Built Heritage News – Nov. 11, 2014: Lead item concerns the fate of Bala Falls

You can access the newsletter here.

The lead item reads:

Letter to Premier Wynne re: Bala Falls

Dear Honourable Kathleen Wynne,

I am writing to you in regard to the proposed Bala Falls waterpower project at the location of the beautiful Bala Falls in Bala, Muskoka, Ontario.

Four years ago, the citizens of Muskoka Lakes elected a pro-heritage Mayor and Town Council. They were given a strong mandate to protect and preserve all which makes the Township of Muskoka Lakes a beautiful place to live and to visit. The Township of Muskoka Lakes relies heavily on tourism and has been voted to National Geographic’s Top Ten list of places to visit for three years out of the last five years. Here is a video made just this past weekend (during Cranberry Festival) that will give you an idea of just how beautiful Bala is.

One of the first priorities of this current town council, elected in October 2010, was to set up a Heritage Committee for the Township of Muskoka Lakes. I have had the great honour and privilege to serve on this committee along with several other concerned citizens and also many wonderful and knowledgeable people who have advised us along the way.

In January of 2013, our Heritage Committee came before the Conservation Review Board of Ontario seeking input regarding several heritage designations in the small town of Bala. These were met with great approval by the presiding judge, and the ruling was in our favour. These heritage designations have formed the basis for a Heritage District in the heart of the town of Bala. Our heritage committee then hired a consulting firm, MHBC, who worked with us with the goal of creating a heritage district in Bala. Last Friday, we met the final criteria when MHBC presented before the Township of Muskoka Lakes Town Council on our behalf. The Township of Muskoka Lakes town council voted overwhelmingly in favour of a Heritage District in Bala. This land is the heart of Bala, and includes our most beloved Bala Falls. The Bala Falls have been an attraction to the Town of Bala since settlers and tourists started arriving in Bala in the late 1800s. Our First Nations people have been using the portage route just south of the North Bala Falls for many hundreds – if not thousands – of years. This confluence of land and water is at the spiritual heart of this area. There are three churches in close proximity which demonstrates the spirituality of the place.

I understand that the Minister of the Environment has recently been asked to consult with Chief Phillip Franks of the Wahta community near Bala, as this land is very special to the Wahta people and their ancestors. This is a positive development, as the people in the community of Wahta say they have not been consulted.

I also understand that the Green Energy Act indicates that cultural and heritage landscapes must be protected.

You have said in the past that you would listen to communities. Our community has spoken out very clearly, and we do not want or need this power plant in Bala. Please take the time to listen to our plea. This would be a great time to listen to our First Nations people, and to the citizens of Township of Muskoka Lakes, who have overwhelmingly said the Bala Falls are important to our community. In a recent survey, approximately 85% of residents of the Township of Muskoka Lakes indicated they did not want a power plant at the Bala Falls. They do not want to destroy the natural beauty of the area, nor do they want restricted public access to the waterfront, which has been accessible for many generations.

Please help stop this hydro plant from destroying our beautiful community of Bala.

Thank you for taking the time to hear my concerns, I look forward to your reply.


Anne Polewski

Editor’s Note:

Big News here is that the Power Plant at Bala Falls is on hold pending consultation with Wahta Natives. No lease has been signed between the province and the Hydro Development Company, Swift River. That it has been stalled this long is a testament to the dogged determination of Mayor Alice Murphy, who has held this project off for four years….critical change was the entry of the Wahta Natives at the 11th hour. Anne Polewski has a post card collection of Bala of several hundred images, and gave evidence at the CRB hearing regarding the designation under Part IV for several sites in the core of Bala.

[End of excerpt]


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