PaBIA’s Community Marine Patrol
The Marine Patrol (MP) was born in 1998 as a result of two major catalysts: (1) The boating safety concerns heightened after the death of one of the Ojibway staff members and (2) The Ontario Coast Guard’s development of protocols to mandate vessel requirements and boater operator licensure.
With the then support of the TOA and OPP, the Marine Patrol began as a policing body on the water in PaB for the sole purpose of promoting safety of boat operators and vessel compliance as a courtesy to our membership. For several years the OPP would ride in the boats with the MP when making their PaB rounds. To accomplish their mandate, the MP would stop boaters in channels to check their equipment or to alert the boater of their speed, etc.
With the initiation of Ontario’s Boater Proficiency testing in 1999, the MP began offering a course on boating regulations and provided the opportunity for anyone to take the Ontario challenge test at the Ojibway in order that members could pass the test and receive their boater license to comply with the new Ontario regulations.
Evolution of the Marine Patrol
In 2000, the MP continued to stop boats for safety equipment checks and provide a refresher course and proficiency testing as well as drop-ins on senior cottagers as a courtesy. Then, a 2000 PaBIA membership survey identified ten issues that were thought to be either real or “very serious” problems for Pointe au Baril, two of which highlighted the PWC issues of noise and reckless operation and boat speed/big wakes. Already poised on the waters and representing PaBIA, the Marine Patrol began to address these concerns.
But after a period of four years, the OPP officers stopped riding in the boats. Simultaneously, complaints from the boaters being stopped on the water increased. So the practice of stopping boaters ended after the 2004 season but the patrollers continued to make themselves available to anyone who requested to have their boats checked.
As the emphasis on safety issues leveled off, other issues began to present themselves in the area of emergency response and water quality. The Marine Patrol began providing additional services such as emergency first response and transportation for medical personnel, recording GPS coordinates for PaBIA members (important to know in an emergency), collecting data for the TOA on water quality, providing services such as handing out emergency contact or blastomycosis information when appropriate.
More recently, the MP has added to its list of duties by monitoring usage and condition of the Georgian Bay Land Trust properties in the PaB area, assisting at PaBIA regatta events and collecting data on locations of boat anchorage and camping sites, observances of floating cottages, complaints re noise or blinding lights, etc.
Many of these more recent concerns, interestingly enough, had been identified in the 2000 survey: water quality, anchor zones, grey water dumping, floating cottages, blinding night lights and noise pollution. In the 2008 and 2018 survey, the Marine Patrol was found to be a very well supported endeavor serving all of Pointe au Baril as they preserve, protect and promote our natural surroundings for generations to come.
All these observations have been inputted into a newly designed database to provide ongoing record keeping. This recorded data, as the Hole in the Wall water pollution issue of 15 to 25 years ago taught us, could be a means for authenticating information needed to provide concrete evidence to the provincial and federal authorities of growing problems in the area.
While monitoring and expanding its original purposes, the Marine Patrol continues to evolve as an entity which responds to the ever changing concerns in the area. With a growing and more focused emphasis on environmental issues (they just don’t seem to be going away!), PaBIA’s Board has taken a hard look at the present day needs in PaB and the services that the MP can provide.
More changes are thus forthcoming – especially as it relates to the Marine Patrol’s role in the environmental realm. As stewards of our environment, PaBIA can keep, through the MP’s monitoring and data collection, a close watch on the various entities under our care: water levels, water quality, air quality, boat anchorage and grey water dumping as well as rising concerns of the conservation reserve initiatives – all of which help us identify environmental changes due to misuse of the land and water.
While it will continue its presence on the waterways to promote safe boating practices, continue it’s boater proficiency testing and expand safety and boating courses at the Ojibway, maintain its data acquisition of moorings and camping, boater recklessness, and noise and light pollution complaints, we expect the Marine Patrol role will increase dramatically in water quality testing at the Ojibway, the monitoring of the Georgian Bay Land Trust properties in the PaBIA area and Crown land, the shorelines of Pointe au Baril for plastics and styrofoam, the wetlands for possible invasive species and all efforts surrounding the conservation concerns which have become more pronounced in this 21st century. As water levels rise and fall, the shoreline also takes a beating – and the MP is ever aware of problems that occur because of this. As an example, when the water levels rise, the erosion that takes places along the shoreline is recognizable by the chunks of land that break off of the land, causing boating hazards as these sometimes large chunks of earth are floating in the waterways.
All this being said, let’s not lose sight of where we were when the MP was during its formative years – the death of a young person, Ontario Boating Regulations and PaBIA’s membership concerns voiced in the 2000 survey. Throughout these years, the MP has maintained a presence on the water which has had a major impact as evidenced by the increased awareness for safety equipment in boats, slower boating speeds and better use of life jackets. The Marine Patrol has evolved as the PaBIA’s various needs have changed or come to the forefront. The beauty of PaBIA’s Marine Patrol is that it is a viable program under constant review with the ability to be re-evaluated and its goals adjusted to meet the needs and desires of its membership.