In an online awards ceremony on Nov. 26, the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) announced the winners of its 39th annual Conservation Awards, recognizing the actions of community partners across the watershed.
Several of this year’s winners were from Innisfil, including Lefroy Harbour Resorts, which was presented with a 2021 Healthy Water Award for a project that improves, preserves and protects water quality in Lake Simcoe and its watershed.
It is the latest recognition of Lefroy Harbour’s ongoing commitment to the environment, and to Lake Simcoe.
“Over the years, Lefroy Harbour Resort has won numerous awards,” says marina manager Linda Ellery. She explains the marina’s long-term involvement: “That lake out there is basically our livelihood. It’s for future generations of boaters.”
Like all Ontario marinas, Lefroy Harbour is part of the Clean Marine Program, that asks marinas to be stewards of their lakes.
Clean Marine has multiple levels of engagement and commitment. Instead of awarding stars, as in other programs, the program awards “green anchors,” at the Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels.
In 2015, Lefroy Harbour became the first Ontario marina to earn Platinum – the highest rating possible.
Every phase of operations at the Innisfil-based business has an environmental component, Ellery notes – from the conservation of energy through efficient lighting, the use of low-flush toilets in the washrooms, and landscape design that minimizes runoff from the parking lots, to support for the Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation and the LSRCA’s research vessels, which operate out of Lefroy Harbour.
There are recycling programs, waste oil programs, educational programs, a ‘Boater’s Pledge’ for marina users – environmental awareness permeates “every aspect of what we do here at the facility, and we’ve been recognized for it,” Ellery says.
The LSRCA Healthy Water Award provides recognition for a new initiative at the marina: the introduction of Seabins, to clean plastics out of the lake.
In 2020, Great Lakes Plastics Clean-Up Foundation partnered with Boating Ontario and the University of Ontario to offer the ‘Seabin’ program, and make the trash skimmers available to marina operators. The pump-operated skimmers suck in trash, weeds and “whatever else is floating around out there,” capturing the materials in a mesh bin that must be emptied at least once a day.
Lefroy Harbour had actually purchased a Seabin before the program began, but added a second skimmer at its Kon Tiki marine facility, and signed on to collect and sort the gathered materials, sending recovered plastics to the University of Toronto for analysis.
“It fit very well with what we call our ‘green initiatives’,” says Ellery, “basically picking up and cleaning up the plastics that contaminate the lake.”
But it was an education and a surprise. At first, staff were disappointed that the skimmers seemed to be filled almost entirely with water weeds, and not the expected floating debris.
It was only when the material was dried and examined, that they realized the weeds were trapping “microplastics,” and pulling them from the water stream.
“It’s the microplastics that this is getting,” Ellery says. “The weeds are playing the biggest part in pulling that out of the water,” and keeping plastics from entering the food chain.
The Seabins are in the water for six months of the year, from May to October. Lefroy Harbour has its summer students carry out much of the work - emptying the bins, drying the collected materials, then removing the plastics, which are stored in a cooler to be sent to U. of T. once a month.
Not only are students and staff involved, customers at the marina have also become interested in the project.
“It’s all really great stuff,” says Ellery. “The value of being part of this program is awareness to the problem. It aligns with our Clean Marine goals and is a valuable asset to protecting the watershed for future generations.”
The biggest challenges were where to deploy the Seabins, determined largely through trial and error, and the time commitment. It takes time to empty and sort through the bins, and to maintain the pumps.
But as everyone becomes more familiar with the technology and better trained, Ellery says, the burden has lessened. “Each year, we’re getting a little more knowledgeable,” she says. “I think it’s just going to be part of our day-to-day routine.”
The amount of material trapped in a Seabin in a single day may not seem like a lot, but it is addressing the issue of microplastic contamination, “one bucket at a time. That’s got to have a huge impact, over the generations to come,” says Ellery, expressing the hope that not only every marina but also cottagers will consider installing Seabin technology.
Lefroy Harbour’s long-term commitment was recognized during the LSRCA Conservation Award ceremony, and by those watching the presentations.
“Congratulations to all those residents who take time to make Lake Simcoe a cleaner environment,” messaged Innisfil Coun. Alex Waters.
“Recognition, education – it’s a win-win for all. We’re thrilled to be part of it,” says Ellery. “The environmental initiatives are what bring people into the marina. It’s the most asked question – right after, do you have wifi?”
For more information on Lefroy Harbour Resort, click here.