Cottages in Algonquin Park: Property Rights vs. Ecological Integrity

Keeping up & in the know…

Toronto Star: Algonquin Park Cottagers Put Ecosystems at Risk—Study

“Cottagers hoping to get leases extended at Algonquin Park have been rained on by a government study indicating they put fish habitats and water quality at risk.


The findings are an embarrassment for the ministry, which is proposing to extend cottage leases in the provincial park for another 21 years.”

-Sandro Contenta

Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society: Fate of Algonquin Cottages Should Be Determined by Science-Based Ecological Integrity Action Plan

“In his landmark book, The End of Nature, writer Bill McKibben wonders whether he loves his adopted home in the Adirondacks enough to leave it—if by leaving he would help to heal the physical and climatic scars his presence had wrought. This is a question all of us who care deeply for nature need to ponder about our choices, our homes, our travels. Because of the nature of their tenure in a public park, for Algonquin leaseholders this normally private question is of public concern.

That many Algonquin cottagers do care deeply for the Park and wrestle with such questions, there is no doubt. But there is a legal and ecological imperative to manage the heritage of Algonquin for ecological integrity.”

-Dave Pearce

Friends of Algonquin Park: Cottage & Commercial Leases

“Removal of structures and site restoration should occur as quickly as possible after expiration of the covering lease, special use permit or upon acquisition of private land. The policy of removal will not apply to buildings that should be retained for Park use because of their historical significance.


The Park Superintendent is required to ensure that all lessees comply with the terms of their leases, particularly in obtaining authorization from the Superintendent for any construction, clearing or shoreline work.

All cottage lot development is controlled by the Construction and Development Standards: Algonquin Park Cottage Leaseholds. The standards may be revised to address new environmental concerns or development restrictions.”

Toronto Star: Algonquin Park Is No Place for a Cottage. Or Is It?

“Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Executive Director Janet Sumner doesn’t doubt the passion cottagers have for the park. But she questions the private profit that also comes with exclusive leases on public land. One cottage recently sold for $699,000.


If leases are not extended, cottagers have the option of dismantling and hauling out their cottages or giving them to the government. If the government were to then dismantle the cottages it receives, the former leaseholders would be billed for the work.


Ministry officials expect the proposed leases will increase revenue by setting rents at market value.


Twenty-one of the leased lots are in the park’s interior. John Winters, superintendent of Algonquin Park from 1996 to 2011, says the government should phase out those leases. Canoeists who make the effort of portaging their way deep into the park should be rewarded with an environment more natural than lakes with cottages, Winters says.

The debate over cottagers, Winters argues, distracts from greater pressures threatening Algonquin. Fully 55 percent of the park is open to logging. Winters’ concern is the 6,000 kilometres of gravel roads mostly built and reserved for logging. As roads proliferate, so will the demand for their use for reasons other than logging, he argues.


When it comes to the park’s long-term conservation, environmentalists and cottagers are allies. The immediate concern for cottagers, however, is their own futures.”

-Sandro Contenta

Wildlands League: Cottage Lease Policy in Algonquin Park

“Wildlands League hailed the new Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act in 2006 because it enshrined in law the requirement that protected areas in Ontario be managed to attain and maintain their ecological integrity. The policy proposal to extend cottage leases on ecologically sensitive shorelines completely contradicts this principle.


Cottages increase the risk of sewage and chemical pollution and the introduction of invasive and alien species through activities like gardening. A pervasive human presence on these sites can lead to animals avoiding these areas, particularly in the summer (the breeding season for most bird species, for example), and can result in a functional loss of habitat.


South Central Ontario is a highly impacted landscape, making the protected parts of Algonquin a vital island for biodiversity in a sea of development.[…]

In 1905, when the first leases for cottages in Algonquin were originally granted, the world was a very different place. The province did not have more than 200 endangered species in 1905. The ecosystems of south central Ontario were much more intact and provided fuller array of full ecosystem services, including air purification, clean water and more. Today, we have lost much of our original forests, undisturbed wetland ecosystems are declining and far more species are going extinct. It is increasingly difficult to experience solitude and the wilderness that visitors come to Algonquin to enjoy. Early park managers poisoned wolves and actively introduced non native species. As late as 1920 Park Superintendents also sold maple syrup and grazing rights for cattle in the park. Such practices would be unthinkable today. A lot has changed since 1905. Then, the cottages were publicly acceptable and perhaps more compatible with the park concept as it was understood; today, they are not. They have always been inconsistent with managing for ecological integrity.”


One response to “Cottages in Algonquin Park: Property Rights vs. Ecological Integrity

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