60th Anniversary Celebrations!

In 2023, we celebrated 60 years since the creation of FOCA as a province-wide organization dedicated to waterfront property owners and to thriving and sustainable waterfronts.

For 60 years, FOCA has been the voice of waterfront Ontario. We are accountable to you: our members, and have worked hard throughout the decades to represent your interests. Learn more about our past, below.

FOCA Community Photo Project: Ontario Cottaging Through the Decades!

YOUR ROLE: please send us your images of Ontario cottage country through the decades, your Lake Association in action over the years, and other historic pictures. Submit images through the link above.

Andrea Smith Derungs sent these ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of their cottage, built in 1933 on Thompson Island on Lake of the Woods, Ontario. The first one is c1935 depicting (from left) her grandparents Marjorie and Bill Smith & maternal great-grandmother Clara Carruthers, who built the cottage from a kit log cabin. They would have had to drive out by horse and sleigh from the then town of Kenora, about 8km. The second picture is of the cottage as it looks now taken from the same angle today!

This photo, submitted by Jane Bunnett, is believed to show the first cottage built on Lake St. Peter (Hastings Highlands) in the1930s with pine logs cut from the property by Allan McCormack (pictured) who was Jane’s grandfather. Jane and her husband Larry still own the property today, and have kept the original cabin on the property.

This image comes from a May 1985 North Star article with the caption below, submitted by Jennifer Ghent-Fuller of MLCA.

This picture of digging snowfall off the cottage roof (2022) was submitted by Harold Fisher of Rankin Lake.

Here’s another amazing historic photograph from Ontario cottage country! This one is from 1905 and shows Benson O’Hara, Minnie Ketcheson O’Hara, their daughters and J.R. Ketcheson at their cottage on Moira Lake (near Madoc). Submitted by Jennifer Ghent-Fuller.

More about the newspaper article (1985) at left, above: 

Begin self-help program” – The Manitouwabing Lake Community Association [MLCA] has formed a Pollution and Water Quality Committee. With the assistance of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, the committee began a 5-year self-help water quality monitoring program on Tuesday, May 28th. The committee is shown at the Smith Pine Dock. (standing – from left): Wyn Ashwood, Jim Boyd, Boyce Jones, Committee Chairman Charles Scriver, (kneeling – from left): Association President Shirley Faryna and Clarence Hardie. At right, Environmental Officer Frank Driscoll demonstrates how members involved in the program should take samples. (Committee members absent from the photo are Barbara Booth, Linda Schofield, Sheila Hardie, Al Wright, Pat Wright and Len Pawlett.)

Yes, that’s a secchi disk Frank is holding!

Thanks to Jennifer Ghent-Fuller of MLCA for forwarding this image and others, from scrap books kept by Shirley Faryna, the founding President of the MLCA.

Janet Bradley of Kushog Lake sent us so many gems, we had a hard time deciding which one to share with you! This was the pick, dated “SEP 60” at the top. These two – “Peter and Carolyn” – look like a going concern; we just hope they weren’t really going anywhere. 

This picture of fishing siblings John & Margie Setta was taken on Wolfe Lake (Frontenac County) in 1979. Image credit: John T. Setta, Sr.

This picture was taken in 1975 at Limberlost on Lake Solitaire (Township of Lake of Bays) by Tom McDonnell. Can you spot the small happy hour visitor on the table? Click the image above to enlarge it.

(Left) – This image (ca.1906-1908) depicts the Hoidge family arriving at Gull Lake (Minden area) by horse and carriage, having disembarked the train running from Toronto to Gelert.
Thank you for the submission, Marilyn Hagerman! Marilyn has just published a book focusing on cottage families that have owned property on Gull Lake, Minden for more than 80 years, and families who have had local roads named after them. Connect with Marilyn about her book at CottageCulture@outlook.com

Here are two more submissions, which are variations on the theme “what could possibly go wrong?” (and definitely not in line with modern boating safety standards! Please don’t write us about it…):

Top: Craig Judson in the water with a chair on a circular board, and John Tompkins in the boat, getting ready for some towing tricks in 1959, submitted by Craig Judson of Lake St. Peter in Hastings Highlands.

Bottom: Murray Chown showing us how it’s done, being towed while seated on a chair propped on a window shutter, ca.1958, submitted by his grandson Bruce Patterson of Hurds Lake, south of Renfrew.

PSSST! Pass it on...

January – December 2023: Know of an individual committed to waterfront sustainability, or an Ontario Lake or Road Association that’s not yet a FOCA member?

Share the good news about FOCA.

If you refer a new Friend of FOCA (annual supporter) or a new Member Association that joins in 2023, you’ll be entered into a draw for a $50 Home Hardware gift card! 

For new Friends of FOCA (annual supporters):

Share the information above with potential new  Friends of FOCA (right click to copy it, then paste it into a message to them) and remind them to mention your name when they join here:


For new Lake or Road Associations:

Share the information above with other Associations (right click to copy it, then paste it into a message to them) and remind them to mention your name when they join here:


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Thanks for celebrating with us at FOCA’s 60th Anniversary event on Saturday, September 23, 2023 at the historic Market Hall, in Peterborough.

The theme of the event was “Connections”: to community, to each other, and to the water, including a special access cocktail reception with the current Board of Directors catered by Black Honey, Special Guest Speaker Michelle Kelly (editor of Cottage Life Magazine & host of the Cottage Life Podcast), networking with fellow members, shared stories of the past and future of FOCA, speakers, music provided by Rob Phillips, art and a Silent Auction in support of FOCA. 

Check out the amazing Silent Auction items that were donated (& thank you to all our donors)

Thank you to our 60th Anniversary Special Guest Speaker Sponsor:

This organization started with 40 associations who met in Toronto 60 years ago.

The issues that brought FOCA together in the first place aren’t that different from the topics that consume us today: water quality and other environmental concerns, development and planning, taxation, safety and rural services.

Today, FOCA represents 525 member associations which adds up to 50,000 member families all across Ontario.

FOCA's Accomplishments - some historical highlights:

FOCA began with 125 people representing 40 cottage associations


FOCA fought against Acid Rain


FOCA lobbied to stop use of toxic "Dombind" as a road-dust suppressant


FOCA secured the municipal voting rights of seasonal owners in their cottage ridings


FOCA lobbied on Property Taxation to MPAC


this resulted in the MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corporation) decision to implement a 4-year cycle to phase-in property tax increases, saving property owners thousands in the interim.

FOCA's Lake Stewards became the volunteer water samplers of the province-wide Lake Partner Program, still underway today!


FOCA developed a boating hazard marker program approved by Transport Canada


and assembled the most comprehensive risk-management program for volunteers in Ontario environmental groups, through the FOCA Insurance Program.

FOCA's Cottage Succession Seminar series started, still ongoing today!

began in 2011

FOCA has been on the road with estate lawyer Peter Lillico, helping thousands of families learn how to plan for the intergenerational transfer of the cottage

FOCA lobbied against the elimination of the Seasonal Rate Class of hydro customers

culminating in 2019-20

This advocacy effort saved 84,000 affected seasonal families thousands of dollars when the Ontario Energy Board agreed to phase-in the changes over 10 years to prevent bill impacts of more than 10% per year.

Sheltering at the Waterfront During the Pandemic


FOCA asserted seasonal property owners' rights to shelter at their waterfront residences during the pandemic

Clarifying Taxation Rules


FOCA demanded clarity from the Federal Government about their implementation of the new Underused Housing Tax to ensure it does not unfairly affect seasonal property owners

FOCA celebrates 60 years, with over 525 member Associations representing 50,000 families!


More About FOCA’s Roles Over the Decades:


During the 1980s FOCA fought for government action on the issue of acid rain, (were a large voice pushing for reductions in harmful acidic emissions) ndd lobbied to stop the use of toxic Dombind as a road-dust suppressant.

FOCA also secured the municipal voting rights of waterfront property owners in their cottage ridings, and brought the attention of the Provincial Auditor and Ombudsman to the shortcomings of Ontario’s property taxation system.

Over the years, FOCA has advocated on behalf of rural source water protection, fisheries habitat, landowners’ rights during mining and aggregates claim-staking as well as water management planning, forestry planning and land use including lake capacity assessments. We have lobbied to secure the ongoing funding for the Lake Partner Program of volunteer water monitoring of Ontario’s inland lakes, to protest MPAC assessments and the elimination of the seasonal rate class of electricity customers – each of which have resulted in multi-year phase-ins of legislated changes, to drastically limit the annual impacts on individual families’ bills.

FOCA developed a boating hazard marker program approved by Transport Canada, and has assembled the most comprehensive risk-management program for volunteers in rural environmental groups, through the FOCA Insurance Program. Almost 400 associations across Ontario now protect their volunteers through this cost-effective liability insurance program, a unique FOCA offering. And the CottageFirst group insurance program is available exclusively to FOCA member families, with coverage for cottages, homes, cars, boats and more.

In recent years FOCA has released reports on septic re-inspection programs, lake planning and short-term rental that are used by our member Associations as well as our municipal partners to chart the course in rural Ontario.

And, we have championed the importance of lake associations in rural communities throughout the past 3 pandemic years, advocating for inclusion and tolerance, and working to mitigate sentiments that divide permanent and seasonal populations.

Finally, we have served you – our member Associations – throughout the pandemic since 2020, by turning our own office operations on a dime to become seamlessly digital, and by supporting your need to keep local association business running by offering FOCA’s own Zoom platform to accommodate many of your annual meetings.

For more about FOCA’s ongoing work, visit our Issues & Programs webpage.

More About the History of Ontario Cottage Country


FOCA might be 60 years old, but the tradition of recharging in cottage country goes back well before that. It’s great to have some late 1800s and early 1900s photos from the Archives of Ontario (below), to remind us that we didn’t discover Ontario cottage country – we’re just the latest generation to enjoy it – the caretakers, as it were. And we want it to be around for generations yet to come. 

Some things have changed over the years, but some have stayed the same. Our waterfront homes are still where we create memories with family, where we relax and recharge, where we spend time in nature.

We ALL have a role to play, to ensure waterfront Ontario will be around for future generations to enjoy! Find out more about YOUR ROLE today.