Georgian College students took to the ice this weekend to raise awareness of the issues affecting the health of Lake Simcoe.
“We want people who are enjoying the lake to be aware of what’s at risk here if we don’t get a protection act in place for Lake Simcoe,” said Claire Malcomson, co-ordinator of Campaign Lake Simcoe and a member of Environmental Defence.
High levels of phosphorus, found in detergents and fertilizers, is one of the main issue affecting Lake Simcoe, the group says.
Phosphorus artificially increases weed and algae growth. When the growth decomposes, it chokes off the lake’s oxygen, making it difficult for cold-water fish to breathe.
Members of GEAR, Georgian Students for Environmental Awareness and Research, went “hut to hut” yesterday in glacial temperatures and intense wind to discuss the issue of phosphorus and the proposal of a protection act for Lake Simcoe with ice fishermen utilizing the lake.
“With the amount of waste that goes into this lake, they will never be able to purify it in a million years. What’s been done is irreversible, but we need to stop it before it gets worse,” said John Top of Owen Sound, one of the fisherman approached by GEAR members.
GEAR and Environmental Defence have had great success in the last year in bringing awareness to the public and receiving recognition for their cause from politicians.
When the campaign to protect the lake was mentioned in Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Throne Speech this past November, the group knew they had made headway.
Campaign Lake Simcoe expects there will be a Lake Simcoe Protection Act in place by the end of the year, but Malcomson, whose family has owned a cottage on the lake for more than 115 years, hopes it will be underway by the summer.
Carlo Baldassarra was one of many fishermen approached by GEAR this weekend who takes the health of the lake seriously, and who has personally pitched in to help keep the area’s waterways clean.
“We work closely with the Ontario Steelheaders and volunteer with cleaning streams and lakes in the spring, summer and fall,” Baldassarra said of he and his friends.
Jeremy Fromanger, professor of engineering technology at Georgian, founded GEAR with a group of friends in 2004, and is an active influence within the group.
Fromanger came out to help with this weekend’s crusade, and is thrilled with the support his grassroots group has received over the years.
GEAR member Katie Sage, 22, a fine arts student at Georgian, ventured onto the lake’s coarse terrain both Saturday and Sunday to pass out pamphlets and discuss the plight of the lake.
“It is a really humbling experience,” Sage said of speaking to the fishermen in their own element. Sage has been involved in environmental issues since childhood, and is enthusiastic about being recruited as a volunteer by GEAR.