Exploring recreation impacts on Franklin Island and collaborative management options for eastern Georgian Bay
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This research focuses on recreation impacts and management options for the eastern coast of Georgian Bay, a popular destination for summer tourism. Georgian Bay has a rugged coastline of barren rock islands and wind sept trees - a wilderness setting that attracts cottagers, campers and boaters alike. Franklin Island, close to the Town of Parry Sound, represents a microcosm of recreation management problems on the coast of Georgian Bay, including concerns about the ecological capacity for island recreation, social concerns about impacts, and some ongoing governance and management challenges for Crown Lands. This study uses Franklin Island as the site to assess the types and severity of recreation impacts at five different campsites. Vegetation surveys found that vegetation communities at the campsite scale and slightly beyond the campsite do not appear to be significantly altered or affected by the current intensity and types of recreation use. Since the most visible impacts (e.g., campfires, cut wood, and trampling) found in this study were not at a scale to alter the vegetation patterns and coverage of the area, within the campsite or outside of campsite boundaries, the discussion then distinguishes between various scales and types of impact (ecosystemic, ecological, and aesthetic) to determine whether measured impacts affect broader ecosystem functioning. Overall this study would suggest that these localized impacts are not having a significant impact to the functioning of the Franklin Island ecosystem. However, the mosaic structure of ecosystems in eastern Georgian Bay, with their high level of patchiness and inter-patch diversity, including large areas of barren rock, pose some unique challenges for an ecological assessment of recreation impacts. Some modifications to the sampling approach may assist future assessments of recreation impacts and long-term monitoring. Recreation on Franklin Island poses a challenge for environmental management because, while it is in the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Natural Resources as a formal Conservation Reserve, there are a number of factors that have contributed to a management vacuum, including limited resources for management, monitoring and enforcement by traditional authorities. As a result, governance for Franklin Island has shifted from formal government-led approaches to informal partnerships and community based collaborative approaches. However, it is unclear whether the collaborative governance approach for Franklin Island that undertakes specific management actions (e.g., a volunteer fire ban, latrine construction, site clean-up, etc.) are successfully reducing the potential risks from recreation to Franklin Island's ecosystems. This research concludes with a number of recommendations for managing recreation on Franklin Island and in eastern Georgian Bay.