A HISTORY OF BGLEECA
The following history of our cottage association was drafted by the first president, Harold Kreiger. Should you have any information to add, please send it to the website manager.
The Early Years
This Association was formed in 1985 and for a good reason - the Gypsy moth. Until then, who needed an organization? Cottagers came to the lake to get away; to fish, swim and visit with nearby friends. Except for the cottages near the Ardoch Road or off Greer Road at Tanbark Bay, everyone else at the east end had to go by boat to reach their cottages.
It wasn’t until 1983 that the first section of a north shore road system happened under the planning and leadership of John Belcham. It branched off of Greer Road. It didn’t take long for cottagers to the east to hook into #10 Road and expand the north shore road system. Even then, cottagers pretty much remained to themselves, except for visits from family and friends.
By early June 1985, it became obvious that the cottagers had a major problem. The leaves of the hardwood trees were being devoured by an invasion of gypsy moth caterpillars. They especially loved oak leaves. While this problem covered southeastern Ontario and the northeastern United States, some areas like Big Gull Lake were hit worse than others. Isolated attempts to spray were limited due primarily to the lack of communication among the cottagers. Something needed to be done to save the hardwoods, because all indications were that this infestation problem was not going to go away soon!
In August a small group of cottagers posted sign-up sheets to explore the possibility of forming a Cottage Association to unite and fight the gypsy moth caterpillar problem. There was a very enthusiastic response and a meeting was arranged and held at Phypers Holiday Haven on Labour Day weekend. That’s when the Association was formed.
About 100 attended and readily agreed that they must unite as a group to be prepared for the next season. Officers were elected, a guideline for a charter was reviewed, a gypsy moth fund was established, an area representative system was put in place and annual membership dues were set at $10 per cottage.
The first Association’s elected officers were Harold Krieger, President, Robert Jelking, Vice-President, Stan Bowman, Treasurer, and Dennis Tice, Secretary.
In formulating a gypsy moth spraying operation, the 1986 cottage fee for spraying was set at $55. The spraying of cottages would be done by plane by a private contractor. Spraying of Crown land behind the cottages would be carried out by the Ministry of Natural Resources. Unfortunately, when the gypsy moth epidemic began to decline the forest tent caterpillar infestation attacked and it was necessary to continue spraying when needed and replenish the spray fund as a reserve. The charter was amended to add an Environmental Manager as a Director and Bill Phypers was elected. After the forest tent infestation declined, spraying wasn’t required again until the latter 90’s to handle the hemlock looper. This was a limited spraying operation, and the last spray program to date.
To facilitate better communications and representation over the east end of Big Gull Lake, the area was divided into thirteen sections. Each section is comprised of approximately ten to twelve cottages and has its own representative and an alternate. Early on the area representatives were: Eric Williams (1), Richard Symes (2), Ken Grant (3), Seth Fagerstrom (4), John Fraser(5), Jon Howarth (6), Bruce Carr (7), John Whittemore (8), Bill Phypers (9), Harold Kimber (10), Ralph Zimmer (11), George Manne (12), and Marie LaFrance(13).
Preparation of the Association Charter progressed and was adopted at the September 5, 1987 Annual meeting. It stated “The Corporation promotes the common interest of the seasonal and permanent residents and landowners on the east end of Big Gull Lake, situated in Clarendon Township in the Province of Ontario”. The Association’s objectives were stated and the Directors’ titles outlined as President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Road Manager. At this time the membership totaled about 140.
It soon became obvious that the Association could provide services to the north shore cottage residents and Bob Lowery became the first north shore Roads Manager and an Association Director. The Association collected member’s road fees initially set at $35, and established street names and signs. The creation of a cottage numbering system posted on wooden signs for driveways and docks. This provided a means for cottagers to be located by fire fighters, the OPP, emergency vehicles, and friends. It was the forerunner of the 911 system now in place. It was in 1991 the south shore private roads system opened up spearheaded by Terry Gnage and Bob Jones.
In 1988 the Association published its first calendar which was the creation of Seth Fagerstrom. He provided most of the art work while Ann Krieger and other members helped by writing stories. Seth had previously designed the letterhead logo which is still used today. The calendar covered six months (May – October). It had the provision to keep fishing records which were then submitted to MNR for their creel counts. Seth suggested a “yellow page section” to sell ads to local merchants. This practice is in use today under the tireless efforts of Nancy Kingston. This generates revenues to cover the printing expenses and left over funds are used to promote projects such as purchasing rubble for spawning beds and for the general welfare of the lake. With the help of cottagers Joe O’Heaney and Walter Roberts, Seth created a series of Big Gull Lake maps which most cottagers display today.
A major concern in cottage country has always been accidental fires. For that reason the membership formed their own volunteer fire department and by the spring of 1990 the Association had collected $40 each from 90% of the members. These funds were used to obtain a boat, motor, and pumping equipment. There were approximately three dozen volunteers and drills were held twice each summer with supervision from the Plevna Volunteer Fire Department. The firefighting was especially useful in putting out Crown land fires caused by careless campers. Bruce Carr was the Association’s first fire chief. In 1992, the Association approved upgrading the equipment to a faster and safer boat and motor for rough waters. Ken Kingston was the Fire Chief and Director at the time.
Led by the efforts of Frank Silkman, the first Association picnic was held following the 1991 annual meeting and was an instant success. It was held (and still is) at Phypers’ Holiday Haven. Association volunteers coordinated the event and those attending brought a dish to pass. Its popularity made it the social event of the season. The responsibility of this event is rotated among the cottage association’s 13 areas. Once again, calendar ad sales help finance hotdogs, hamburgers, etc..
There was always a desire among the cottagers to have a nearby source of safe drinking water that was readily available to them. Based upon favorable results of a survey, the association officers explored potential sites for a community well. In 1992 a site was selected on crown land near the public boat launch area and those desiring to participate contributed $60 per membership. Over 100 cottagers joined in. The well was drilled approximately 225 feet deep, and was opened in 1992. Fortunately, a hand pump was able to be used instead of an electric pump and the cottagers received a refund against their contribution.
The well was very popular for a good decade. Meanwhile, as cottagers retired and spent more time at the lake, several of them had their own wells drilled. Around the same time bottled water became popular and the well’s usage declined.
During these early years, there were many cottagers contributing to its success and all the names can’t be mentioned here. But one in particular stands out. In addition to being the Association secretary for a number of years, Bette Bowman had a knack of bringing north and south shore cottagers together. She always found time to make and serve muffins and coffee for informal Sunday morning get-togethers.
And that’s how the Association got started.