The ice is out, spring is breaking out, and thoughts of the cottage are in many of our minds. Loons are singing, kids are ready to jump and splash, and the thought of sitting on the deck with a cup of coffee or a glass of something nice seems very attractive.
The current lockdown in Ontario will slow our arrivals, but with care and just a bit of luck the season will open. We will again need to be careful with social contacts when we get to Birch Island but the place itself is an antidote to a long hard year and more.
The Executive of BIRPOA, your island association, has been monitoring several things for our benefit. Here are some we would like to share:
A planning initiative by Parks Canada for the Rideau has been published. You may well want to look at it, as we have just until the end of April to comment. A number of cottagers feel it is too strongly slanted to boosting tourism and commercial development while deemphasizing protections for the lakes and environment. See it here and see how you can respond: https://www.rideauplan.ca/home
A number of lake associations have reported increased Gypsy moth activity. There are always a few of those critters around and cottage owners usually can take care of those individually, but we want to know if we face a larger issue. Here is some guidance, and if you find large numbers, LET US KNOW(firstname.lastname@example.org)
Taxes have increased annoyingly for some; it is possible to protest those raises, but it is not always effective. You can find guidance here: https://www.mpac.ca/en/Homepage If you’d like to talk to someone who has done this, lets us know and we can connect you.
And Hydro: changes, probable increases, but beyond our purview.
Ry Weisiger has been our volunteer ‘trail boss’ for years, mowing most of the trails, cutting up downed trees, improving pathways. Unfortunately Ry is in New Hampshire, unable to cross into Canada for now. We will need to find other ways to get the job done. Rory Gooderham and Chris Wagner–members of the Executive–have volunteered to do some of this, but we can use more volunteers. Chris has agreed to coordinate. email@example.com
More looking forward: Our wonderful island trails have been described as a ‘real treasure’ and they are certainly not commonplace. Many of the trails are owned by Birch Island Estates Ltd, the original developer of the island. Only one member of that company is still with us and the ownership future of the trails is quite uncertain, The Executive is exploring ways to ensure that the trails remain as they are, natural and undeveloped, for future generations. Previous efforts have allowed folks to obtain deedable rights of way; if successful, the new effort could do that and more. We may incur legal expenses, so having folks pay annual dues is very important!
The association bulletin board at the marina needs to be refreshed–and that is afoot.
The “Birch Island Branch Library” is another favorite destination. As was the case last year, it will probably need to stay closed for a bit longer because of the coronavirus, but we may be able to organize a return day or two.
We also need to watch closely to see if we can hold a live AGM (Annual General Meeting) this August. We hope so, as these sessions are always kind of fun and a chance to see friends and neighbors. They are also a moment to share ideas and think about good things for the island.
As always we would like to have more islanders participate in BIRPOA, certainly as members, but also to take active roles.(I would love to find a volunteer to handle our WordPress website.)
Expect a message soon from treasurer Vipool Desai about annual membership. Vipoool has created a mechanism to allow e-mail transfers of funds, MUCH easier than having to write and deliver a cheque.
On a sad note, John Feltmate tells us that James (Jim) Amell has passed away. Jim played a prominent role in the development of the island from the ’70s to about 2000. He installed septic systems, cleared land, did landscaping, and kept up many parts of the road system. Long a friendly and familiar figure, he purchased an interior lot and sometimes camped there with his family.
Like Ry, I too hope to see many of you this summer. Like Ry, I am still in the US. I do miss the island.
Bob Cavenagh – President for 2020
BIRPOA: the Birch Island Residential Property Owners Association
From the Executive Committee of the Birch Island Residential Property Owners Association (BIRPOA)
The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to forego our usual in-person Annual General Meeting. As a safer alternative, we are providing this email and web based report on activities and seeking your responses, by email, using the comment option below. Since the AGM is traditionally held Sunday morning of the August long weekend, we are keeping up the tradition by sending this message at that same time.
Minutes of the 2019 AGM Sunday, August 4th 2019 (Rory Gooderham):
Members of the Executive Committee present: Rory Gooderham Secretary/President, Bob Cavenagh Vice- President, Vipool Desai Treasurer, Ry Weisiger Director-Trails, John Feltmate Rights of Way Regrets: Brett Cavanagh Past President
Welcome: Rory Gooderham welcomed everyone to the meeting and following tradition, asked members present to introduce themselves.
Thanks to Brett Cavanagh: Rory advised that Brett Cavenagh was concluding his term as President/Past President and noted that his contributions over the years in a number of roles are greatly appreciated
Memorials: Carole McKewen, Bill Davis, Louis Monton and Paul Simpson were remembered as cottage owners and contributors during their time on the island.
Minutes of previous AGM held August 5th, 2018: Were adopted as presented.
Treasurer’s Report: Vipool Desai referred to his Treasurer’s report which had been circulated to members in advance of the meeting. Funds at the beginning of 2018-2019 fiscal year were $3,455; membership revenue was $1,645 representing 40 members. Total expenses were $1,366 resulting in a surplus of $3,734 at year-end July 31st, 2019.
Island Issues and Interests:
Lake Association – Township of Rideau Lakes: Rory noted that BIRPOA was able to participate in the Township’s Lake Association Grant program and received a grant of $947.00 to assist with operations.
Marina Issues: As always, a note of thanks to the folks at Sand Lake Marine for all they do for us. It is important that we all observe speed limits for safety and to reduce dust. Cottagers should use only the lower road and park carefully to make room for others. Dog droppings need to be bagged and removed – not placed in the Go Hut.
Water Safety: There was a quick review of basics including keeping appropriate distance from docks and swimmers, the importance of proper lighting on boats at night. Reducing ‘light pollution’ was also brought forward
Septic Pumping: Vipool noted recent experiences including the costs. Group rates for this service work are available which will benefit cottagers who need this service.
Group Wi-fi: Stephen Reid noted that he was in process of making arrangements with a local supplier for Wi-fi services that could also be made available to other cottagers in need. Unfortunately it was found that group rates were not being offered and it is back to the drawing board.
Library: Bob Cavenagh indicated that helpers are always needed. Ideally teenage kids to provide guidance on book titles for younger readers. As always, donations of thoughtful, current and quality titles are welcome. A signup list was circulated.
Trails: Ry Weisiger noted that for the most part the trails are in good condition and asked members to report any concerns they find so they can be taken care of. The culverts at the causeway were also beginning to collapse and this may require the area to be closed in the future. Cottagers were advised to take care whenever using the trials.
Your Water System from Lake to Tap: Bob Cavenagh went through a demonstration of pumps, filters and various water purification systems. It was agreed that the information for both old and new cottagers was very useful.
Power Outages: John Feltmate noted the importance of calling hydro if the power goes out. The more calls the better to encourage hydro crews to fix
Canoe Race Returns!: It was announced that the annual boat race would return on September 1st, 2019, hosted by the Pollocks at Lot 70.
Nominations and Election of Executive Committee Positions for 2019-20.
President: Bob Cavenagh (current VP)
Vice President: Vacant-no nomination received
Past President: Rory Gooderham
Treasurer: Vipool Desai (current Treasurer)
Secretary Rory Gooderham (second role)
Director for Trails Ry Weisiger
Director for Library Bob Cavenagh (extra task)
Director for Rights of Way John Feltmate & Rory Gooderham
Directors at Large Dave Perfetti, Chris Wagner (Mary Rockburn was subsequently appointed)
There being no further nominations, the members’ nominated above were elected by show of hands.
There was discussion about property tax re-assessments, how to do them and whether they are worthwhile. Parking improvements at the marina were also discussed.
August 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020, including most recent bank statement
AGM 2019 Balance Carried $3,733.99
Credits Membership Fees $ 440.00
(2019 paid after AGM)
Township Grant $ 927.00
TOTAL CREDITS $1,367.00
Debits E&O/ D&O Insurance $ (908.28)
FOCA Membership $ (282.50)
gas payment to Ry Weisiger $ (200.00)
Web hosting $ (169.68)
Sign posts $ (25.00)
TOTAL DEBITS $ 1,585.46
June 30, 2020 Balance on Account $ 3,515.53
Note that we did not collect dues for 2020, to help with coronavirus impacts.
President’s Report 2020 (Bob Cavenagh) The coronavirus pandemic has taken a heavy toll on many people, some physically, others with major disruptions to their lives. The Executive Committee has wanted to help make the Birch Island experience as pleasant and safe as possible. We cancelled dues for the year; while $40 is almost a symbolic amount, it was something we could do. We have been forced to close the library to comply with Ontario guidelines (though we may try to have a brief opening late in the year so books can be returned). We have switched to this ‘virtual’ alternative to the AGM.
Executive members have met repeatedly, including Zoom meetings hosted by Dave Perfetti.
We drafted and helped circulate a petition to the Township to improve Sand Lake Road; it has received a favorable response but we will need to see what happens.
We have launched a new web site that will grow over time. It is sensitive to the device you use, so it automatically appears in different forms on computers, tablets and phones. More on that in a bit.
It has become clear that the Constitution needs to be revamped. Last revised in 2012, we need to ensure it is sensitive to things like the pandemic, and we need to redefine roles and terms of Officers and Directors, among other things. That will be part of the 2021 agenda.
Speaking of the Officers and Directors: sadly, it is not really feasible to conduct a proper election in email; additionally we have not found new candidates for those roles (we are also operating without a Vice President). The current folks have conceded that we should maintain our roles through 2021 and hope for new folks at that time. More on this later.
We normally have a report on the condition of the island trails from ‘Trail Boss’ Ry Weisiger. That can’t happen, because Ry, like other US citizens and some from other provinces, has been unable to come to Canada. Chris Wagner reports that the lack of rain has helped keep the grass on the western end trails somewhat in check. Some island folks have mowed parts of the trails. We also have a suggestion that it may be desirable to bring in some heavy equipment to clear and widen trails next year; that is certainly an agenda item.
John Feltmate has conducted a long-running process to insure that members can secure legal rights to use the island trails. Quite a number of hiccups and legal glitches were discovered during Round 1; a number of folks participated at that time. John plans to set up Round 2 in 2021 for newcomers and those who did not participate originally. Rory Gooderham is joining him in this effort.
Chris Wagner has proposed several interesting ideas to promote Birch Island, even creating things like caps and other merchandise (I have long fancied creating an informal poster sized map).
Residents have suggested organizing both a large-item trash pickup and a brush-chipping arrangement to help clear some of the extensive brush piles left by Hydro and other activities.
We do not currently have wildlife reporters and would like to change that. We have often held loon counts and like to monitor their activities and hatches. We could use volunteers. Chris Wagner reports a family of four barred owls at the west end of the island. Who else can report sightings of various critters?
Finally, gypsy moths have become a matter of concern in areas near Sand Lake. I have heard no reports of serious infestations on the island itself; these moths are always present but erupt into large outbreaks periodically. We will need to monitor this. Most contemporary solutions seem to involve homeowners taking action when excess moths are found.
(This ends my formal report. RWC)
–The new website at birchisland.info became necessary because the previous version didn’t adapt well to evolutions in the devices we use. The original site, a beautiful thing, was created by John Curley using his extensive tech skills, but when he left the island a new approach was needed. Brett Cavanagh took over and crafted the very important intermediate site that is now being replaced. My son Rob Cavenagh created our new site using a package called WordPress. This is a widely used and highly regarded web vehicle we hope will serve us for years. At this time we are working on reinstalling some of the traditional pages from the Curley site. Mary Rockburn is working with others to craft a list of formal and casual ‘contractors’ to help with tasks at our cottages. We want to do much more. We need ‘content,’ and would love to have a web pro on board.
We will soon launch a new web category called “Island Life”. Its header is already on the website and now we need your help to flesh it out. It will include galleries of interesting photos from all over the island and lake: scenic images, to be sure, but also personal and family images. AND, I want to encourage islanders to think about and write brief ‘stories’ about life on the island. AND on the lake. Sand Lake is, of course, a primary focus for many of us. We want your submissions!
In addition, there are facebook pages for Birch Island and Sand Lake, and an Instagram page.
–We face a perennial challenge in recruiting folks to participate in the Island Executive. This means a number of folks wind up playing repeating roles. There are no perks or benefits other than joining a group that is tuned to island life and intent on maintaining and improving it, but the group is congenial. (Presidents of cottage associations have said that their hardest task is always recruiting their own replacements…) While we met remotely, via email, telephone, and Zoom this year, we much prefer to have all meetings face-to-face and hope we will soon be able to resume doing so. Think about joining us ….
We also have a library group–which has not needed to be active this year.
-We are very interested in hearing what islanders would like from the Association.
Enough from us. Use the COMMENTS link to respond. We’d love to hear your comments, and will tell you how to send pictures and stories!
We have a tradition of serving ice cream cones at the end of AGM meetings. If you are so inclined, go to your fridge and….
Our best to you, and our hopes and wishes for a safe and virus-free future: Bob Cavenagh, Vipool Desai, John Feltmate, Rory Gooderham, Dave Perfetti, Mary Rockburn, Chris Wagner, Ry Weisiger
We hit the solstice yesterday evening and now official summer is upon us. I hope and believe it will be a good one on Birch Island. There has been some nice weather (sometimes TOO nice) and the lake and our island are as beautiful as ever. But…the coronovirus lingers and continuing thoughtful behavior will be needed for some time, including physical distancing and self-quarantine for some.
We are obligated to keep the island library closed for now. Hold on to books to check in and to donations.
We most probably can’t hold the AGM in early August. September may be an option. We will send updates.
Folks from outside Canada, particularly US cottagers like me, are still unable to enter the country. Frustrating, but reasonable. And travel between some provinces is still limited.
In addition, many folks have felt financial stress because of the virus. Jobs lost, extra expenses, shortages of common items: all take a toll.
Reflecting on all of this, the BIRPOA Executive has decided to eliminate association dues for this year. While the $40 is hardly a large sum–less that a meal for two in many ordinary restaurants–we want to do our own small part to ease the pressures we all feel. In addition, we extend one year’s free membership to all Birch Islanders who would like it.
(We try to maintain a reserve fund against ‘rainy days,’ and we feel the coronavirus counts. We have enough left to pay for insurance and make some contributions to island events.)
Wishing you all the best, Bob Cavenagh, BIRPOA President, 2020
The whistle has been blown, boats can come out of the penalty box…
As of 12.01 am on Saturday morning, May 16, Sand Lake Marine is allowed to release the boats of all Canadian cottagers. And the boats of all Birch Islanders from Canada are in the water and ready to go.
Folks from the US will have to wait until at least June 21 to be allowed back in to Canada, according to current info.
When at the marina: remember to maintain social distancing. Park cars as far apart as possible, and wait in your car until others in a nearby car are well clear of you. Do the same thing at the docks: don’t go onto a dock until others have cleared it. Don’t land your boat at an occupied dock–wait.
Stay 2 meters from marina staff. The marina buildings are closed to all except staff. And there is a window on the side of the building for making payments or other transactions. Gas is available.
Courtesy and thoughtful actions will get us through this pandemic.
I wish you a great start to the cottage season!
Bob Cavenagh on behalf of
Sand Lake Marine and the Birch Island Residential Property Owners Association (ie: BIRPOA).
It has been called ‘a spring like no other.’ Between severe illness and stay at home orders, the coronavirus has transformed many lives. Many, perhaps most of us, would love to get to our cottages for a bit of change. As of this morning the signals on when that can happen are somewhat mixed and the best advice is to contact Sand Lake Marine directly (613-359-5612). They have launched all the boats of Canadian cottagers but have been told not to release them to owners. On the other hand, the Sand Lake public launch ramps are now open, so anyone with a trailer boat can launch it themselves and get to the island. Official permissions may wait until after the Victoria Day long weekend (May 16-18).
Some things are clear: the marina buildings are closed to all who don’t work there and a window has been set up for making payments, etc. Being at the marina will require some thoughtful social distancing, especially around marina staff, in the parking lot, and at the docks. Their current recommendations: when parking, park well apart when feasible and delay your own activities until you can stay 2 meters from others who are there. Similarly, leave plenty of distance at the docks, staying in your boat or on land until the dock is clear. And please wear masks.
For the moment, dock carts (provided by BIRPOA and not the marina) will NOT be put out in accordance with provincial guidelines. When that changes, regard the carts and other surfaces as potentially contaminated and take the now usual precautions.
The Township of Rideau Lakes (www.rideaulakes.ca) has created a COVID-19 information page with periodic updates. A total burn ban has been in place, but as of today cooking/camp fires of suitable size are now permitted from 6pm to 6am. The township also states that island trash service will begin on Sunday, 19 May, from 4-6pm at Sand Lake Marine. It is worth bookmarking the site.
On the island we will still need to maintain social distancing, but we do have plenty of room to roam. The AGM is scheduled for 10am August 2, though that may evolve. For the moment the island library will stay closed in accordance with provincial requirements. We hope that the canoe race may be able to go on.
Once at the island, it is a good idea to connect with your neighbors as we may need to provide support for each other over the summer.
Lisa Glover at the marina reports that Gordanier’s grocery store is open for business, with access limited to ten people at a time in the store. She notes they face the same shortages as other stores. The LCBO is open, as is the licensing office at the hardware store. The Rideau Pizzeria and Restaurant in Elgin is providing takeout meals, as are the Cove and Tangled Garden in Westport. The hours of these organizations have evolved, so be sure to check. Since some supplies are uncertain it is a good idea to bring everything you will need with you, at least for a first trip to the cottage.
We are rebuilding the birchisland.info website to take advantage of newer web technology. It will take us a while to get all the pieces back together and to begin to expand the site, so do check back periodically. And check there for news updates.
With a bit of care on all our parts we should be able to have a great summer on Birch Island.
We hope to see you there!
Bob Cavenagh for the BIRPOA Executive (BIRPOA is the Birch Island Residential Property Owner’s Association)
We hope everyone had a safe and healthy winter. Now at this time we hope you are practicing self isolation during this Covid-19 break out. We have had many calls and emails from people wanting to get to their cottage early. At this time the lake still has ice!! So safe travel will not be possible for a few weeks. As you know in the spring we need to launch numerous boats before parking is available. We will need time to do this before customers arrive.
With this Covid-19 crisis we will be asking all customers to stay out of the shop, service area and Marina buildings! We need to protect our marina staff and families. This is our number one priority at this time. Our township has declared a state of emergency. This means that there are certain measures of limited services allowed to be available for people. We have to and will do our part to help out this situation.
As of right now Sand Lake Marine is CLOSED. That means no one is permitted to come into the facility. No one!
For people on Sand Lake going to Birch and Walnut Islands we will have your fuel tanks full when we do launch boats as we feel this will cut down on personal interaction with the marina staff. We will continue to monitor the situation and will keep everyone informed of when the marina opens.
We pray that all this gets behind us soon and everyone gets to enjoy the summer at beautiful Sand Lake.Please stay safe and healthy.
Your Friends at Sand Lake Marine Inc.David Glover
PS. PLEASE DO NOT EMAIL US TO DISCUSS – OUR EMAIL BOX IS FULL!