A sign marking a portage route, hung as part of the traditional rights of way project spearheaded by the Kennisis Lake Cottage Owners’ Association and with the support of the municipality of Dysart et al. /Submitted photo

Signs posted declaring portage routes as traditional rights of way

By Sue Tiffin

A traditional rights of way project established by the Kennisis Lake Cottage Owners’ Association to preserve, maintain and protect key portage routes is gaining interest throughout Haliburton County and might be of interest throughout the province, according to KLCOA traditional rights of way project lead Gino Ariano.

Last year in October, Ariano and Jim Prince of the KLCOA presented to Dysart et al council on the project, noting at that time that multiple portage routes throughout the area allow for access from Kennisis and Redstone Lakes to lakes or rivers in Haliburton Forest, the Frost Centre area, and into Algonquin Park, and that it was essential to develop an educational outreach program to ensure property owners and portage route users are aware of rights and responsibilities regarding protection and use of the routes.

“What we’re trying to do is really identify key routes in the area that connect Kennisis Lake to the broader Haliburton Highlands area and ensure these routes are preserved and protected because what’s happening as there’s more development pressure in the county, some routes are being impeded by various development or property ownership issues so we’re trying to go back and identify the routes, make sure the legal status is clear, and if it is, make sure they’re posted and protected so people can use them in perpetuity,” Ariano told the Echo.

At last month’s KLCOA virtual AGM meeting, the Traditional Rights of Way working group gave an update on the project, with Ariano noting the group has been working on doing legal due diligence on a number of portage routes in and around Kennisis Lake, researching history of the routes and has made “some good progress since last fall, including the erection of some portage signs on a number of important routes.”

A mockup of a sign marking a portage route, hung as part of the traditional rights of way project spearheaded by the Kennisis Lake Cottage Owners’ Association and with the support of the municipality of Dysart et al. /Submitted photo

Progress shared by the group includes that portage signs have been placed for public land sections of the Kennisis Lake (Soap Pond) to Lipsy Lake portage and Kennisis Lake (Cat Bay) to Cat Lake portage.

“It’s great, especially when you get to put the signs up, that’s when you know, wow, we’ve really accomplished something here,” said Ariano. “We’re very encouraged by the progress we’ve made so far, we’re pleased by the response we’ve had from the community.”

Besides support from the municipality of Dysart et al, Ariano said other lake associations have reached out to learn more about the initiative and have done their own work in posting routes.

The project was of interest to the Growler Lake Property Owners Association, which connected with the Kennisis Lake group and has posted portage signs on Bat Lake to Claypack Lake Route, which Ariano said in the update helps to complete part of a portage route from Kennisis Lake to Gull River via Lipsy-Klaxton-Bat-Growler Lakes route.

“I think people realize this is an important initiative,” he said, noting that he’s spoken with some people who have been using the routes as far back as the 1950s or early-1960s, and that the history of the portage routes goes much further back than that. “That’s part of the research we’re doing, trying to go back and identify where we can find records of Indigenous peoples using these routes, that helps support and validate the fact that these routes are legitimate, we can find historical documentation … The way these trails got developed, a lot of them are animal paths, and then the Indigenous people started to use them because it was the easiest way to go from one lake to another. They’ve been used for probably thousands of years.”

Ariano himself is an avid outdoors person who loves to canoe, and whose children love to canoe. He’s been working on the project for the past three years, but it’s part of the lake association’s long-range plan, identified as something to work on when the lake plan was developed more than a decade ago.

“I have a personal interest in it because I love the outdoors and I recognize the value of these types of things,” he said.

Ariano hopes the group can one day speak to the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Association, to broadcast the project more broadly throughout the province, but hopes first to expand the project locally.

“The broader vision, is not so much just for our lake association, but the broader county so that people can travel between lakes and rivers in our area, or go up north to Algonquin or to the Haliburton Highlands Frost area,” he said. “We’re really fortunate to have such an amazing resource in Haliburton and to allow people to be able to use this in the future.”

And then, thinking of the feeling he had when posting the first of the signage: “We’re doing this for the people in the future, not just ourselves.”

Those with information or evidence of trails or portages in the past, or who might be interested in undertaking a similar project in their area are welcomed by Ariano to reach out. For more information contact Ariano at 416-706-2245 or at gino.ariano@hotmail.com or visit http://www.klcoa.org.