Wood Ash Recycling Program to Save Forest and Lakes in Muskoka

MUSKOKA — It’s a burning issue among some local environmentalists who remember the last campaign against acid rain.

Restoring calcium levels in forest soils and lakes will help replenish the area’s dwindling supply of crayfish and maple sap, according to new research co-led by York University.

And implementing a new residential wood ash program is the way to do, it says.

A project well underway for at least two years, is encouraging people to save their “clean” wood ash to put it back into the lakes.

Norman Yan, chair of Friends of the Muskoka Watershed, says: “Lack of calcium has slowed the growth, reproduction and development of trees in Muskoka’s forests.”

Calcium levels in soil and lakes are essential for the growth of all forms of life, but the levels across central Ontario are declining due to decades of acid rain, and it could take centuries for this calcium to rebuild on its own.

Researchers discovered that residential wood ash – a common household waste derived from wood-burning fireplaces and wood-fired ovens – was rich with the nutrients needed for restoring growth, including about 30 per cent calcium.

The study, published today in the journal FACETS, shows that adding controlled doses of cold residential wood ash to the watershed of Muskoka’s forests could help solve the calcium decline problem and boost forest growth.

“Calcium is an essential nutrient for all living things,” said Norman Yan, a senior scholar and professor emeritus of biology in the Faculty of Science, who co-led the study.

The well-known local scientist who has been studying the Muskoka Lakes for decades, says: “When you suffer from low calcium, you get osteoporosis and the ecosystem can suffer from osteoporosis as well. Many scientists have called this calcium decline problem ecological osteoporosis.”

Supplementing watershed soils with calcium-rich wood ash may also improve the region’s crayfish stock, water quality, seedling regeneration and sugar maple tree production of sap, used to make maple syrup.

“Lack of calcium has slowed the growth, reproduction and development of trees in Muskoka’s forests,” said Yan, chair of Friends of the Muskoka Watershed, a not-for-profit environmental organization that has conducted the research with York University, Dorset Environmental Science Centre, and Queen’s University.

While forest programs using industrial wood ash exist in areas of Europe such as Sweden, the use of the non-industrial residential wood ash has not been researched and tested until now, said the study co-author, Shakira Azan, a former post-doctoral biology student and research associate at York University.

“A lot of people in Muskoka burn wood for heat and some send it to the landfill so, by collecting and recycling their wood ash, we are diverting waste from landfills,” said Azan, an environmental project lead at Friends of the Muskoka Watershed.

The second phase of the research is AshMuskoka, a three-year pilot project which aims to be Canada’s first residential wood ash recycling program.

The project team, which launched in January, is working on securing 200 homeowners to donate their wood ash.

This fall, researchers will conduct small-scale wood ash additions to test dosage needs, develop tools to identify site-specific doses, and determine the benefits and harm of residential wood ash applications. The first test site will be three sugar bushes in Muskoka, where maple syrup producers are eager to see if the controlled doses will restore the bushes to good health and yield maple sap.

Friends of the Muskoka Watershed is working on the project with nine Canadian partners – including Trent University, University of Victoria, Laurentian University, Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association and York University’s Learning for a Sustainable Future.


10 Mile Creek Project

Six years working on this project and it's finally done. Special thanks to our liason Councillor Terry Glover for working with staff and fellow council members for the approval of the sign. Also thank you to Huntsville's RBC branch for their Community Day of Service and grant, Cathy Nystrom and Daphne Curtis who assisted with tree and shrub planting. Missing from the photo are George Daniels, Ben Boivin, MNR Biologist Steve Scholten who were the drivers for the Ten Mile Creek repair work. In photo Secretary/Treasurer - J. Godard, President - C. Daniels and Director D. Rolland.

Glenn Vickery’s Lake of Bays 220 KM Swim

A worthwhile marathon to raise awareness of shoreline preservation.

Glenn entered the Lake of Bays 8c water, in an insulated wet suit from England, at South Portage Public Dock on May 19th, 2018. He completed this magnificent achievement on August 6th, back at South Portage wading ashore from 25c water and without the need of a wet suit.

A core group of volunteers and four major sponsors established this important initiative. Glenn’s wife Arlee was joined by Judy Vanclief, the Andrew Daniels Fish Stewardship Foundation’s Director Jacquie Godard, Bruce Jamieson owner of Lake of Bays Boat Tours, Debbie Vernon and Daphne Curtis. With help and publicity were the Lake of Bays Boat Tours, The Friends of Muskoka Watershed Council, Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation, Lake of Bays Association and Andrew Daniels Fish Stewardship Foundation.

What a reception!  After many swimming legs and Glenn visiting 72 cottage docks along the way, “The Fish” (his nickname) arrived at South Portage Public Dock on Monday, August 6th.   A crowd of 60 plus enthusiastic supporters welcomed Glenn. His escorts were 10 swimmers, with a few others joining in along the way, 8 kayakers, 1 paddle boarder, 2 power boats and the Lake of Bays pontoon touring boat.

On shore the crowd were mostly dressed in the “Glenn’s Swim Lake of Bays 2018 PRESERVE OUR SHORELINE” t-shirts. Celebratory music was broadcast over the P.A. from Northern Nerds Computer group and their announcer Jason Tereszko  did a super job covering the concept of this magnificent 220 KM swim and its supporting volunteers and sponsors.

On the microphone and broadcast to everyone dockside Glenn gave an effective summary of his project.  He said, but not limited to, the following: 

“This effort was born out of the spirit of Lake of Bays. Swimming into 72 cottage docks I felt the personality and strong commitment to community on the lake shores. Being joined by other swimmers made the journey enjoyable. My wife Arlee, who I cannot thank enough, was accompanied in her kayak by other paddlers. This flotilla was special. What is obvious is we have a strong community committed to the environment and our lake. This is a foundation for the next hundred years. Thank you to the many volunteers, supporting organizations and sponsors for making it a meaningful fun project.”

Dr. Norman Yan said, “The friends of Muskoka Watershed Council are thrilled to be a sponsor and beneficiary of Glenn’s swim. His vision to protect the lake for the next hundred years matches perfectly with the Friends vision. “

The Andrew Daniels Fish Stewardship Foundation said that Glenn’s ‘preserve the shoreline mission’ is integral with the Foundations mission statement.

Judy Vanclief said  “ The message is clear.. we should be proud of this lake and its community. Kayaking around the lake with Glenn & Arlee’s entourage of paddlers has been the highlight of my summer and I’m sorry it’s over” while Jacquie Godard said that she will miss the comradery of this journey. She met so many supportive people along this journey and photographed some spectacular shorelines along the way. 

Glenn Vickery Swim for Shoreline Preservation

Glenn Vickery is about to take the plunge into Lake of Bays on May 19thto raise awareness of the importance of preserving the natural shoreline of Lake of Bays and preserving its water quality.  He also hopes to help raise awareness of three organizations who are trying to do the same in Muskoka, Andrew Daniels Fish Stewardship Foundation, Friends of the Muskoka Watershed and the Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation.
The mission and purpose of the Andrew Daniels Fish Stewardship Foundation is to help protect fish habitat, fish regeneration and components of the Lake of Bays and Muskoka aquatic system including, but not limited to, water quality and shoreline stabilization.

The Friends of the Muskoka Watershed vision is to foster the understanding, choices, actions and wise management necessary to ensure the protection of our freshwater resources forever. Their focus is on improving the quality and resistance to stress of freshwater lakes, rivers, and watersheds in Muskoka.

The vision of the Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation is of a Lake of Bays community that is engaged in the protection of its natural, built and cultural legacy for the enjoyment and benefit of current and future generations. 

To pledge, donate or participate in the swim in support of these three organizations please contact Arlee at 905-926-7959. 

Captain Bruce from Lake of Bays Boat Tours has graciously offered to escort and provide boat support for the first two swims.Captain Bruce has also designed and ordered 200 tee shirts for the swim and they will be sold for $20.00.   

Glenn’s swim around the lake begins on May 19th at 10 am. from the South Portage Public Boat Launch where he will swim frigid waters to Britannia Beach. More details will be posted about planned events around the swim.  Volunteers will be collecting donations at various locations around the lake commencing May 19th.  All cheques made payable to the Andrew Daniels Fish Stewardship Foundation.  At the end of Glenn’s swim in late August all proceeds raised will be shared three ways with the three organizations. 

The route is: South Portage to Baysville and will be done in 5 -6 stages. Baysville to Dorset which will be done in 5 stages. Glenn plans to do an organized swim on Canada Day, Sunday July 1st around Little Trading Bay. He will invite fellow swimmers starting the loop in Dorset and end up back in Dorset.  Dorset to Dwight Beach will be done in 9 stages and plans to arrive in Dwight on Sunday July 29th. From there it is into the home stretch and Glenn will be swimming from Dwight Beach to Rat Bay and then Rat Bay to the finish at South Portage.

Follow Glenn on his Facebook page Lake of Bays Shoreline Preservation Project and on Instagram @ glenn.vickery.