Shoreroad Allowance - Waterfront Muskoka

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Shoreroad Allowance

Neither Ken Mashinter, nor Re/Max North Country Realty Inc.* (brokerage) accepts any responsibility for any/all  inaccuracies in this report.  The reader is encouraged to investigate alternate sources to confirm or refute any content herein and also consult with their solicitor.
(* independently owned and operated)

What is an original shore road allowance?
In this area of Muskoka and Parry Sound Districts many of the lakes (but not all) have what is called a "shore road allowance". From what I understand these came about when the land was originally surveyed before being granted to our pioneer settlers. When the province was originally surveyed, the road allowances were surveyed out to be located every second concession and every 5th lot so that every concession lot would have ‘road frontage’ if and when the roads got installed on those road allowances. There soon came the question “What happens if that surveyed road allowance comes to a dead end such as a lake (rivers could always have a bridge installed over them), so the answer was ‘Put the 66 feet around the lake, so if and when the road goes in there will be a choice of which direction, and the easiest route, to get to the other side where the road allowance continues”.  Road allowances, for the most part, are always in a straight line. The crown therefore reserved a strip of land around the lake to be 66 feet (which is the same as all road allowances) from the high water mark at the time of survey (I am not sure if the shore road allowances were surveyed as this would obviously entail a much higher cost.) Remember that way back then, most roads were not in place like they are today so travel was for a good part along the lakes via portages. By reserving the 66 feet for themselves, the crown also made it possible for any lake travelers to land on any shoreline and camp, without the risk of being "thrown off" for trespassing. An alternate, and just as important, reason for retaining this strip of land was for safety. In the event that someone got caught on the lake during a storm they could land their canoe/boat/raft at any closest point. As time went on, the roads came into place in the most logical locations to reach the lakes and in most cases they were installed through private lands to get to the lakes in question and most of which were not along the shorelines. The Ontario Government (I believe it was the NDP when they came into a brief power) decided that it was sitting on all these useless strips of land on lakeshores and decided that the Municipalities in which they were located could "cash in" by selling them off to those interested in purchasing. The land could only be purchased by the adjoining land owner, and not someone else. Since the land owner (lot owner) fronts on the one side of the shore road allowance (usually the road side) and the Government fronted on the other (obviously the lake) there resulted in only one person being able to purchase this strip of land. This is good, as the neighbours could not purchase someone else's shoreline and thus "cut them off" from using the lake and later on 'cash in' by basically holding the land as ransom till those owners purchased them from them. As the government had no interest in retaining the land and the neighbours could not purchase it either, most lot owners decided not to put out the money as they were already using it without problem and no one else could purchase it anyway. This resulted in approximately 95% of the people NOT purchasing the shore road allowances in front of their property, s they continue to use that portion as if they owned it anyway. The non ownership of this strip of land in most cases has not had an impact on the enjoyment of that parcel and most sales today are sold as lakefront, even without the direct ownership of that strip of land. The large majority of Canadians are caring people and feel that if someone is in trouble on the Lake and needs a place to dock then they would be more than happy to have them do so and without hesitation. To date I have not heard of any complaints of "transients" using the crown owned shore road allowance  as a camp site in front someone else's cottage and thus causing anxiety for the land owner, however this strip of land is crown owned so they may have that right.  Keep in mind that even though the general public may have the right to use that portion of land in front of the cottage you own or are contemplating on buying,  it is also a hassle for anyone wanting to camp there - to have a fight with the land owner who has the cottage - after all - the camper is wanting to get away from the hassles of life too - the last thing they want is a week-end - or week battle.  Since there is ownership of some shore road allowances - the 'transient' also needs to know which shorelines are crown, and which are private and they really won't know unless they did the research.  There is plenty of large parcels of crown land and regulated parks set up for camping so they are likely to go there instead of camp out in front of someone's cottage. I have recently heard from someone on my mailing list that there was an old walking path along the shoreline in front of their cottage, and they put up with it for about 40 years.  They decided to purchase the Shore Road allowance and now have ownership of it.  To save costs on surveys and legal fees they contacted the neighbours and a group of 6 of them each purchased their shore road allowance.  It is my understanding that shore road allowance purchases  may fall under the Land Titles as the province is eliminating the Land Registry format of title registration.  Part of the Land Titles registration format the title is guaranteed by the province to not have any hidden benefits for any one else if such use is not registered on title. When the shore road allowance is purchased it is now under new ownership of the land owner and under such ownership they may have the right to shut down any such trail, unless such trail is the only access those users have to gain access to their property (which may fall under the Road Access Act) - however such a thing as a hiking - recreational trail, may not apply and very likely could be shut off. Please understand, that I am not a lawyer and this column is not meant to give any legal advise.  If you have any concerns about a particular case, you should contact your solicitor to find the right solution for your situation.

Can the shore road allowance be purchased? The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) must agree to the disposal of shore road allowances, as must the township or town's council, as well as adjoining neighbours in both directions. In most cases the MNR and the town(ship) they will agree, however this is not always the case. The MNR is concerned about the development of the shore road allowances and the removal of submersed trees and weedy areas which make good spawning areas for fish. If you do or do not own the original shore road allowance it is recommended to contact the town or township office where the property is located to find out specific answers to your particular case.  There is no standard fee for this land as each town(ship) has the right to set their own price - and they normally charge a price per square foot.  The applicant is responsible for all costs associated with the purchase including surveys, application fees, town legal fees, your legal fees etc.  

If I own the shore road allowance can I do whatever I want with it? This is a great question and one I often get asked. Lake quality is important to the MNR as well as the other lake owners on your lake.  Fishing habitat is important to the MNR as it is with the department of Fisheries and Oceans, so all shoreline work has to be with their approval as well as the town(ship). Townships will also have restrictions on how close to the lake you can build, they may have a permit requirement for docks and boathouses, so you must check with them for guidelines as well as the MNR, and in some cases, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

If I do not own the Shore Road Allowance can I do whatever I want on it? Another great question. NO you cannot. You do not own that land, although most people do, it is not their land to do so.  You must contact the Municipality and the MNR before you work on lands you do not own. In a lot of cases they will allow you to remove some trees and perhaps install a beach, however it is their land, not yours.  Even IF YOU DO own the land, the town(ship) and MNR may also have restrictions on how many trees to cut and how close to the lake you can build and a permitted beach front you are allowed for removal of lakefront trees.  The concern is always for the lake environment and leaching into the water.  You should always contact the municipality and the MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources) for their policies.  In some cases, the Department of Oceons and Fisheries may also have to be contacted (the MNR will normally know this)

If you are concerned about whether or not the shore road allowance can be purchased for a specified lake you can contact the Ministry of Natural Resources in
Muskoka District  1-705-645-8747 or
Parry Sound District at 1-705-746-4201
as well as the town or township where the property is located.

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