Many people complain that they cannot easily access the lake. They ask for more openness and less access fees. How do we reconcile this legitimate hope with the inconvenience of boating and the costs of protection?

Michèle Gérin, Blue Massawippi

The pandemic has revived a debate that continues to grow. The general access to the lake, the privatization of the shores, the expensive rates at the entrance of some of them compete for the headlines in the news and on social media.

Early in the season, the Journal de Montréal published Redonnez aux Québécois l’accès aux plans d’eau publics. In a vivid testimony, Stéphan Bourgeois, president of the Association des Pêcheurs Sportifs du Québec, pleads for low-income families and small boats. He is right. However, his argument that navigation is a constitutional right does not hold water. Navigation is a federal jurisdiction, nothing more. It is not a fundamental human right as the article implies. This statement of law does not change the fact that the lakes belong to everyone and that it is desirable for everyone to enjoy them. But at what cost?

Last week, one of our Facebook posts generated a record number of shares, and on those shares, multiple comments of unequal courtesy but complete unity of thought: the inconveniences of boating are sometimes so unbearable that they completely distort the purpose of this exceptional lake.

The survey in last week's newsletter showed that of all the issues we are trying to deal with, boating has become THE majority concern.

On August 13, in Le Devoir, a seasoned kayaker launched a remarkable heartfelt cry:  Accès aux plans d’eau publics, oui, mais pour qui?. Gaétan Matte rightly points out: "If the approach taken by the collective results in even more recreational boats ending up on the water, then help!"

As Director General of Blue Massawippi, I have worked hard on the boating file for the past 5 years. The debate on access to the lakes justifies that for the first time, I sign this reflection which seems to me crucial for the future of the lakes' use in Quebec and in Canada.

I must tell you that I am writing these lines that have been running through my mind for two weeks at 9:00 am on Saturday morning, August 21st. It is already hot and from my open windows I hear the incessant sounds of a single watercraft having fun in Slack Bay more than a kilometer away. It's going around in circles and from my telescope, I can see that a grown adult is having fun at the expense of a hundred or so local residents and a dozen fishermen and paddleboarders who are trying to ignore it.

And I must confess that I know I will not escape the phone calls and emails from all those who no longer tolerate the lake becoming a circus in the name of freedom.

I no longer tolerate it either. But I would never argue that access to the lake should be restricted.

But then what? How do you reconcile the widest possible access with this hellish rise of unrestrained freedom for those with the money and the recklessness to enjoy themselves without regard for the consequences? The polarization of opinion I've seen on social media doesn't lie: the recklessness of a few is hurting everyone else.

The problem is worse in Lake Memphrémagog and Lake Magog, the problem is everywhere.

But let's talk about here. The blue patrol is on the lake 7 days a week, 10 hours a day. Cases of recklessness and direct danger are seen by the dozen every week. Kayakers and paddleboarders are no more innocent than others; many seek and find ways to avoid the boat washing. The ÉTÉ team sees it every day. But so what?

Raising awareness is no longer enough. We need to do better. Blue Massawippi is on all fronts, boat washing, public awareness, press releases, we are gaining ground, but too little to balance the growth.

If access to the lake is not a fundamental right, it can and must be a societal choice. Thoughtful, reflective, organized. This choice must consider the environmental impacts and the costs they represent. Because inevitably, someone will have to pay. Residents, boaters, fishermen, swimmers, municipalities, governments, everyone must accept that managing a lake properly is costly, and getting increasingly expensive. Who will pay?

The first step is to reduce the damage by establishing basic standards and enforcing them. If the lakes were used with respect, both by those who live on them and those who do not, it would be easier to provide access to as many people as possible.

This requires the federal government and Transport Canada to provide a simple pathway for municipalities, and this is urgent. But not only that. Municipalities must have the courage to do it. And it is far from certain when we know that the bylaw on shorelines is not consistently applied in any of our shoreline municipalities.

Secondly, we will have to invest. Invest in supervised access to the lake so that all those who access it, including shoreline residents, know the basic rules to follow on a lake. Invest in a permanent patrol that will think about safety and the environment. Stop tilling the sea grass beds and lifting sediments.

Yesterday afternoon, the sudden and wild blue-green algae bloom at Baltimore Bay was scary. This is a problem that will take years to solve if ever.

Harmonizing boating and the environment is a much easier fix. All it takes is the will.

What's wrong with it:

The resurgence of personal watercrafts is by far the source of the majority of complaints we receive at Blue Massawippi. One, two or three personal watercrafts circling each other on the spot can be heard over long distances. This is a practice to be avoided. The second complaint concerns the music on board boats. Finally, on the question of safety, many paddleboaters and kayakers complain about seeing boats of all kinds, at high speed, brush up against them. To such a point that many of them give up going out on Saturdays and Sundays.



Because we believe that educating young people is the best way to empower the adults they will become. And we hope that they will transmit these values to the adults they meet.

Thus, this summer, Blue Massawippi invested 15 days of a team of two patrollers in the summer camps and achieved its goal of reaching 400 children.

Our patrollers taught them the basics of lake protection through games.

Shorelines, blue-green algae, invasive species and turbidity were explained simply and concretely.

A noteworthy effort of outreach and patience.

Thank you Naomi, Catherine and Eliott.



Friday, yesterday and today, Blue Massawippi's team operated the Sherbrooke (Deauville) washing station. Short-staffed for these 3 days, the City of Sherbrooke called on us to maintain the service.

The City of Sherbrooke is making significant efforts at Lake Magog. The new state-of-the-art hot water washing station is a big step forward.

Unfortunately, Ste-Catherine-de-Hatley has not reached this point and has refused to allow washing demonstrations on their boat launch at Lake Magog (read about it: Lac Magog: Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley dit non à une station de lavage mobile)

In this collaborative offer, the most interesting thing for Lake Massawippi is obviously to promote washing on all platforms. But also, it is that the City of Sherbrooke strongly suggests washing when exiting the lake, already contaminated by zebra mussels.

This is particularly interesting for non-motorized boats that can get to the lake without going through the supervised launches. By washing them when they exit the lake, with hot water, there is zero risk of contamination elsewhere.

The significant investment made by the City of Sherbrooke should give other municipalities reason to think. If the argument is that one station is enough, they may have to invest in monitoring their other launches or closing them.


The team shrinks again!

It is heartbreaking to see Catherine and Chanel leave us this week.

Catherine has been efficient and has fought all the battles, never flinching from anything, solid, available, able to do the less

rewarding tasks and extend her hours. A true asset in emergency situations.

Chanel led the ÉTÉ project while following Catherine closely for emergency management and inspection blitzes. Thanks to both of you and have a great summer!

In the wetlands

Good news. A wide variety of bats have been recorded using the ultrasonic recording device in the Hatley wetland. Two endangered species were found

with certainty: the Tricolored bat and the Little brown bat.

This wetland is becoming more and more interesting for its ecological value.

Cyanobacteria, vigilance is required:

Several small alerts and a red alert in Baltimore Bay yesterday (photos).

In this hot weather, stay alert and call us if needed.


The Blue Massawippi team has the privilege of seeing the NATURAL beauty of the lake and its watershed up close and wishes to share it.

Keep an eye out for bald eagles lurking at the top of Eastern white pines

This majestic eagle, the largest bird of prey in Canada, nests in several locations along the lake. The eagle's eyesight is 3 or 4 times sharper than that of humans. It will not have a white head until it is 4 or 5 years old.

A few adults and a few young birds have been seen flying over the lake on a daily basis.

Blue Massawippi in the news this week:


September 25th, 2021 at 9:30 am.

The meeting will be held in a hybrid mode, in person at Massawippi College and virtually via zoom. Registration details for the virtual mode will be available in early September.


You want to support our efforts?

It is always possible to do it by mail. Send your check to the order of Bleu Massawippi:

P.O. Box: 2703, North Hatley, QC, J0B 2C0

Photo : Niger river



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