Peterborough County council is in favour of proposed provincial amendments to better regulate floating accommodations and camping on water over public lands in Ontario.
During Wednesday’s meeting, council received correspondence from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry which outlines a number of proposed amendments for floating accommodations. Many of the recommendations came following extensive public consultations and feedback received in 2022.
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Notably, the amendment will clarify the definition of a “camping unit” that would allow for camping on water over public lands for live-aboards, cabin cruisers and houseboats.
Float homes, barges with residential units or camping facilities will not be permitted.
Other changes for camping on water over public lands:
- The number of days a person can camp on water over public land will be reduced to seven days from 21.
- Camping on water must be more than 300 metres from a developed shoreline, including any waterfront structure, dock, boathouse, erosion control structure, altered shoreline, boat launch and/or fill.
- The distance that a person camping on water must move their camping unit to occupy a different location changed to 1 kilometre from 100 metres.
As well, current rules and regulations for camping on public land will be harmonized with camping on water. There will also be conditions for swim rafts, jumps, heat loops and water intake pipes and a prohibition on camping on a road, trail, parking lot or boat launch.
Bryan Weir, the county’s director of planning and public works, says the proposed amendments are “very significant” and provide a definition for a floating accommodation.
In April 2022, county staff submitted a report to the ministry on floating accommodations. Council sent a letter to the Ministry, outlining concerns about floating accommodations and its current “broad” definition, urging the responsibility rested with the province.
“The major thing is that you’re not getting these floating sea-cans; these floating cottages that were never intended for navigation,” Weir said.
“They’ve been prohibited from camping on water and I think that’s a positive step and in line with the comments we provided last spring.”
Weir says the issue has been “divisive,” citing concerns he has heard about noise, economic impact on businesses that rely on vessel traffic, and arguments that landowners are being given preferential treatment with the proposed 300-metre restriction from the shoreline.
Carol Armstrong, deputy mayor for the Municipality of Trent Lakes Deputy, says she was pleased to see the ministry assume jurisdiction of floating accommodations.
“In the Muskoa area, particularly, this has been a real problem,” she said. “People have brought up shipping containers and put them on floats and are living on them. There’s a proliferation of them on some lakes and it has become problematic.”
North Kawartha Township Mayor Caroyl Amyotte echoed the sentiment.
“I really appreciate the harmonizing of it,” she said. “I certainly want to bring this forward to our local township for further support and endorsement. These changes are a good thing and are necessary.
Otonabee-South Monaghan Township Mayor Joe Taylor says he “fully supports” the proposed amendments.
“I fully support the changes — it might be divisive — but I know what side I sit on — I fully support the changes the MNRF are proposing,” he said.
Both he and Havelock-Belmont-Methuen Mayor Jim Martin highlighted the importance of enforcement of the amendments.
“I do hope enforcement doesn’t fall on the shoulders of our conservation officers,” said Taylor. “There are already too few and too big of an area.”
“They can put all these things out there that they want but if they’re not going to enforce it, it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on,” said Martin. “But there’s good information and good things here and it sounds like they’re trying to move forward.”
Council agreed to send a letter to the ministry endorsing the amendments while also highlighting the importance of enforcement.
The government is accepting public feedback on the proposed amendments until April 11. Visit the proposal summary for a portal to submit comments.