Roads that Work for Wildlife

Repost From Georgian Bay Biosphere


Work has begun on a three-year project to evaluate the effectiveness of an innovative road mitigation design for the protection of reptile species at risk from road mortality.

Led by Georgian Bay Mnidoo Gamii Biosphere (GBB) and in partnership with Carling Township, Laurentian University and Killbear Provincial Park, this project aims to:

  • Fill in knowledge gaps on barrier fence designs
  • Evaluate how this fencing performs under standard road maintenance and weather
  • Update roads best management practices for species at risk management practices

Daily road mortality surveys conducted by GBB in 2020 and 2021 helped determine reptile “hot-spots” on Conservation Drive in Carling Township where mitigation efforts could be focused to reduce species mortality. Because the road was historically built through a provincially significant wetland, wildlife uses the road to access the habitat on the other side, leading them to interact with vehicles.

This October, the installation of unique exclusion fencing along the roadway on Conservation Drive commenced. This fencing will lead reptiles (and other wildlife, including fish!) to four culverts that will act as safe eco-passages, connecting both sides of the wetland.

“Through discussions with public works departments and First Nations communities, we realized that there were some barriers to traditional fencing that stands vertically with relation to road maintenance or removing access to traditional hunting lands,” says Tianna Burke, Lands and Wildlife Programs Manager. “Concave fencing has the potential to better accommodate road maintenance activities such as mowing and snow plowing, and accommodate more porous areas like access points and driveways without trapping species on the road. The curved feature of this design allows it to sit relatively at-grade with the road, aiming to impede some of our more agile reptiles, such as foxsnakes, from being able to climb, improving maintenance ability, and not creating a visual barrier.”

Beginning 2023, a graduate student from Laurentian University will work with GBB on evaluating design effectiveness.  This will include determining:

  • If the mitigation effectively reduced mortality at the identified hotspots through road surveys
  • Fence effectiveness at directing reptiles towards safe eco-passages
  • Reptile usage of eco-passages and what other wildlife may be using them
  • Maintenance needs, structural durability, and performance of structure over time, including the effects of freeze-thaw cycles, and public works activities

The long-term goal is to use this project’s findings to further develop and implement best management practices that are more specific to the eastern Georgian Bay landscape than what current practices provide. Similarly, provide best management practices that are effective ecologically, while also making implementation easier for public works departments.

“With funding for conservation action being limited, it is important to test innovative and cost-effective designs to reduce reptile road mortality. If we can implement effective and inexpensive solutions, that will be a win for all stakeholders, especially the snakes!” says Dr. Jackie Litzgus, Laurentian University Biology Professor.

Study results will be shared with various levels of government for future opportunities to apply it on the landscape, to help reduce road threats to reptiles and helping their populations.

We thank Ganawenim Meshkiki, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Township of Carling for their financial and on-the-ground support of this project, and Dr. Jackie Litzgus from Laurentian University and Killbear Provincial Park for their expertise and knowledge. Chi-miigwech for support from Wasauksing First Nation and Shawanaga First Nation whose traditional lands this project is taking place on.

Photo of - Request for Fall Newsletter Content

Request for Fall Newsletter Content

We are looking for articles of interest for our Fall newsletter.  If you want to submit an article for the WCA Summer newsletter, please contact Nanci Wakeman with your submission in WORD format by October 14. Articles should be 250-700 words, and if including photos - please provide high-resolution photos (one or more, including photo credits – who took the photo, plus captions).

Photo of - Fun with Phrag: Video Highlights WCA Members in Action

Fun with Phrag: Video Highlights WCA Members in Action

WCA is the latest member association to be showcased in GBA's Stewards of the Bay video series. As a part of the broader Guardians of the Bay initiative, this video series highlights the passion and action of our community members in their commitment to preserving the unique habitat of Georgian Bay. On Wednesday, August 16, a group led by WCA Board Member Richard Wilson set out from Snug Harbour with guides from Georgian Bay Forever (GBF) to do seasonal cutting of the phragmites stands on Franklin Island. GBF has developed a strong and effective program engaged in Georgian Bay shoreline phragmites eradication. Many of the stands they monitored and managed have been successfully eliminated. Coastal stands of phragmites can be combatted by cutting their stems just below the water surface, which effectively drowns the plant. Several years of repeated cutting have been shown as an effective method to eliminate a stand. GBA MEMBER ASSOCIATION VIDEOS The goal of this video project is both to highlight the environmental efforts of cottagers and to develop more of a sense of community among our neighbouring member associations. Click here to find videos from other GBA member associations - with topics ranging from building loon nest platforms to habitat restoration to shoreline cleanup efforts to many, many more.

Photo of - Webinar: 10 Steps to Avoid Boating Tragedy

Webinar: 10 Steps to Avoid Boating Tragedy

  TEN Boating tips to save lives Join us ONLINE - August 23 @ 10 AM Prompted by the increase in boating fatalities and accidents in recent years, MLA Director Scott Ferguson presents a live e-learning module on 10 defensive boating tips to save lives. Special guest OPP Sgt. Dave Moffatt will address Ontario boating accident stats, including victim age and gender, life jacket use, and boat size. SQL Chair Diana Piquette and the MLA’s Lawton Osler will moderate. Join us! REGISTER NOW

Photo of - Have Your Say: Important Opportunity to Comment on Pumped Storage Facility Regulations

Have Your Say: Important Opportunity to Comment on Pumped Storage Facility Regulations

TC Energy (TCE), formerly TransCanada Pipeline, has received permission to do a feasibility study for an open loop system Hydroelectric Pumped Storage Plant (PSP) on the federally owned shoreline of the Department of National Defense (DND) Training Centre in Meaford. This proposed facility has serious and potentially harmful implications for local communities, the environment and Georgian Bay’s aquatic ecosystem. Pumped Storage Project: Why Are We Concerned? The proposed pumped storage project by TC Energy threatens to cause significant disruption and permanent changes to the existing natural habitat. Save Georgian Bay is concerned that the proposed technology will cause fish mortality, water turbidity, and water and air pollution during the construction phase, and will require the installation of high-tension power lines from Meaford to Essa Township near Barrie. We believe there are many better alternatives that should be considered in place of the current one. Although the project is proposed for a site on the west coast of the Bay, the Georgian Bay Association is examining this project because we have several concerns about its environmental impact on Georgian Bay, notably an increase in fish mortality, water turbidity, water temperatures, and habitat destruction. These impacts will affect the entire Bay, and we are concerned about the precedent it will set. Have Your Say We wanted to bring an important matter to your attention regarding the proposed amendments to Ontario Regulation 53/05 and potential regulations under the Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998, specifically related to the rate regulation of certain pumped storage facilities. The Minister of Energy is currently seeking public input and feedback on these proposed changes, and your voice matters! This is a valuable opportunity for you to share your thoughts, concerns, and insights on this crucial topic. As advocates for the protection and preservation of Georgian Bay, we have a unique opportunity to voice our concerns and make a difference. Your voice matters in this crucial conversation. We encourage you to participate in the public consultation process by submitting your comments to the Minister. Your input could help shape the direction of these regulations and influence decisions that will impact the future of our energy infrastructure and its potential impact on our natural environment. To submit your comments online, please follow the guidelines provided by the Ministry on their official website: Alternatively, please click here to generate a pre-populated email. Let's work together to ensure a balanced and informed discussion on this matter. The deadline for submitting comments is 11:59 p.m. on August 24, 2023, so please don't miss this opportunity to make your voice heard. Thank you for your commitment to creating a sustainable energy future for Ontario. Together, let's continue to stand up for Georgian Bay and ensure our collective voice is heard in this critical matter.  

Photo of - Dogfest 2023

Dogfest 2023

  Sunday August 13, 2023 Carling Community Centre 2 West Carling Bay Road Your Dog must be Vaccinated and Leashed Registration: Aug. 13, 2023 11:00 am to 12:00 noon Dog fest show starts at 12:15 pm. Location: Grass area beside Baseball  eld. Leash up your Furry Pal for a Fun Filled Contest or come as a Spectator Additional parking South of the Baseball Diamond. Numerous Categories available to enter Any donation to PAWS will be Greatly Appreciated  

Photo of - Fun With Phrag: Volunteers Needed to Cut Invasive Phragmites on Franklin Island

Fun With Phrag: Volunteers Needed to Cut Invasive Phragmites on Franklin Island

The West Carling Association (WCA) is looking for volunteers to cut phragmites stands on the Bay on Wednesday, August 16. A group led by WCA Board Member Richard Wilson will be departing Snug Harbour on Wednesday, August 16 (Friday the 18th in the event of bad weather on the 16th), with guides from Georgian Bay Forever (GBF) to do seasonal cutting of the phragmites stands on Franklin Island. If you would be interested in helping, there is room for a few volunteers to come along. Some light physical work is involved, likely on the shore or in shallow water. Bring a life jacket, a sharpened spade shovel and work gloves. What are phragmites and why should we be concerned? Invasive phragmites are aggressive plants that spread quickly and outcompete native species for water and nutrients. Biochemicals are released from its roots into the soil to hinder the growth of surrounding plants. Identifying this invasive can be difficult due to the existence of native subspecies. Invasive phragmites generally reach heights of up to five metres and have tan stems with blue-green leaves and large, dense seed heads. It can grow so densely that it crowds out other species. If you are unaware of what it looks like, there is a large patch on Nobel Road (old Highway 69) just south of the former 559 intersection. What is being done to eliminate these invasive plants? GBF has developed a strong and effective program engaged in Georgian Bay shoreline phragmites eradication. Many of the stands they monitored and managed have been successfully eliminated. Coastal stands of phragmites can be combatted by cutting their stems just below the water surface, which effectively drowns the plant. Several years of repeated cutting have been shown as an effective method to eliminate a stand. WCA completed the first step in our efforts to eliminate these invasive plants by conducting a thorough survey of the Carling Township Coastline in mid-June, looking specifically for the presence of invasive phragmites. In all, we identified six stands, with Franklin Island, Bateau Island, and Deep Bay being the host locations. The outcome of the mapping project was reported to WCA members and Carling Council at the Annual Members Meeting on July 29. If you are interested in assisting Richard with this important project please contact Richard directly at or by phone 416-417-6833.

Photo of - Floating Home at the Centre of a Cottage Country Feud

Floating Home at the Centre of a Cottage Country Feud

“Not everyone can pay millions for lakefront property”: This man’s floating home is at the centre of a cottage country feud Joe Nimen believes his shipping-container houseboat is a masterpiece. His neighbours in Port Severn say it’s an eyesore. Now, the Ontario government is threatening to ban vessels like his from overnight stays on provincial waters


Three years ago, amateur engineer Joe Nimen got to work building his dream home: a collection of four shipping containers fashioned into a floating cottage. In Nimen’s eyes, the four-season structure is a feat of ingenuity and environmental stewardship. For his many critics in the Port Severn area, however, it’s an unsafe eyesore with no business being on the water. At the core of the conflict is whether this dwelling qualifies as a houseboat (Nimen says it does) or whether he’s simply exploiting a loophole to avoid zoning regulations and property taxes. The Ontario government recently weighed in on the conflict, announcing plans to ban floating homes from overnight stays on provincial waters. Nimen says most of the relevant waterways are federal but that he appreciates the publicity boost for his company, Life on the Bay, which makes and sells vessels like his. Here, he tells us how he built a seaworthy home, why he isn’t bothered by his critics and what he sees as the real issues in cottage country.  Let’s start with how you ended up living in this…boat? Cottage? What do you call it? We call it a floating home, but technically it’s a houseboat. It’s aways been my dream to live on the water. My parents had a cottage on Port Severn, and we would boat over in the summer. I loved the idea of a home that you could sail from Port Severn to Parry Sound or Toronto. For years, I was making plans on AutoCAD, a 3-D design software. Do you have a background in construction? I studied engineering and later did some work installing foundations for buildings and docks. In October 2020, my girlfriend, Erin, said she was sick of hearing me talk about the houseboat idea—so I knew it was time to take action. We sold our house on Lake Nipissing and used that money to fund the project, with the hope that eventually we could make similar homes to sell. The house I’m living in cost about $350,000 to make, but some of that was spent on equipment. I bought the shipping containers off Kijiji. I had to create something that could endure the winter, when the lake freezes over. It was a lot of trial error. There were nights in February when we woke up with no water because the pipes had frozen. But we got there. For those who haven’t seen it, can you describe your home and how it works? Basically, it’s two pieces, each made from two 16-metre shipping containers that sit on top of wooden barges. The first piece is our work area and garage, where we store snowmobiles, ATVs and other seasonal items. The other half is our home, plus an outdoor deck area with patio furniture and a barbecue. When we want to move, we attach the whole thing to a tugboat. Can you park it anywhere, or are there rules? We’re allowed to anchor anywhere on Crown land for up to 21 days. After that, we have to move at least 100 metres. To the best of my knowledge, most public waterways—lakes and rivers—are federally regulated. When did you first get the floating home out on the water? About two years ago. I remember sitting on my couch, having my coffee as we moved across the lake. I couldn’t believe we actually did it. It was a great day, but I guess not everyone felt that way. By the following week, we’d gotten visits from representatives of our township, the adjoining township and fire services. People were wondering, What the hell is this thing? Did you anticipate a negative reaction? When I look back, there are some things that I should have taken into consideration. At that point, it was a work in progress, so all of the mechanics were visible from the outside. It didn’t look like a nice finished home yet—it was more like a huge science project. I can see why people were a bit alarmed. Plus, the spot we chose was a high-traffic area. For me, it was sentimental: it’s near an island I visited as a kid. Do you think some cottagers might have interpreted it as you shoving your giant non-taxable flotilla in their faces? That absolutely wasn’t my intention, but I see how it may have come off that way. You mentioned visits from local authorities. What did they inquire about? I think they wanted to make sure we were following all of the rules, and to the best of my knowledge, we have been. We’ve had two safety inspections from Transport Canada, both times with no issues. For the most part, people who take the time to come aboard tend to be pleasantly surprised. I realize that not everyone is convinced, but no one has ever said anything bad to my face. Fair enough, but behind your back, people are saying that you have no business plopping your unregulated home in an area where you don’t pay property taxes. My response is that we live on a houseboat. From a categorization standpoint, it’s the same as any other cruising boat with a washroom and a kitchen. We’re federally regulated by Transport Canada, we pay to keep our boat at a marina and the marina pays property taxes. And we’re not unregulated. There is a Transport Canada building code for boats, called the Construction Standards for Small Vessels, with hundreds of rules around fire escapes, electricity, plumbing, sewage and more. We follow all of them. I’m glad you brought up sewage. Wastewater and other environmental concerns are key talking points among your critics. We have our own sewage treatment plant built into our boat. It’s been tested and approved by Environment Canada, so I’m pretty sure that’s good enough. It’s funny that all of these cottagers are talking about their environmental concerns—a big part of why I built this place is because I wanted what my parents had but didn’t want to cut down trees, dig into the land, blast the rock and disturb the squirrels. We’ve come up with a way to have all the fun of a cottage without disturbing the natural environment. So I’m not convinced that’s their real motive. Any theories about the actual source of outrage? I think there are people who are upset that they had to spend three million dollars on their cottage and we didn’t. What about the eyesore factor? The mayor of Severn called your place an “ugly sea can.” Like I said, that first summer it was a prototype. These days, it looks like most modern cottages. Your company, Life on the Bay, sells these types of vessels. How many orders have you gotten so far? We have five under construction, plus three that are paid for but not underway yet. Since this latest comment from the provincial government, my phone has been ringing off the hook. You’re referring to a recent announcement from Doug Ford, who said he’s banning floating homes from staying overnight on provincial waters. Isn’t that bad for business? I don’t think it will be. Like I said, we’re talking about federal waterways, so I’m not sure that the province has any control. But, by bringing publicity to the issue, they’re driving traffic to our website. I should really send a thank-you note. Who do you see as your target market? We get a lot of interest from people who want a cottage but can’t afford to pay two million dollars, which is what a fixer-upper in this area costs. Instead, for $700,000, you can buy a brand new three-bedroom, two-bathroom floating home. We also have even more-affordable options. Maybe you’re downsizing after retirement—How else could you get a home for $300,000? I’m not sure that bringing affordable housing to cottage country is going to help your case. I understand that there are people who want lakefront property to be exclusive, but I don’t think it’s up to them. And, honestly, I think the whole situation is being exaggerated. Yes, my boat got a lot of attention, but it’s not the out-of-control invasion some are making it out to be. If anything, what’s out of control is how all of the accessible shorelines up here are private property—not great for families who just want to spend a day on the beach. Maybe that’s the invasion we should be focused on. I’m just giving people a chance to enjoy the water.  

Photo of - The WCA needs your expertise and energy to make a difference!

The WCA needs your expertise and energy to make a difference!

For so many of us, Georgian Bay is a special place representing family, history, nature, memories - that is a bond and a legacy worth protecting and preserving. The West Carling Association (WCA) Board of Directors (Board) and its volunteers work incredibly hard to resolve the issues that matter most to our members and their families to preserve the use and enjoyment of their properties, but as we move forward, we could really benefit from some extra help. The WCA has openings on its Board as well as opportunities for volunteers in several areas including municipal engagement, membership, and social events. No formal board experience is required, just the desire to make a difference! Contribute your skills, provide support, collaborate with a group of motivated individuals who share your passion for the Bay – and learn about the issues we face: Concerns about the local natural environment, including invasive species. Impacts of development, including floating homes. Responsible use of Crown land. Prudent use of tax dollars in Carling. Car parking and docking for water access properties. Boating safety and noise pollution. Provincial and federal advocacy issues through our membership with the Georgian Bay Association.* The WCA’s ongoing activities include monitoring and providing feedback on the Township of Carling Council activities and decisions, water level and water quality monitoring, educating, and communicating with our members on topics of interest through our e-newsletter, website and email, arranging social events and recruiting new members. To learn more about us check out our website at: If you are a member of the WCA or want to become one, and have some time, skills, and energy to give the WCA please let us know. Our Board meets approximately eight times per year by Zoom. If you are interested, please send us a brief bio or résumé and tell us why you are interested in joining WCA’s Board. Expressions of interest should be sent by July 21, 2023, to: Elections to the Board will occur the morning of July 29th at WCA’s Annual Meeting of Members at the Township of Carling’s outdoor arena. If you have questions, please get in touch with Daryle Moffatt (416) 500-3451 or Donna Tucker (416) 414-8833 *Founded in 1921, the Georgian Bay Association (GBA) is an umbrella organization for 18 community associations along the east and north shores of Georgian Bay, representing approximately 3,000 families. GBA has been advocating on behalf of our land-owning members for over 100 years and estimate that GBA reaches and influences around 30,000 residents of Georgian Bay. GBA’s mandate is to work with our water-based communities and other stakeholders to ensure the careful stewardship of the greater Georgian Bay environment.  

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