FOCA Elert ~ February 2024

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Make sure you see all the updates! You're at the end when you see this FOCA banner again:

Hot Topics:

last call to register: FOCA AGM & Spring Seminar

Saturday, March 2, 2024 from 9am to 3pm (AGM takes place at 10am) at the Bayview Golf & Country Club in Thornhill, and by Zoom webinar

Register here for one of the few remaining in-person spots at the 2024 FOCA Annual General Meeting (AGM) & Spring Seminar for Associations, titled "Water Matters." Join us for important updates on fire and boating safety, land use planning, MPAC property assessments, and more. Hear inspiring stories of association successes and cottage climate champions, and help us celebrate our outgoing Executive Director and welcome our incoming CEO!

Important: in-person registration is limited and will close once filled; webinar registration closes on Wednesday, February 28, 2024 at 3:00pm.

Welcome to FOCA's new CEO

Please join us in welcoming FOCA's incoming Chief Executive Officer, Lesley Lavender, who will be introduced in-person to members at the FOCA AGM & Spring Seminar on March 2nd. Lesley will begin her full-time duties with FOCA at the start of April 2024.

Lesley comes to FOCA with a significant background in association management, where she demonstrated her skills building a sustainable and inclusive community through advocacy, education, relevant programming, and networking. Welcome to the FOCA community, Lesley!

Related to this Announcement:

After 20 years at the helm of FOCA, Terry Rees is stepping down at the end of March 2024 to pursue other interests. Terry has been committed to building a strong community and to working collaboratively with a broad range of partners to address the many complex challenges facing Ontario’s rural communities and our freshwater environments.

Please register to attend the AGM & Spring Seminar on March 2nd to celebrate with Terry in-person, or send us your message to thank Terry for all his work on behalf of waterfront Ontario.

FOCA's Platinum Level Sponsor

our partners in risk management & administrators of

the FOCA Association Insurance Program and CottageFirst

sponsors support our work, please support them

Cade's Corner

Building or Renovating a Cottage

With spring around the corner, the season of construction and renovation is almost here. Before you begin your exciting building or renovation project, it's crucial to be well-prepared, and that includes understanding how your property is insured. Download our handy overview (PDF, 2 pages) that includes important considerations to ensure your construction project is properly protected. Whether you're starting from scratch, expanding, or just giving your family cottage a fresh look, it is important to take steps before construction begins to safeguard your property. 

FOCA Champions Safe & Affordable Rural Living

last call! - FOCA's Water Quality Survey

It's your last chance to participate in FOCA's latest survey to help us understand the current level of knowledge about water quality in Ontario, what affects it, and how to be a good "steward" of water.

The survey is open through this Sunday, February 25, 2024:

Please share the survey link widely with your contacts by email or on social media, so we can receive a range of feedback!

upcoming webinar: "Cottage Sharing Agreements" - a FOCA Cottage Succession Seminar

Wednesday, April 17, 2024 from 7-8:30pm by Zoom webinar.

Register to join FOCA and estate lawyer Peter Lillico for a “deep dive” into Cottage Sharing Agreements: advantages and obstacles to overcome to make your family's succession plan a success. MEMBERS register for free here; remember to tell us your FOCA affiliation when you register!

Not a member, but still want to attend? First pay the $30 non-member fee per registrant, then register using the link above. Or become a Friend of FOCA (our paid annual supporter category) to receive free access to all the FOCA Cottage Succession events over the coming year, plus additional supporter benefits including a discount on registration for FOCA's annual Spring & Fall Seminars and access to the valuable CottageFirst group insurance program.

Lake Ice Cover & Safety

You're not imagining it: there really is much less ice on our waterways this Winter. In the image at the side, the red line is the historic average for the Great Lakes, while the dark black line is the actual 2023-2024 season-to-date. Past years from 1973 onward are shown in light purple. Track current conditions on the Great Lakes from the data-rich US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Library (GLERL) webpages.

image: NOAA - GLERL at Feb.20, 2024

Despite some days of wintry temperatures, unfortunately there have been several incidents reported on Ontario waterways in recent days, of people going through the ice. Please review and share ice safety tips from FOCA's webpage.

FOCA's Gold Level Sponsors

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FOCA's 2023 Year in Review

Download your digital copy of the 2023 FOCA Year in Review 

(PDF, 16 pages). It contains an overview of our 2023 priority files, programs, advocacy, communications and events. FOCA works year-round in support of healthy and sustainable waterfronts across Ontario, and the volunteer lake & community associations and waterfront property owners who love and care for our lands, lakes, and rivers.

Members: if you could use a few print copies of this or our other print publications, and you're coming to the AGM & Spring Seminar in person, contact us now to discuss, so we can prepare a package for you to collect at the event!

FOCA Promotes Healthy Lands, Lakes & Rivers

Invasive Species Awareness Week

February 26 to March 3, 2024 - FOCA and our partners at the Biodiversity Education Awareness Network, Invasive Species Centre, Forests Ontario and others will be participating in Invasive Species Awareness Week next week. Join us at one of the events listed below, and share the word on social media about how each of us has a role to play, in preventing the spread of invasive species! Learn more about your role on our webpage:

in-person event: Grass Carp Info Session - Bay of Quinte

Wednesday, February 28, 2024 from 6-9pm (Belleville & District Fish & Game Club) - If you have questions about identifying Grass Carp, or want to learn about the capture of a Grass Carp in the Bay of Quinte in 2023 (a fertile female weighing over 20 kg!), join FOCA and our partners for an evening of presentations, displays, and refreshments provided by the Fish & Game Club. There's also a door prize of $250 value. Register for free here.

upcoming webinar: Forestry in the Classroom

March 1, 2024 at 10am - FOCA and our partners at Forests Ontario and others invite grade 4 to 8 students, educators, and interested community members to participate in this free webinar event during Invasive Species Week. Register for free here.

FOCA's Silver Level Sponsors

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Partner Updates & Regional Notices

Discount on Seasonal Lockage Permits

If you boat often on the Trent Severn Waterway or Rideau Canal system, you'll want to take advantage of the 20% discount on seasonal lockage permits (plus a 10% discount on a mooring permit when you buy both together). Purchase by March 31, 2024 to access these discounts. Get information and make your purchase here:

partner webinar series: Practical Water Wisdom

FOCA's water science colleagues across the border in Minnesota are holding a virtual learning series at noon on the first Thursday of each month from February through November, 2024. Several of the session titles will be of interest to our membership (with the proviso that Minnesota State regulations can be different from our Ontario Provincial ones).

The next session is Thursday, March 7, 2024: "Living With Zebra Mussels In Your Lake - A Cautionary Tale." Watch videos of past sessions and register for upcoming webinars, here:

partner webinar: Nature Conservation Strategies - Muskoka

The Muskoka Watershed Council is holding their Annual General Meeting tomorrow, on Friday, February 23, 2025 by Zoom webinar. The featured speaker prior to the AGM is Amanda Porter of the Muskoka Conservancy, talking about nature conservation strategies. Get details, and the webinar link, here.

Fireworks Survey - Rideau Lakes

The Township of Rideau Lakes invites residents to participate in a survey to get public feedback about the use of fireworks on private property in the Township. Participate by March 31, 2024:

partner survey: Ontario Woodlots - Kawarthas

FOCA has been contacted by colleagues at the Ontario Woodlot Association who are doing research with Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Services on conservation bylaw effectiveness. Property owners in the Kawarthas with wooded properties are encouraged to participate in a short survey looking at different methods of environmental management, to see what approach is most common in the Kawarthas:

COVID impacts on Black Bass in Opinicon Lake

An article in a 2023 edition of the international journal, "Fisheries Research" compared black bass in Opinicon Lake, South Frontenac, before & after the pandemic years (2019, 2022), versus during the pandemic (2020, 2021). This provided researchers with an unanticipated "whole-lake" study on the potential impacts of bass tournaments during the spawning season. They found greatly increased nesting and reproductive success, as well as increased annual recruitment (survival from youth to older stages) when fishing during the pandemic was severely reduced. The study authors concluded that using bass spawning sanctuaries would be more efficient than closed seasons as a management strategy to conserve black bass levels. Read the article online.

image: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry webpage

Great Horned Owls across Central, Northern & Northwestern Ontario

The Ontario Bird Atlas reported this week on social media that this is a great time of year for folks on the Boreal Shield to listen for Great Horned Owls as they re-establish their territories and attract mates. Check out the post on X (source of the image at the side) and learn more about the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas 3 - a province-wide volunteer effort since 2021.

Planning Permits - Frontenac

The County of Frontenac and its partner townships are developing a Community Planning Permit (CPP) Bylaw that would combine tools from the Planning Act with important tools from the Municipal Act, such as controlling site alteration and tree removal to protect waterfront areas. The process is at the consultant bid stage through to March 1, 2024. FOCA will keep members updated on this and related developments through the Elert, and on our Land Use Planning webpage:

Short-Term Rental - Muskoka Update

The Township of Muskoka Lakes held a public meeting earlier this month, to hear input on a proposed bylaw that would require cottage owners to apply for a licence and pay an inspection fee before allowing them to rent their properties. Get updates on this and related news, under the "Latest News" banner on our webpage:

Water Levels in Lake Ontario & the St. Lawrence River

"Plan 2014", which is in place to regulate outflows from Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence River, went into effect in 2017. In response to public concerns about flooding since that time, the International Joint Commission has launched a "Phase 2" review of the Plan, including a Public Advisory Group. The goal is to find ways to moderate extreme water impacts. If you'd like to provide feedback on how water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence affected you in 2022 or 2023, visit

upcoming event: Spring Cottage Life Show

March 21-24, 2024 - Regardless of what the groundhogs might say, here's a sure sign that Spring is right around the corner: FOCA has your discount code for $3 off regular tickets to the annual Spring Cottage Life Show taking place once more at the International Centre near the Toronto airport.

Plan to join us there! Use this link to buy your tickets with our special discount code: FOCA

FOCA Serves Lake & Road Associations

Association Member Benefits

Membership in FOCA brings your Association many benefits! Here's one that our member groups tell us they highly value: FOCA has created a document filled with tips about starting and building an effective volunteer association. There are two versions - one focused on waterfront/lake associations, and the other on road associations.

Member Associations can login on FOCA's Association Best Practices webpage to access these resources:

Just starting a new association? Contact FOCA for some preliminary guidance. Remember: as a non-profit membership organization, most of our resources are only available to our current members! Find out more about the many benefits of joining FOCA:

FOCA's Bronze Sponsors

Dock in a Box

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Final Thoughts

This really is "for the birds"...

Love to bird watch? Know some "usual suspects" but want to learn how to identify other birds you see occasionally? Looking to start a competition with the grandkids or neighbours: who can find the most birds by March 1st, or over the March break?

Create your own seasonal guide for your local area, using the "Birds in your Region" tool available here:

Then, get out and enjoy the late Winter weather and enjoy the birds!

FOCA is the Federation of Ontario Cottagers' Associations, the voice of the waterfront for the past 60 years. Find out more about YOUR ROLE.

[email protected] | 705-749-3622 |

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