BRACEBRIDGE, Ont. — A new community group has formed in Bracebridge to advocate for the protection of our community and stop the rezoning of sensitive wetlands to accommodate development.

Spurred by a proposal to build an international boarding school on an ecologically sensitive wetland that is roughly the same size as Downtown Bracebridge, Protect Muskoka is both a vehicle to keep local residents informed about developments that threaten the town and a voice for local residents to register their concerns about proposals before Town Council.

The Muskoka Royal College proposal would see a massive international boarding school complex built on a 443-acre property that is currently home to ecologically important marshes, lush forests and the rocky barrens of the southern end of the Canadian Shield. Once complete, the school would be home to more than 2,000 students and staff, a four-storey dormitory, maintenance and staff buildings, parking lots, a sportsplex and other buildings. The size of the wetlands in question is the size of downtown Bracebridge and is adjacent to the Trans Canada trail that is used in all seasons by Bracebridge residents and tourists alike.

Town Council is considering the proposal, but has yet to request an Ontario Wetlands Evaluation System study to assess the importance of the subject property in terms of supporting wildlife and protecting our community from natural incidents like flooding.

The Environmental Impact Study submitted by the developer was found to be deeply flawed and has since been discredited; a peer review has identified the habitat of more than 200 species — including 20 species at risk and seven that are endangered. The developer failed to identify these, and yet has posted on its website that it has passed all environmental concerns.

Besides the environmental destruction, the developer has not done an Economic Impact and Viability Study, as the 12 per cent increase in population would have detrimental effects on the local infrastructure like the hospital, water system, landfills, trails, beaches and more.
Members of Protect Muskoka will be attending the Town’s Planning and Development Committee meeting on October 27th at 2:00 p.m. to request the Town decline this proposal.

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