the work being done on this, ‘our’ bridge.  So of course Pammy and I checked it out, took some pictures and waved to the construction crews over a 10 day period.

Here is another shot of the south end of the bridge facing south west.  A new girder appears to have been installed and the concrete abutment has been worked on:

MiddleBridge#2-May2016

What really caught our attention one night, was this tremendous series of bright flashing lights, stretching half a mile down the shore across the bay from us.  Think Alien spaceships lined up 25 feet above water level, where total darkness typically prevails.

So the next day, I had to go over in the boat again to investigate.  Trusty camera in tow, I discovered a serious beehive of activity, the likes of which I have never seen.  A decision was made to shoot video because the scene was so active and so interesting.   Essentially, this HUGE crew of men and machines were now replacing the ties under the rails.

Thinking back to Lightfoot’s trilogy, the railway men Gordon sang about were: “Layin’ ‘em in and tyin’ ‘em down.”  He described the men:

“We are the navies who work upon the railway.  Swingin our hammers in the bright blazin sun.  Livin on stew, and drinking bad whiskey, bending our backs till the long days are done.”

Some of the old pictures we’ve perhaps all seen, displaying rather horrid working conditions.  Well I’m writing here today, to let you know, the railroad repair business has changed.

Hopefully our bridge has been secured, and now, the rails can withstand what we believe is increased traffic on this line.  These trains, often a colorful mile long, frequently carry oil to market, so any rail issue or subsequent spill would be a disaster beyond our imaginations.

So what is the treat this month?  Well, there is a treat.  Here is the link to my video of activity rarely seen by the public.  Enjoy!

Membership Has Its Rewards

Posted by on March 22, 2016 in Life @ North45

Membership Has Its Rewards

The question is: how do we keep fresh, and top of mind, an idea, a concept, a request for action, that many people have tired of, and feel helpless about?

I receive all kinds of comments and questions about the efforts that continue to be made on behalf of Saving the Bala Falls.

“I thought it was a done deal”. “Not much we can do now is there?” “Tell me Johnny, what’s going on with the Bala Falls?”

Think about it: The original proposal to construct a power plant in Muskoka’s hamlet of Bala, dates back to 2005.  With all of the technical issues, the politics, the divisiveness the proposal has caused, it is no wonder that some people wish the controversy would just end.

This note today could ramble on and cover forty issues, doing my best, to convince you of the wrongs being committed here in Bala.  For many of you, this would just be a continuation of the complex process, and you might consider stopping your read here.   I won’t, so please don’t.

Would it be fair to say that as Canadians, we are not the most activist bunch in the world today?  By FAR, this is the most difficult and multifaceted issue that my family has ever been involved in.  For my family, and for many of our friends and associates, this is by also by FAR, the most politically active, we have ever been.  The reasons are tangible.

What I, and ‘we’ are asking is for you to continue the fight with us or get involved now, if you have not been.  Candidly, we ask for your help.  To be more effective in our quest for this behemoth to be safe for our community, we require our supporters to become members.

Yes members!  And yes, it will require you investing $20 of your hard earned grocery money to become a member.  Our STBF’s leaders have learned much about activism and communicating with Queens Park, the Feds, the MNR (&F), the local Council and District Council.  From a legal perspective, we’ve done our best to be effective, but to be a force to reckon with, we need members to show that we mean business, and that we have broad community support, that is real, and can be counted.

Being counted, means that you agree with this statement:

“I am concerned that the proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala falls would be too dangerous.”

You can invest on line or by cheque. All the information is on the new members tab link.

Please sign up here.

We also make the request to read the monthly newsletters.  Mitchell Shnier, our consummate leader, an engineer (and smart as anyone I know) does an incredible job of keeping us all up to speed with what is going on.  Mitchell simplifies the issues so you don’t have to be an engineer to know why this power plant in its current form, would be deadly dangerous.

If you have never seen the Bala Falls from the air, my wife and ‘observer’ Pam and I, were able to video the falls by drone (UAV) to show what is at stake in Muskoka.  Have a look-see here. Special mention: the voice over was done by one of Canada’s finest announcers: Mike Kirby.

STBF-BlogPic#1

The quote “Persistence is omnipotent” is one I have lived by as many of you know.  Do not, please, tire of this issue.  Please count yourself in and become a STBF’s member.  Read the latest newsletter and educate yourself about the one issue that is key for all:  “Will it be safe?”  Keeping Muskoka safe and beautiful and economically vibrant is our mantra.  Please consider forwarding this note / link to friends.  We CAN make a difference. Thank you.

A Little Body Language Please

Posted by on February 27, 2016 in Business & Marketing

A Little Body Language Please

In two thousand and twelve,  I was introduced to TED, or what many refer to as TED Talks.  These are short talks, presented typically, by experts, LIVE on stage and videoed as content for the TED site for others to watch, learn, and benefit from.  Oddly enough I learned about this non profit U.S. organization, through a innovating fellow, Luke Swanek, in Muskoka, who had the gumption to originate a ‘talk’ from Nipissing U in Bracebridge, Ontario.  While at the Haliburton Broadcasting Group (Moose FM) at the time, the infamous Mike Fry and I made the decision to sponsor the event.  This was leading edge technology.

This morning, I was reading the Star Touch on line, and came upon an article about the remarkable Amy Cuddy who had overcome all odds to recover from a terrible car accident and educated her way to greatness.  Having read the article, I went on to the TED site and decided to watch and listen to the talk by Amy.  Fascinating, educational and in particular motivating, which is why i decided to offer the talk to you today.

The topic is about the incredibly powerful attributes of body language, but more importantly how practicing various body language poses, can impact our organic state, furthering our success in many situations.

Gorilla pose-Feb2016

I have kept this version of the Wright Report unusually short, so you can sit down with a cup of tea, glass of wine or favorite beverage… ‘chill’ , and watch Amy’s talk here.   The Star Touch article is here.

If you have any issues with interviews, public speaking or positive thinking…… this is a lovely gift I impart to you this week.  Enjoy

Sean Connon

Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Business & Marketing

Sean Connon

We lost our friend and associate Sean Connon this past January 20th, to an unrelenting cancer, following a triumphant journey against all odds.  While this is a very difficult piece to write for many reasons, I felt compelled to share a few personal thoughts and anecdotes about this special individual.

We originally met when I had been hired by Chris Grossman to present a ‘creative session’ in Sudbury for what had become a significant media group in Ontario: The Haliburton Broadcasting Group – HBG for short.  A few years later, I was hired to help the Sales Division which Sean led as Director of Sales.  And what a great leader he was!  Like Christopher, Sean drove throughout much of mid and northern Ontario, to understand the markets, and most importantly, the personnel.  This allowed for a much closer long distance relationship with the Sales team.  On the weekly Monday morning conference calls, Sean often opened with his familiar: “Morning Angels”.

No mention of Sean would be complete without mentioning his competitive spirit – in life’s everything!  Closing a sale, ‘hitting a post’, exceeding a goal.  Stubborn to a fault, when Sean had his mind made up, there was little that would halt his momentum.  Once Sean had his sights set on a goal, he was relentless.

When it came to the loves of Sean’s life, there was little doubt about what turned his crank.  The short list: family, (in particular his two lads), motorcycles, cars, guitars, sports (hockey: Maple Leafs, football: NFL – Dallas Cowboys).  Headlining the list, singing and playing guitar live on stage, or pretty well anywhere.

I never had the pleasure of seeing Sean coach his son’s hockey, but I’m told, to no surprise, he was excellent.  Always there for his boys, as they graduated the various skill levels of age.  Teaching his boys to handle a sled, or drive a boat or car, all had their challenges and mishaps, but the bonds between father and sons are unbreakable.  The fact that the lads have taken to be accomplished musicians speaks loudly of the relationships and the DNA.

In his quest for speed, Sean loved quick cars, snowmobiles and motorcycles.  I joined Sean and one of our partners in crime, Phil Ward, for a memorable sledding session years ago.  Was not easy to keep up.  Our half-way reward was a stop for another of Sean’s fav’s:  a cold draft, usually a Rickards Red….or two.

In my time with Sean, he was very proud of his Acura TL and LOVED the performance of his black BWM 320 sedan.  On warm summer days Sean would appear on his motorcycle at the station after his run down from Huntsville.   After pulling his helmet off, he’d shakeout his long full mane of graying hair.

Thinking about his handsome looks, there is a great story about the time Sean was in Vegas on ‘HBG business’, and whilst there, enjoyed a very special ‘Prince’ concert up close and personal, at the Palms.  As it would oft happen, Sean was mistaken for Kenny Rogers, and was shuffled off to a private section, soon to be protected by security, where others were not allowed to go.  Hilarious and true!

Eating with Sean was a challenge.  A limited menu.  His staples of meat and potatoes, pizza, and of course, Swiss Chalet kept him happy.  At a great steakhouse, the order was a New York striploin, baked potato with sour cream and caesar salad.  Barberians in Toronto the #1 choice.  I remember the efforts we made to get Sean to go to Wabora (sushi/shashimi) in Bracebridge.  Not likely! – too funny!  We did have dozens of ‘Friday Sales lunches’ at Andrea’s Steakhouse in Bracebridge though.  We all always ‘bushed’ (a game) for the tax receipt.  Great memories.

Fair to say that Sean was nothing short of an outstanding musician.  His strength in my mind was his presence on stage.  A leathery throat and voice that could go for hours.  His memory for lyrics was incredible.  A fine guitar player.  I loved his ‘flinging of the guitar pick’ into the audience at the end of a show – a tribute to a favorite musician.

You could request a song of Sean, and the odds were, he’d know it.  His annual St. Patrick’s Day (night) ‘concerts’ at the pub in Huntsville were legendary.  I never knew his long time band mates, but a couple of the men spoke at his wake, and you could feel the genuine love and compassion in their words.  The fun, the oft-crazy circumstances of being ‘on the road’, and of course, Sean’s stubborn, quirky personality was evident throughout their warm remarks.

Paul Feist, a mutual friend, and fine singer, who has also been challenged from cancer, reminisced with me recently about Sean’s excellent efforts, singing in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ at the Huntsville theater.  Sean’s role consumed him for a couple of months, as he had never performed in a musical before.  He was of course, awesome during the many standing-room-only shows.

Sean also had a love of guitars.  Being a drummer I don’t know much about guitars, but Sean was a collector and very proud of a special few of them.  He often went on line looking for collectibles or interesting instruments, which could lead to a trip to Toronto, to invest in a new ‘sound’ with great ‘action’.

One aspect of Sean’s life, I was to find out about, during our one-on-one’s over a few drafts, was his love of the States (born in New Jersey) and his travel time in Key West in Florida.  There on his motorcycle of course.  He LOVED Key West.  I believe Sean went through one of his life’s epiphanies sitting on the beach there…..nothing I can explain, but his departure, set him on a new course.  I do remember that he loved “Pepe’s” there, and I was actually able to bring him a t-shirt back from this local hotspot during one of Sean’s stays down at Princess Margaret.

My final set of accolades concerning our man Connon, is to best describe him as a fighter.  He fought his leukemia with a sense of purpose knowing he could, and would, beat this disease.  And he DID! … for quite a while.  His trials could never be described by this mere mortal, but from the terrible onset through his stem cell transplant and his recovery, to his final stages, he was a pyramid of strength.  Very near death on more than one occasion, he nine-lived himself to recovery amidst the most unlikely of scenarios. My ol’ man called it ‘intestinal fortitude’. Whatever it was, Sean had it, in spades.

Genetics play their part of course, and while I cannot do the tale justice, if you ever have the opportunity to hear this story about Sean’s father, Charlie, it is beyond incredible.  Let it be said in precis version, that Charlie was long thought to be lost to our world in a coma for MONTHS in Ireland.  Doctors had given up hope, but Sean went over, to perhaps say his goodbyes, and ended up bringing him back on a flight to Ontario, where to the utter amazement of all, ‘came to’ and recovered in a manner that would make a fine novel.  Charlie is still with us thankfully, and was full of fatherly gusto when I shook his hand at Sean’s visitation.  So…this fighter thing is in the genes.

One final bit of closure if you’ll allow me, and that is to say that Sean counted his blessings in the friendship of Chris Grossman and Kim Ward.  In all, and there was a LOT going on over the 15 years they worked together, these folks were the most loyal of friends.  Regardless of the fine and successful business relationship they enjoyed, I saw firsthand the personal efforts made to visit Sean in all his challenges, at all the medical and homebound locations.  MANY times.  Countless phone calls and emails.  It takes courage, and real honest passion to continually support a friend in such dire straits.  This was indeed a special bond that Sean was so appreciative of.

Connon-groupFlorida

“Sconnon” – we’ll miss you, as will many, in the regions of New Jersey, and Muskoka…. perhaps even Key West.  If there is a stage in afterlife, you’ll no doubt be on it with some other fine musicians.

Cheers to you man!