Congratulations to Wade Murrant for winning this year's Clear Lake Association 'Torrance Barrens Award'
Speech delivered by Mike Silver, Chair of the Guardians of the Dark Sky Group:
"WHERE PEOPLE MAY FREQUENT, BUT DO NOT REMAIN." That is the motto of the Torrance Barrens Conservation and Dark Sky Reserve---the 1st permanently designated dark sky reserve in the world! and a gem in the ecological crown of Muskoka. We have come a long way! Only a few years ago things were bad at the Barrens. Huge fire risks, rampant garbage, thoughtless camping, destructive partying and lots of noise. We were on the verge of losing an important asset. But we have reversed that trend.
Overall the theme today is one of gratitude---when you look at how far we have come regarding Barrens management in the last 3 years---above all and thanks to Wade Murrant (more on that in a moment)--and thanks to many of us here:
Thanks to the 2 mayors Phil Harding and Paul Kelly for their intervention and for the Town banning camping and fire-making in adjacent land.
To the councilors Ruth Nishikawa and Glenn Zavitz and John Gordon for championing the case for the Barrens in their respective Townships.
To the members of the Working group here, Joyce, Dayle, Mike, Ruth and John who have through their efforts and their personal time supported the Barrens and helped press the alarm bells when things started to deteriorate.
To Ian McLennan, President of the Clear Lake Association and member of the Working Group and to the whole Clear Lake board and the Clear Lake Association members who have cared about the Barrens and who have supported this award we are about to present.
To Greg Knight for organizing the annual clean ups at the Barrens through the resort and brewery.
To Charlie Wilkins who has written about the Barrens with passion and highlighted the problems---because the first step to solving a problem is realizing that you have one!
And now, finally, and most crucially, to the Man of the Year, Wade Murrant, Chair of the Barrens Working Group, Zone Manager at the Ministry of the Environment for the Torrance Barrens, without whose dedication and efforts we would be nowhere. But because of his efforts, we are implementing a new regime of 6 designated campsites---the only carefully selected sites where camping and fire-making will be allowed. The backcountry location of these sites will also help cater to an environmentally sensitive user and help to eliminate the party crowd who have done so much damage and left so much garbage.
Now there is signage. Now there is enforcement. Now there will be a permit system for camping. Now we can look forward to the main Dark Sky site opening back up with a permit system for vehicular access (so necessary for modern telescopic viewing). Now trails and boardwalks will be re-made in appropriate locations. Now perhaps there will be a transition to provincial park status. Now the Barrens has a bright future. For all of this we have Wade to thank.
Three years ago we were oppositional. Now we are partners and friends. Wade told me when we started the Working Group that it would be the capstone of his career if we could get the Barrens back to proper management.
If "Civility is not a sign of weakness but Sincerity is always subject to proof," then Wade has demonstrated his sincerity and his commitment quite thoroughly! He has chaired the monthly Working Group Meetings, spearheaded the changes at the Ministry, and assigned the needed resources and Rangers and staff to the Barrens.
Wade, you wholeheartedly deserve this Award. It is from the Clear Lake Association, but it represents the sentiments of a whole community--all of Muskoka and by extension all Ontario (as the Minister's representative here can attest to).
On behalf of the large and local community, the ecology of the Torrance Barrens, and bearing in mind the maxim that "here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own": Thank you and congratulations.
Camping Update - May 2023
After much deliberation, the Torrance Barrens Working Group, in partnership with Ontario Parks, has designated six tent campsites in the Torrance Barrens.
Visitors are permitted to hike to a designated campsite to pitch a tent and stay overnight at the Torrance Barrens.
Through Summer 2023, designated campsites at the Torrance Barrens are accessible on a first come, first serve basis and are free of charge. Ontario Parks will eventually implement a permit system similar to Algonquin Provincial Park, under which visitors will need to reserve their campsite ahead of time and pay a fee obtain a camping permit.
The designated campsites are backcountry sites. Visitors must carry in all supplies (e.g. water) and carry out all garbage.
Camping and fire-making are banned throughout the Torrance Barrens except at the six designated tent campsites. This ban will be actively enforced by Ontario Parks.
The purpose of designating official campsites was to concentrate disturbances associated with camping to a finite number of locations in the Torrance Barrens. The number and location of the designated campsites were chosen in consideration of ecological values (e.g. species-at-risk), as well as other recreational uses at the Barrens, including hiking and stargazing.
As always, we ask visitors – including campers – to respect the Torrance Barrens by leaving no trace, minimizing light pollution and noise, and respecting the natural environment.
A map showing the location of the six designated campsites is forthcoming.