Myths & Realities of Algonquin Cottage Leaseholds

Myth # 1: Cottage Leaseholding is not compatible with Park Objectives.

Reality: Algonquin Park is a Natural Environment Park, not a wilderness. That means there are multiple uses there, such as recreation services including stores, a fast food outlet and a restaurant, nature services, logging, private summer camps for children, private lodges, scientific research facilities, AND cottage leases. Cottage leases are no less compatible than any of the other current uses.

Myth # 2: There are far too many leases in Algonquin Park taking up a significant portion of the Park.

Reality: There are only 304 cottage leases in the Park on 19 lakes, and most of these leases are on lakes adjacent to the Highway 60 corridor or railroad rights of way. Cottage leases collectively occupy less than 1/6000 of Algonquin's total area.

Myth # 3: Having cottages in the Park is bad for the environment.

Reality: Cottaging in Algonquin is a very low-impact activity. Nearly all of the buildings are of modest size and construction, set back from the shore to blend in with the surrounding forest, and have no road access and no hydro. Outboard motors are limited to 20 hp, and the use of "sea-doos" as well as activities like water-skiing are not permitted. The vast majority of cottages are used only half of the year, and Algonquin leaseholders are presently engaged in a septic system re-inspection project. There has never been a reported incident of pollution by a leaseholder. Algonquin Eco-Watch supports the renewal of Algonquin cottage leaseholds.

Myth # 4: Cottagers are "at odds" with Park officials and other users of the Park.

Reality: Algonquin Cottagers have a positive and constructive relationship with Park officials, and past Park Superintendents have agreed that we have earned the right to stay. We have provided assistance to canoeists, inexperienced campers, those who are lost or injured, and those who are engaged in fire fighting activity throughout the Park. Beyond this, most Park users don't even notice us.

Myth # 5: Leaseholders don't pay their way or contribute to the well-being of Algonquin.

Reality: Algonquin leaseholders pay land rents for their cottage lots and are in fact a stable source of revenue for the Park. In addition, they pay a service fee to cover their share of the services provided by the Park, and daily parking fees like everyone else. As well as their patronage of many local businesses, Algonquin cottagers, through organized associations, provide regular support to the Huntsville Memorial Hospital Foundation, and to The Friends of Algonquin. Leaseholders have "given back" in other ways. They serve on the board of The Friends of Algonquin, the Timber Management review committee, the Committee of External Advisors (assisting Ontario in negotiations for the land Claim advanced by the Algonquin First Nations); they have written top selling books at the Algonquin bookstore, created world famous nature recordings and films of the Algonquin environment, and have served on government commissions charged with developing management policy.

Myth # 6: There are no other leases in the Park.

Reality: There are seven summer camps for children and three lodges for visitors vacationing in the Park. There are also several businesses in various locations that operate under contracts issued for the provision of various services.

Myth # 7: There is a great deal of public concern about the continued existence of cottage leases in Algonquin Park.

Reality: The presence of Algonquin cottage leaseholds, along with leaseholds for lodges and summer camps are perceived by most as a non-controversial part of today's Algonquin. During the recent public hearings into Bill 11, the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act 2005, at which approximately 18 interest groups participated over a two-day period, not a single concern was raised regarding the existence of cottage leases in Algonquin Park , even though there is a provision in the new Act specifically conferring upon the Minister the right to extend the term of existing cottage leases (s.13).

Myth # 8: Cottage leases are not allowed within the boundaries of other Parks.

Reality: There are many other Provincial Parks with cottages in them here in Ontario and in other provinces. Killarney Provincial Park has numerous cottages within its boundaries that are owned outright and predate the formation of the Park. In 2005, Ontario created the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. It has hundreds of privately owned homes and cottages within its perimeter. There are 5000 cottages in 17 provincial parks in Manitoba; 2000 cottages in provincial parks in Saskatchewan; and 500 cottages in provincial parks in Alberta. Algonquin is far from unique in this regard.

Myth # 9: All other leases in Algonquin Park are terminating in 2017 so cottage leases should terminate as well.

Reality: The commercial leases in the Park (the children's summer camps and lodges) were extended in 2005 for renewable tenure of up to 60 years. The same opportunity should be afforded to cottage leases given the positive role cottagers have played over the course of the Park's history, environmentally, economically, and by assisting other Park visitors.

Myth # 10: Termination of the leases is a simple matter that comes with no cost.

Reality: The termination of leases in Algonquin Park would put an end to a vibrant, long-standing community with a history and roots that go back well over 100 years, and in which many members have a continuous family presence stretching across many generations. The end of cottage leases would require the destruction of leasehold buildings and the associated loss of many millions of dollars of property value to the families involved. Algonquin Park would lose the regular and stable source of revenue in leasehold rents and fees, and businesses in surrounding communities would lose the patronage of leaseholders and their extended families.

Myth # 11: Leaseholders accepted an extension of their leases to 2017 and agreed to leave thereafter.

Reality: Leases were extended following a policy review in 1986, and the government recognized that the policy of eventual termination, while not reversed at the time, was open to review in the future. This was evident in the government's refusal to ask leaseholders to relinquish any further claim for extension beyond 2017. Algonquin leaseholders have never acknowledged termination as a fair or proper policy for the Park.

Myth # 12: Because of cottage leases in Algonquin, there is no more wilderness.

Reality: Leases are situated along the Highway 60 corridor and on lakes in the north with road access or on railway rights of way. The Recreation / Utilization zone along the highway corridor, and other road access lakes, serve as buffers for the Wilderness zones, according to the Management Plan for Algonquin.

Myth # 13: There are no campsites available for overnight campers to the Park and this is where the real demand by users is.

Reality: The largest part of the expansion to Visitor Services over the last 20 years has been in services to users traveling the Highway 60 corridor. These include:

  • Visitors Centre and bookstore
  • Logging Exhibit and theatre
  • NHE (Natural Heritage Education) publications
  • Algonquin Gallery
  • Increase in number and length of interpretive trails
  • Group Education programmes
  • Mountain Bike, cross-country skiing and hiking trails

None of these experiences cross paths with cottage leaseholds.