RIP ROARING ON FOSTER'S LAKE, CARLOW MAYO
Hello from Kelly at Think Turtle Conservation Initiative
I was surprised to recently learn of proposed plans to bring 'Watercross Racing' to Bancroft this summer and that the chosen site for this event is Foster's Lake situated in Carlow Mayo.
Having spoken with people in the community no one seems to know what 'Watercross Racing' is as a result they are not familiar with the concerns that accompany such an activity. I am educating as I go. When I inform them that it is essentially racing snowmobiles on water instead of ice the reactions have been less then enthusiastic and people have expressed concerns to do with noise, wildlife and the environment.
If you are reading this and are situated in a community other then Carlow Mayo it is my hope you will view this information as a heads-up should a watercross racing event be proposed in your community.
For anyone not familiar with watercross racing here is a bit more information. Winter snowmobiles referred to as 'sleds' are modified for watercross racing to enable racers to skip, buck, jump and wheelie their way to ferocious speeds well in excess of 60 mph across the surface of the water while navigating around a course. The modifications can include tunnel extensions, watertight seals (sometimes just loads of duct tape), crankcase drains, mod pipes, as well as race specific clutching and gearing. Note: The horsepower of each sled will average around the 100HP mark.
Watercross racing is noted for being fast, loud, and although the intention is to hydroplane across the water, the sleds often end up at the bottom of the lake according to the Ontario Watercross Racing Association (OWRA) and recent accounts since posting this yesterday. Pontoon boats with winches are used to haul up the sleds from underwater between races.
The sleds and high speed activity most certainly presents negative stresses on animals, plants, soils (shoreline and lake bed), air and water quality, and the ecology of both the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. A two day event of this type may not seem like enough time to cause damage but it is enough time to cause a disturbance that can set off a negative cycle where one impact leads to and compounds the next leading to long-term, and potentially cumulative adverse impacts.
Foster's Lake is a quiet but popular beach with picnic tables and shelters featuring spectacular views of rolling hills, old growth forests and pretty sunsets. The appeal of this pristine lake to local residents, cottagers and visitors is the serenity it offers being a relatively small lake, 8 hectares, with an average depth of 20', 52' in the deepest parts and a generous shallow entry point.
The lake is devoid of much water vehicle activity having been restricted to motors of 15 horsepower or less since 1971. All of this contributes to this lake being home to a healthily aquatic ecosystem supported by much biodiversity. The lake and natural surroundings are the habitat for many wildlife species, aquatic, terrestrial and avian. Wildlife sightings are a regular occurrence year round. Note: The pontoon boats used to haul-up the sleds from underwater are fitted with a 600 cc motor and generate 60 - 65 horsepower exceeding the 15 horsepower restriction in place for Foster's Lake. This lake is no place for the rip roaring of watercross racing.
I'm not looking to begrudge anyone having a good time and understand that economic opportunities are always being sought for small communities and are essential but the impact such an event there is more then money to think about. While watercross racing is being promoted by OWRA as having economic appeal there are significant negative impacts to people (watercross participants and spectators included), wildlife and the environment associated with watercross racing that aren't being fully considered even by OWRA as I see it. Just because damage isn't visible doesn't mean it is there and not happening.
Every website and brochure to be found about cottage country and rural communities in Ontario promotes picturesque views, beautiful lakes and the 'tranquility' the natural environment these regions have to offer. These campaigns are successful at enticing new residents, cottagers and visitors because many people want to escape the noisy, frenzied hustle and bustle of urban communities and connect with nature.
These days everyone, elected officials and citizens, need to be giving more thought to the environmental impact of the activities we personally engage in and those being considered to introduce into a community. Not weighing up the negative impacts does not make sense and is in essence chipping away at the very foundations cottage country is recognized for and tourism is based on.
For communities to be turning efforts to attracting people via events that negatively impact wildlife and the environment could actually represent a trade off of visitors and even a loss as environmentally conscious tourists may turn their attentions to communities that value and lookout for the natural environment in their region. Eco-friendly community events and eco-tourism experiences are especially important to many people and especially families with youngsters. Many people are concerned about potential damage to the environment and loss of biodiversity, and about the finite nature of the earth's resources. More people then ever are expressing their concerns as such introducing activities into a community that negatively impact wildlife and the environment stands to put many visitors off.
Many resort owners, B & B's, AirBnB's and cottage owners that rent out their property during cottage season as well as year round residents in rural communities would have many stories to share and concerns to express at proposals to attract visitors that show little concern for protecting wildlife and the environment vs. people that are concerned.
The tranquil lakes in Ontario are not a place for the noise and environmental impacts that accompany watercross racing. The beautiful sounds of birds and nature should not be compromised for an event that would do more harm then good. For the people that won't let watercross racing along with other activities that negatively impact the environment go consideration to construct a location specifically for it is something that should be looked at instead of exposing lakes throughout Ontario to risks and ecological impact associated with watercross racing. Someone suggested as an alternative a dead lake for this use although considerations for the surrounding environment would need to be considered. I do not have all the answers but as concerns for all of earth's inhabitants and the natural environment escalate we needs to be looking to changes to be made to ensure biodiversity and healthy functioning ecosystems the quality of our future and generations to come depends on it.
What follows below is a detailed account of some of the negative impacts. I recommend reading it entirely. There may be concerns that have not occurred to some people.
In case you do not read on, if you are a property owner, cottager or resident of the Carlo Mayo and Bancroft area I would encourage you to write to the Carlow Mayo Township Council members to express your concerns regarding a proposed watercross racing event being scheduled at Foster's Lake in July or August. The council e-mail addresses are included at the end of this post. Thank you.
Noise Pollution: Watercross sleds are loud and can be heard across vast distances, severely affecting the soundscape. This noise over a two day period would disturb and be distressing to people and wildlife. Would you welcome hearing high-speed engines revving from 9 am to 4 pm? Noise pollution is recognized as being almost as detrimental to humans as air pollution. Imagine how wildlife would be impacted by two days of high-speed activity. Environmental advocates say engine noise can disturb wildlife, potentially driving some species from their habitats.
Air Pollution: Claims that the OWRA does make efforts to at least minimize the negative impact watercross racing has on citizens, wildlife and the environment is supported. OWRA does insist each watercross sled has a closed fuel system, uses biodegradeable oil and that high-octane fuel is used to minimize emissions. This does represent environmental initiatives that are a step in the right direction and fair dues it is a noted effort but it does not erase emission concerns or eliminate the negative environmental effects associated with hosting a watercross racing event in the great outdoors.
Note: High octane fuel has been found to have 'fewer' pollutants and is, therefore, more environmentally friendly. It does contain some pollutants.
Note: Biodegradeable oils are more eco-friendly but studies show that the machinery needed to cultivate the crops (e.g. canola, rapeseed, sunflower and soybean) emits large carbon emissions.
Emissions: Although newer snowmobile models are marginally quieter and cleaner, they have a bad environmental reputation. Snowmobiles not equipped with a catalytic converter can emit more hydrocarbons, nitrous oxides and carbon monoxide then cars and other road vehicles. Snowmobiles equipped with a catalytic converter while better, this only puts their emissions on par with cars and other road vehicles meaning the they emit greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change concerns. The levels of carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM) should be a primary concern to everyone including watercross participants and spectators. CO is noxious to humans especially in close proximity and over an extended period of time as a watercross event would present. PM is a confirmed human carcinogen by Environmental Protection Agencies.
Note: Air pollution and emissions even to a lesser degree are still a concern. If you can smell it, you are taking in pollutants and they can affect the heart, not just our lungs. Pollutants degrade air quality and alter the environmental chemistry.
Shoreline Damage: 4 to 5 sleds taking off from the shoreline into the water can tear-up the area good and proper. A number of 400 lb sleds being driven over the grassy areas that would serve as the pit area and service bays for sometimes as many as 200 watercross sleds would subject the area to rigorous wear and tear far greater then usual possibly meaning costs to the community to restore. This has implications on taxpayers and some may have something to say about that.
Sediment Churning: A sled sinking to the bottom of the lake may seem funny to some and render a few laughs after the fact but a 400 lb sled settling on a lake bed stands to stir up sediment, cause damage to an otherwise undisturbed lake bed that supports an ecosystem. Stirring up sediment can add additional nutrients to the water, potentially causing excessive algae growth leading to algae blooms. These algae blooms can lead to a depletion of oxygen in the water, release of toxins and taste and odor problems. Algae blooms can reduce the ability of fish and other aquatic life to find food and can cause entire populations to leave an area or even die. Multiple 'sleds' sinking over a period of two days increases this kind of threat and damage.
Wakes: It is important that pontoon boats and sleds are mindful of the wake each water vehicle makes. Large wakes can cause damage to shorelines and interrupt wildlife in and around a lake. Shoreline nesting animals like loons, who build their nests in areas along the shore where wind-driven waves do not normally reach will be negatively impacted from increased wave activity and high waves. Note: Are requirements related to wake concerns being addressed by the OWRA at these events?
Vegetation Damage: A 400 lb water sled that ends up at the bottom of the lake will cause damage to the aquatic vegetation and its vascular structure. Thereby rendering vegetation incapable of nutrient transport and function. This can affect growth and availability to aquatic wildlife. This can reduce plant density for an undetermined period of time affecting the aquatic wildlife that relies on it as a food source, natural habitat and protective cover. Multiple sleds sinking over a two day watercross event would increase the likelihood of this kind of damage and threat.
Invasive Species: The spreading of invasive aquatic plant species is always a concern with water vehicles, watercross sleds being no exception. Aquatic plants can and do get caught on the underside of water vehicles. Sleds arriving on site that were not cleaned after previous usage could introduce an invasive plant species into an otherwise healthy lake. If the lake a watercross event is hosted contains invasive species sleds not cleaned could could potentially contaminate the next body of water they enter. Note: Will OWRA be taking precautionary measures to prevent and mitigate the spread of invasive species from one lake to another during this event? Will the sleds be inspected and cleaned before entering, exiting the lake and leaving the site?
Aquatic Life: The number of pontoon boats and sleds on the lake would be a threat to turtles, fish, loons, cranes,crayfish, amphibians and reptiles, etc. All aquatic wildlife has an important role to fulfill and as such needs to be preserved and protected from unnecessary stresses and potentially damaging human activities. The risk of propeller injuries is always a concern. A sled sinking to the lake bed could potentially cause injury or mortality to unsuspecting or curious aquatic wildlife such as: turtles, loons and fish.
Biodiversity/Ecosystems: Animal, plant and aquatic biodiversity keeps ecosystems functional. Healthy ecosystems allow us to survive, get enough food to eat and make a living. Watercross racing is one of those human activites that poses a threat to the biodiversity and ecosystems any lake and the surrounding region are home to.
Note: Also just found out, budget-conscious watercross participants may be looking to camp overnight at Foster Lake Park. This would mean other considerations would need to be addressed to lessen the human impact to Foster Lake and the park should this event be scheduled. e.g. camp fires, excess garbage, porta-pottys, people washing themselves or their dishes in the lake, noise through the night, etc. Note: A former resident from the area has pointed out that camping is not allowed in Foster Lake Park. Meaning the council may be looking to see about getting the boat motor hp restrictions and camping lifted for the event.
Watercross racing has been shunned in some communities due to the noise and impact to wildlife and the environment. With all due respect it doesn't make sense to support an event that has unhealthy aspects for nearby residents, wildlife and the natural environment as well as the participants and spectators.If OWRA is really committed to lessening the ecological impact of watercross racing leaving Ontario's lake alone is the best way to go about that. Continuing to use the lakes and other bodies of water in this way negates efforts made to appear environmentally conscious. If watercross racing manages to have a future at a time when more and more people are in support of eco-friendly activities and experiences looking to a constructed aquatic facility specifically for the sport in one location would be an alternative. All said and done watercross racing events are about making money. Using the natural beauty of a lake and the picturesque views that accompany it is for show to make lots of dough.
Thank you for reading this. It is hoped the content of this post provides information that is helpful to people in other communities as well that a Watercross racing event has been proposed. If such an event has been proposed I would encourage those involved in the decision making process and the people in the community to check out videos to get a better sense of what is being proposed and to consult with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in your district and/or other conservation organizations. An ecological impact assessment should be looked into prior to approving such an event.
You may not see yourself as being a steward to the earth but we all are or at least should be as we all have a vested interest. Moving forward it would be great to see tourism generated in communities in Ontario by emphasizing a community's commitment to environmental concerns and teaching fellow travelers how to respect wildlife and the natural environment as we do.
It would be greatly appreciated if you could share this information with family, friends and associates and ask them to do the same.
Please be safe on the roads and mindful of wildlife we share the roads with this time of the year.
Think Turtle Conservation Initiative
Username: Wallace Kathleen Kelly
Facebook Post #463
Carlo Mayo Town Council
Reeve Bonnie Adams
Councillor - Ward One (Carlow)
Councillor - Ward One (Carlow)
Councillor- Ward Two (Mayo)
Councillor -Ward Two (Mayo)