Keeping our Muskoka Trails Open

Keeping our Muskoka trails open rests heavily on a dedicated group of volunteers.  In this post, we would like to thank Tony Molica and the rest of his “Landowners Committee” team (Rene Leenaars,  Mike Webb, Bob Hogg, Steve Elliott, Bob McTavish).  Tony’s work on a “Questions and Answers” (Q&A) document was so complicated that I had to ask him what he did an to send me his process.

MLSTA new President, Fred Kelsey, made the statement “we need to get our land owners on board before we can proceed with anything else”.  After a misunderstood season about Bill 100 (Now known as “Supporting Ontario’s Trail Act, 2016), out team has stepped up to the plate.

Tony’s first thought about developing a Q&A with respect to this new legislation (SOTA 2016 for short) was initiated at the July 2 MLSTA meeting.  Past President Rene updated the board on the misunderstandings by landowners and others about SOTA 2016 at this meeting.

The board agreed that a Q&A was in order and that it be made available to the landowners and further that the process and facts be free from any bias – that it be factual and not based on opinions.  Tony suggested that we attempt to contact the office of the Minister of Tourism and use their facts if possible, which was agreed upon.

Tony then emailed the minister at the time, The Honorable Michael Couteau, requesting information on SOTA 2016 and for any public information.  He was hoping for fact sheets from his office, or Questions and Answers they may use in The House.  It took about 3 weeks for a response from the Minister’s office but in the mean time he took it upon himself to look at the reports from the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, and other sources with respect to SOTA 2016.

It is within the Legislative Assembly reports that Tony found facts about SOTA 2016 which were discussed in The House by then Minister Couteau and other MPP’s including Steve Clark and Norm Miller.  Tony did hear back from The Minister’s Office in late July and the new Minister was the Honorable Eleanor McMahon, Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport.

Minister McMahon’s email to Tony explained that Sarah Jackson, Policy Analyst with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport, would be our contact person and he did make contact with Sara whom was most helpful.  In the mean time, it was suggested by Rene that we have Mike Webb, from our club, assist us since he was very knowledgeable on landowner issues.  As a result, we had our first “Landowner Committee” meeting on August 1 at Mike’s house.  The Minutes of that meeting outline details. (It was decided at the July meeting that a Landowners Committee be established and that both Steve Elliot and Tony Molica co-chair this committee).

Sara Jackson was very helpful in that she vetted our Q&A, kept it factual, and overall supported our efforts.  Additionally, she explained that her office was preparing a Public Document on SOTA 2016 and would make sure that we receive a copy as soon as it was available — which she did.

Mike was most helpful in the process.  He suggested that we meet with Norm Miller, our MPP ( and avid snowmobiler), and  set up the meeting.  Mike lead the meeting which proved to be very successful in that we gained further support in re-opening trails.

It should be noted that Tony drafted the Q&A from facts within the Legislative Assembly Reports, input from Sara Jackson, and most importantly input from our Landowner Committee Members, which include Mike Webb.

Steve Elliott not only provided input but also wordsmithed the document and made it look professional.  It also needs be noted that Rene Leenaars has been our guiding light through this process from beginning to end!

Myself (Bob Hogg) and Steve Elliott talked to Mr. Steve Clarke and the Honorable Eleanor McMahon, whom were at the OFSC annual AGM, and discussed SOTA 2016 and forwarded the information to Tony.

Even with this work, Rene is still working with landowners issues and designing new trails as required.

The MLSTA Q&A is now being posted on a number of websites by OFSC clubs, and other supporters (including our MPP’S site).  Additionally, it is being distributed to landowners and other interested parties.  This document has proven to be helpful in answering key questions by landowners and others.