Ban Uncontrolled Use of #Fireworks on Maple Lake, Ontario and the #Haliburton Highlands

Ξ August 28th, 2010 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Algonquin Township, Canada, cottage country, government/politics, Haliburton, Haliburton Highlands, health/happiness, holiday(s), Maple Lake Ontario, Minden Hills Township, nature, Ontario, summertime |

I had planned to address the topic of setting off fireworks every summer weekend over Maple Lake even before I saw the “Letter(s) of the Week” in the Haliburton County Voice.

These letters, written by local cottage country property owners were not only food for thought but were enlightening in their enumerations of all the ways uncontrolled personal use of fireworks in cottage country is a very bad thing.

To digress for a moment, prior to this year I, Canadian born, and raised in Connecticut from ages 6-18 by Canadians with frequent returns to my entire extended family in Canada, found the Canadians that I encountered in Canada to be…not like Americans. For starters, they confirmed the oft-repeated stereotype by being refreshingly polite–if more the “arm’s length”- formal kind of politeness.

But does this type of “politeness” extend so far for some Canadians who hold a decisive opinion about a matter such as the fireworks but chose to pretend the issue does not exist? And is it at it’s base due to fear!?! Is there a fear among Ontarians that they will be perceived as impolite to speak up when they feel a large wrong needs righting?

I don’t know. I really hope not.

I always had a sort of idealized notion of what a Canadian is/was. But growing up, I was always steered in the direction of not talking about things that might make other people uncomfortable–even if said thing needed to be addressed–so for better or worse, here goes.

About five years ago a neighbour on Maple Lake, a year-rounder I believe, began setting off fireworks every single weekend of the summer. (This is not a precise accounting. I simply know that no matter when I went to the Lake, from the last weekend in May when we opened through Labour Day when we close, it was and has been the case.)

I hoped it was a passing phase as the fireworks startled me and scared the daylights out of my dog–and they destroyed the peacefulness that used to be indigenous to our little lake which is dotted with year-round personal residences and cottages.

The setting off of fireworks phase has not passed, however. I’ve realized belatedly that it is not just a band of folks on Maple Lake that have gone ga-ga over something that I’ve always thought very American. To embrace the crassness of setting off  fireworks whenever and wherever you please, for there can be no other way to describe their intrusiveness when they go off unexpectedly near your home,  is to ignore the specialness of setting them off one or two nights a YEAR.

So to everyone who still insists that setting fireworks off every weekend of the summer is special–as well as your “right,” as someone who has grown up with the American traditions involving fireworks let me tell you: You are acting like a bunch of Americans.

You are Canada. You will never be the United States nor do you want to be, trust me on this. Let’s just cite one reason: preserving your national identity as Canadians. Both countries have much to laud but they are separate, distinct entities unique unto themselves.

Let me reiterate the very real ramifications of Uncontrolled Use of Fireworks on Maple Lake and other lakes in cottage county:

1. Fireworks increase the potential of fires

2. Noise pollution and the consequences (e.g. loons leaving, tourists leaving)

3. Toxicity to the air, water, and surrounding grounds***

*Let me expound a bit about the toxicity of fireworks. They get shot off mostly over the lakes. Unlike how it may appear, they do not just explode. The reality is that the exploded debris falls into the water, along with the chemical residue. Yes, this is bad for the ecosystem and even if you don’t really care about the ecosystem and shame on you if you don’t–you are poisoning your own water.
Whatever you dump on the ground near a lake seeps into the water table eventually and then it gets into your water–your swimming water and in the case of our cottage, our tap & shower water. This dovetails into #4…

4. Interfering with wildlife habitats.

First-hand story. Last year I spent about a month living on Maple Lake. Despite the rainy and seasonally cold weather of  the summer of 2009 on Maple Lake, I could hear and sometimes see a pair of loons that have taken up residence on the Lake each summer for as long as I can recall. Their haunting calls are unmistakable and for me, comforting that some things don’t change (though I wouldn’t know if the specific pairs of loons changed–I would guess they’d have had to)–you can count on them. Or so I thought.

I’m soon heading up to Maple Lake and I’m going to try to find a second loon on our lake because instead of the minimum 2 that I’ve seen every year for as long as I can remember–I’ve only heard the sound of a single, solitary loon in 2010.

Did my neighbour and his regular weekend fireworks frenzy drive away one of Maple Lake’s loons and if so, are we going to lose the single remaining loon, too?

I’m not at all an expert about loons. I just know they bring me stolen moments of serenity. Loons are beautiful creatures to behold as they duck under the water and resurface 100 or more feet away in their elaborate “game” of try-to-find-me.
What I can say with confidence are the facts as I’ve observed them.

I have a neighbour across the way who every weekend of the summer at about 9:30 p.m. sets off about 20 minutes-worth of fireworks. He (I presume it’s a “he”) scares my older dog out of her senses. She quivers & shakes both during the noise assault and long after. The noise kills the atmosphere of peacefulness that Maple Lake always exuded. I’ve now read that this is a problem for other lakes in cottage country and the fallout (no pun) is remarkably similar to our own.

Naturally, the question of what have I done to try to solve this problem ? is a relevant one. I’ve worried and complained about it as I’m doing here for the first time but have I addressed this with the people setting off the fireworks? The answer is no, I have not. I was hoping the novelty would wear off but of course, it hasn’t or I wouldn’t be speaking up now. Now I do want to try and have courteous conversation with them but I cannot figure out where exactly they live. It is somewhere in here:

Area of Fireworks Activity on Maple Lake

Please click to enlarge.

As you can see by the named roads this is a densely populated area of Maple Lake and it’s going to take some sleuthing to find out “who” is shooting off fireworks on their property out over out lake every. single. weekend. Not to mention to do the sleuthing I’m going to need to either go to the site of the fireworks by canoe or trespass on “private property.”

Even here in the U.S. of A. in the great state of Illinois (absolutely no sarcasm–I love where I live) there are much stricter limits on the type of fireworks that can be bought legally. For us, it’s sparklers and poppers essentially but then, we do a very American thing. On and around Independence Day a/k/a The Fourth of July, towns and cities alike put on displays for everyone to enjoy. They have a distinct beginning and end, are controlled for safety and someone cleans up afterward. Not perfect but way more in-line with something I used to think was a standard Canadian trait: civility and respect for one another and the environment.

I do believe that both countries share in the desire to put a halt to unnecessary pollution of our precious natural surroundings. Surely banning unregulated use of fireworks in cottage country, Haliburton County specifically, is unquestionably a positive step that we, as stewards of this planet, should not hesitate to take.

Am I going to continue to be the “misdirected” polite Canadian and ignore what is being done to Maple Lake in the name of a (very) few people’s need to entertain themselves with exploding gunpowder? Nope. Can’t do it anymore. I love the Lake too much. And I’m not walking away. I’m digging in. (On a personal note, it was harder to attempt to do so this year as my youngest son was preparing for college and I was needed back here in Chicagoland.)

I’m willing to meet halfway in my suggestion for a remedy as is so often the end result of circumstances like this. If I made the law, I would allow use of fireworks on specific holidays like the July 1st Canada Day, Victoria Day on May 24 and quite possibly both the civic holiday on the 1st Monday in August and on Labour Day. The rest of the time I’d allow small “personal” fireworks like sparklers & poppers that will neither drive away our wildlife or our human residents and vacationers alike who would prefer to enjoy their evening without the punctuations of those that wish to emulate bombs exploding.

I’d love to hear any sincere comments, ideas or suggestions from you about on fireworks in Ontario’s cottage country so use the comment box or please drop me a line at


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