Imagine it’s an autumn morning, crisp and clear.
Sun is gleaming off an amber canvas of leaves amid a robin-egg-blue background.
You go to the kitchen to pour yourself another cup of coffee and there, through the window, you see a stranger relieving himself on a tree at the edge of your property.
This, horribly, is a situation that Algonquin Highlands Ward 3 Councillor Marlene Kyle says happens “all over the place” in the quaint community of Oxtongue Lake during the peak of fall foliage.
For anyone unaware, Oxtongue Lake is a hamlet at the northern tip of Algonquin Highlands township. It’s tiny even by Haliburton County standards, a small collection of resorts, businesses and homes nestled in a picturesque chunk of Canadiana.
It was a haunt of members of the Group of Seven.
Oxtongue Lake prides itself as the gateway to the uber-popular Algonquin Provincial Park. However, during fall colours season in September and October, that gateway gets crowded. Congested. Clogged.
Fall foliage is big business in the area, bringing in thousands upon thousands of sightseers and shutterbugs each year.
Bumper-to-bumper traffic jams can stretch kilometres down Highway 60, into neighbouring Dwight.
The problem is the streams of tourists bring streams of another kind with them.
Many travelling from the GTA, perhaps stopping innocently enough for a Starbucks along the way, by the time tourists reach the park, nature is knocking on the door.
However, they’re not quite in the park when they reach the traffic jam at Oxtongue Lake and the community doesn’t offer the kinds of businesses where one can simply slip in and use the washroom unnoticed.
Sure, they come to look at the leaves, but it seems many visitors end up using them too.
Quite understandably, this is all quite upsetting for residents of Oxtongue Lake.
Last week Algonquin Highlands council received a staff report detailing potential solutions park officials plan to undertake this season, including more staff to sell tickets and direct traffic, heightened promotion of alternate entry points to the park, etc.
The report also looked at the possibility of the township renting privies to be stationed on public property in Oxtongue Lake.
However, as some members of council pointed out, the problem really belongs to the province. It’s a provincial park, after all. It seems unfair for the township to be left holding the bucket.
The province needs to put a lid on this situation. Otherwise, residents are not going to get any less pissy any time soon.