The Changing Landscape of Cottage Country – Etiquette to help keep things friendly for years to come!

Cottage etiquette has always been an interesting topic in that multiple generations of cottagers have always just known the ins and outs of keeping things neighbourly. However, with the flourish of land and cottage sales recently, how do we re-visit the dos and don’ts to ensure everyone can enjoy not only their weekends in cottage country, but also respect those who now live locally. Here are a few tips for both living and visiting the shores of our beautiful lakes: 

Do fences make good neighbours? Of course they do! For previous generations, things were more relaxed, land was readily available and prices were affordable. With the current cost of either re-locating or purchasing a second property, it’s more important than ever to respect and define your property lines. It doesn’t need to be a fence in the literal sense, but planting a few trees and using rock to delineate zones can only help keep things neighbourly and build privacy. With the cost of living, it certainly can’t hurt to respect boundaries and the changing economics associated with cottage country real estate. 

Residence or Cottage? Over the last year, more people than ever have chosen to make their permanent home in cottage country. Also, as the baby boomer generation retire, more cottages are being renovated or rebuilt into homes. A mutual respect for all types of lifestyle is more important than ever. The weekend warrior’s constant lawn mower and tool usage may not be as motivating for the resident neighbour! It’s not about what side, it’s about understanding, accommodating and considering “both sides of the fence.” As seasonal and residences increase, privacy is increasingly becoming key for all, a little awareness goes a long way for everyone to live in harmony in cottage country. 

Heading out on the lake? There’s “lake safety” and “lake respect.” Let’s break it down. Lake safety is your standard waterway rules and regulations that is on anyone to familiarize themselves with boating license requirements, navigational laws, fishing regulations and other laws. By not following these, the ramifications legally could be vast and widespread. Unfortunately, we read these stories every summer on the lakes. Lake respect is where etiquette resides in the unwritten rule of doing what’s right and using common sense. These things are not illegal but could be a quick way to cause friction and bad feelings amongst neighbors and others on the lake. The lake is not private property but do you need to be paddling or fishing right up to someone’s dock while they are enjoying peace and quiet? Having situational awareness, especially in small bays and highly populated lake front areas, will ensure you stay on good terms with both neighbours and those passing through. 

What’s the elephant in the room? Rentals. Ok, it’s out there – let’s discuss. Many people’s financial strategy to afford a cottage requires short term rentals which come with a whole host of challenges for all. It’s on cottage hosts to educate their renters on the same principles outlined here. Physical property lines, pet control, garbage procedures, parking, lake safety, campfire and noise by-laws are all examples of necessary protocols to review with your guests. It won’t make for friendly neighbour relations if others are having to police and educate your guests. The Township of Seguin has issued notices to end short-term cottage rentals (STCR) as of early spring 2021. Currently Tiny Township is also developing a by-law for enforcement. Many other municipalities are looking at by-laws in order to further regulate the industry and to reduce negative impact in cottage communities. 

Cottage country lifestyle means many different things to the wide range of residents and visitors who enjoy our area not just during the summer months, but all year long. Having good neighbours is important in building strong and supportive communities. Cottage country etiquette is a very real thing and it’s about pitching in to do your part so everyone can enjoy the land and lakes. Common sense goes a long way!

By: Joanne Clark