About FOCA

FOCA is the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations.

We are the province-wide umbrella group for Ontario’s 250,000+ waterfront property owners (WPO), whether seasonal or year-round residents of their rural communities.

Since 1963, FOCA has been the voice of the Ontario waterfront. Our united voice carries weight on issues that matter.

Today, our members are more than 525 lake and road associations across the province, and the permanent and seasonal residents they represent.

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Our Community

Our Work (including FOCA’s Mission, Strategic Priorities, Organizational Framework and By-laws)

Our History

60th Anniversary Celebrations in 2023

Ontario's Waterfront Community:

# of residential waterfront properties across Ontario
# of kms of shoreline stewarded by private owners
# of hectares of privately-owned waterfront land in Ontario

Ontario borders on 4 of the 5 Great Lakes, and is blessed with over 250,000 named inland lakes that all need our care and attention.

‘Cottage country’ matters to Ontario’s economy. Billions are spent each year by waterfront property owners in this province – on watercraft, septic systems, furnishings, food and drink, cottage maintenance and much more. Read more about the economic impact of waterfront property owners.

Waterfront property owners are a self-reliant and adaptable bunch. Despite the casual clothes and dock-side meeting locations, these are dedicated and passionate folks who are vested in the future and are intimately familiar with the resources, special attributes and changes happening on our lakes and rivers. Some live on relatively undeveloped land in low density regions; others live where lake capacity has already been reached, or even exceeded.

FOCA's Work:

FOCA advocates for healthy lakes and rivers, and is the voice for Ontario’s 250,000+ waterfront property owners.

“FOCA is a well-run outfit.  I wish all service/community entities were as efficient and informative.  Keep up the great work.”

~Rick N., Kaszuby Cottagers Association

underwater image: Andy Metelka

Our Vision:

FOCA envisions thriving and sustainable waterfronts across Ontario, now and for future generations.

Our Mission:

FOCA effectively serves and represents Ontario’s lake associations, waterfront property owners (WPO) and waterfront communities through education, communication and government advocacy.

Our Mandate:

FOCA advocates for healthy lakes and rivers, and is the voice for Ontario’s 250,000+ waterfront property owners.

Our Strategic Direction & Priorities:

Download a PDF copy of FOCA’s Strategic Plan 2020-2023 (PDF, 1.4 MB, 8 pages) featuring our priority goals:

  • promoting healthy lands, lakes and rivers
  • advocating for responsive government
  • serving lake and road associations
  • championing affordable and safe rural living
  • fostering community
  • building capacity and partnerships

Read about FOCA’s accomplishments in the 2023 FOCA Year in Review (PDF, 5.5 MB, 16 pages), and find past editions on our Publications webpage.

FOCA Bylaws & Policies:

Learn More About:

How YOU can help:

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FOCA’s annual Spring and Fall Seminars for Associations are an opportunity for members to network, collect program and policy updates, and connect with other lake association representatives from across Ontario! Find out about upcoming events.

Our History:

In January 1963, 125 people representing 40 cottage associations met in a Toronto hotel under the banner of FOCA (the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations) as a provincial organization.

Today, FOCA represents 50,000 families in more than 525 associations across the province.

“It is so much more constructive to be at the discussion table than to react to decisions after the fact,” said FOCA’s Board President Glen Bonham, in 1991. (“FOCA News” column in Cottage Life magazine, May/June 1991, p121)

The issues have evolved over time, but the motivation remains the same: to protect our waterfronts and freshwater resources for our kids, and for their kids.

FOCA was incorporated in 1974. By 1975, the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources, Leo Bernier, wrote in The Ontario Cottager Magazine that, “the importance of ‘cottaging’, as a prime recreational need of the citizens of Ontario, is abundantly clear to us at Queen’s Park.” In 1977, FOCA opened an office in Scarborough and hired its President (Jerry Strickland) as a part-time Executive Director. Today FOCA has 3 full-time staff, a volunteer Board of Directors, and the office is located in Peterborough in the Kawarthas.

During the 1980’s FOCA fought hard for government action on the issue of acid rain, and lobbied to stop the use of toxic Dombind as a road-dust suppressant. Since then, FOCA has secured the municipal voting rights of waterfront property owners in their cottage ridings, and brought the attention of the Provincial Auditor and the Provincial Ombudsman to the shortcomings of Ontario’s property taxation system. The fight for fair taxation under WRAFT (Waterfront Property Owners After Fair Taxation) now continues under FOCA.

For over 30 years, FOCA’s Lake Stewards have been at the core of the Lake Partner Program, the world’s largest freshwater volunteer monitoring program. FOCA has also developed a boating hazard marker program approved by Transport Canada, and put together the most comprehensive risk-management program for volunteers in rural environmental groups, through the FOCA Association Insurance Program.

In recent years, FOCA has participated in numerous committees and stakeholder groups, and has spoken out against the federal and provincial omnibus bills that gutted protection for our fisheries and fish habitat. In 2012 we saw resolution in favour of landowners’ rights during claim-staking, after a decade of behind-the-scenes work on the Mining Act by FOCA and others.

In addition to FOCA’s advocacy efforts, education and communication have remained central to our mandate. In the words of Past President, Rejeanne Anthon, published in Cottage Life in 1988:

“Over the years, the Federation has published a newsletter that gradually evolved into a glossy magazine, The Ontario Cottager which ceased publication in late 1987 …
“FOCA has now made an arrangement with Cottage Life magazine to carry the Federation’s news to cottagers … through the FOCA News insert in Cottage Life.”

Although a separate entity from the magazine, FOCA News pages remained a fixture of Cottage Life magazine through 2002.

In 2001, FOCA launched its first website and began using a bright new technology, called “email.” FOCA now relies on our website and monthly Elerts (electronic news updates by email) to keep you up-to-date about the issues that matter to waterfront property owners.

Over the past decades, FOCA has also created the award-winning Lake Planning Handbook for community planning, among many other print publications to support waterfront property owners across Ontario.

Find out about more of our videos, publications, brochures and infographics on cottage country topics.

Learn about our 60th Anniversary Celebrations in 2023.

The work continues, and with the support of waterfront property owners and others, FOCA will continue to lead the effort towards a sustainable freshwater future for Ontario.

FOCA’s Lake Stewards Newsletter, then (1978) and now (2023):

To read current and past versions of FOCA’s Newsletter (now called the Ontario Lake Stewards Magazine), visit our Publications & Videos webpage.