When In Rome - Or In This Case Muskoka
So, you’ve decided to move to Muskoka permanently this year.
That’s nice and all – and I welcome you – but, I’ve been noticing many of you need a little help in understanding what we’re all about.
This goes double for what I’ve coined as the quadruple P society – Panicky Pandemic Property Purchasers.
There are some important things for you know and consider as you join us in a special place we chose to call home long ago.
It starts with winter driving. If you haven’t yet experienced a Muskoka winter – or even been gone for a while – well, you’re in for a treat.
Mother Nature hit us with a little preview earlier this week. I just hope you didn’t hurt anybody with your lack of winter driving skills.
The last couple of weeks, we’ve heard the warnings and recommendations from local police and fire departments, but here’s a reminder: give yourself extra time to get to where you’re going; drive slower than the speed limit in inclement weather and on slippery surfaces; and never, ever tailgate.
That tailgate part is a year-round recommendation and goes along with a general respect for others and understanding your time is no more important than anyone else’s. You’re not that special, no matter who you are.
So, do as we do and be sure to let someone in if you notice they’re leaving a parking spot, crossing a road, making a turn and be sure to wave thanks when someone does the same for you.
Also, when you see children and crossing guards, be sure to stop if you can do so safely.
Driving my kids to school this year, I tend to be the one to stop at the crossing guards and crosswalks more often than not; but I’ve seen plenty of people rush through without regard for anyone around them – a disrespectful notion at best, but realistically it’s a potentially deadly action.
That last part can be for everyone, not just new people, as I’ve seen people I know have lived here a few years do the same thing.
But this goes beyond driving. Since we’ve been in a pandemic, there hasn’t been much opportunity for you to learn a bit more about the region you moved to.
Well, first off, we’re made up of several towns and townships who each are quite distinct despite being part of the District of Muskoka.
Be it the largest town by population in Huntsville or the highest property values in Muskoka Lakes; be it the most environmentally conscious, probably Lake of Bays, the Gateway to the region in Gravenhurst, or the heart – read: middle – in Bracebridge. There is the Township of Georgian Bay as well.
Each has their own municipal council, while sending representatives to make up the joint upper tier District council.
The three Towns have more representatives than the three Townships – a sticking point for years and one which even garnered discussion of secession many moons ago when I was still a journalist at a now long gone weekly.
Each community has its own amazing local businesses located in vibrant areas and each has its own idiosyncrasies.
I’m not going through all the character traits as you’ll have to figure some things out on your own by exploring and making friends. You still know how to do that, right?
Yet, we do have a few things in common. For one, we all are turned off when someone has the gall to refer to our beautiful region as “the Muskokas” … That’s when we know you’re new or just passing through.
Either way, I will correct you as should everyone who knows better. It’s just “Muskoka” no matter what some ill-researched board game who could easily fool tourists and newbies wrote on its cover this year.
Another thing we have in common is pride in our respective communities – especially those of us who have spent years volunteering our time with various community organizations or in elected roles.
We’re the ones who have helped make these communities a great place to live for everyone. We’re the reasons you wanted to move here in the first place. We’re the coaches, administrators, communicators, labourers and board members of non-for-profits in sports, healthcare, events, councillors, mayors and more.
So, bring with you a healthy dose of humility, appreciation and respect when you’re out doing your shopping or eating in restaurants as you never know who you may run into.
Smile once in while, say hi, and remember many of us also moved to Muskoka from cities or larger towns; only we did so many years ago because we felt a deep and profound connection to the region.
One last thing, if you’ve decided to call any part of Muskoka your home, make sure to support local businesses. And be sure they are truly local businesses.
Want to learn more about who you should support? Want to know the amazing personalities who have helped make this region a great place to live? Want to get involved in volunteering with a strong community organization?
Well, just ask me next time you see me around. I’m happy to help!
By Chris Occhiuzzi, special to HuntersBayRadio.com
When Chris isn’t writing stories for HuntersBayRadio.com, Dockside Publishing or running MuskokaUnlimited.com, you can find him volunteering his time as a coach and board member for the Huntsville Soccer Club.