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Photography leads to politics on the hill

by | Feb 27, 2023

It’s been a while since I’ve attended a North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority board meeting. Quite a few years, actually, reporters at the Nugget stopped going regularly a few years before I left in 2018. I parachuted into the Feb. 22 meeting and it brought back memories of the days when there wasn’t a tower on top of Laurentian Ski Hill.

Sure, I’ve covered the Mattawa River Canoe Race a couple times and wrote about some of their other initiatives, maybe a flood or two. The NBMCA does a lot of good things while working with  local conservation-minded trail groups who care about protecting life in the watersheds here. Not many board meetings make it to the top of the priority list though, at least not like they did back in the Bill Becket and Bob Gray days.

By the way, the NBMCA announced on Friday they will be skipping the 2023 canoe and kayak race after celebrating the 50th anniversary last summer. Some long-time participants believe it is a mistake to skip a year and believe they could have helped figure out any logistical, volunteer/staff resources or financial issues if only asked before the decision was made. Some think it is proof they are impacted by politics as the provincial government puts pressure on CAs to shrink their focus and ability (so more development can take place unhindered by them). Either way, there is a Zoom meeting April 19 if you want to help them plan for a 2024 race. Email community relations coordinator Paula Loranger to take part or provide suggestions on how to run it going forward.

NBMCA chief administrative officer Chitra Gowda visited the Small Town Times / Back in the Bay Magazine booth at the Home and Garden Expo at Memorial Gardens this weekend.

Another big story from the meeting is the motion to have staff prepare a cost benefit analysis for their offices and tower, with capital maintenance and refurb projects mounting. I remember calling it a “white elephant” project 20 years ago when it was proposed, although framing it as an outdoor education facility with like-minded tenants to offset financial burdens, as well as being an anchor for the Laurentian Ski Hill sounded good on paper. Now they are looking at about $300,000 to fix the tower deck on top of other capital repairs. The report due in June will likely include options for renting more space out, selling or trading the building for alternate space or status quo with additional fundraising or putting the NBMCA hand out to the city.

Winners of the Watershed Wonders photography contest celebrating the North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority’s 50th anniversary in 2022 pose Feb. 22, 20023 after receiving awards, prizes and honourable mentions. Back row, from left, NBMCA’s CAO Chitra Gowda, Vice Chair Shelley Belanger, Kevin Lalonde, Megan Johnson, Chris Chartrand, Ken Sitter and contest judge Mike de Moree. Front row, from left: Kaye Edmonds and Natalie Seidler.

It was very cool to see at the board meeting several photographers I know receive contest prizes for some great outdoor shots. It was the NBMCA’s 50th anniversary Watershed Wonders contest, and it was a pleasant surprise to see my Canadore College photography teacher Mike de Moree. He was there to help judge the winners and I enjoyed a brief conversation afterward about new technology. He agreed that we should connect for a video interview, which will be of interest to his many former students and friends no doubt. When done it will be posted to the YouTube channel. Until then, check his recent and archived work at his Silverpixel site at

My attendance at the board meeting came about because I’m putting something together about the inexhaustible Kaye Edmonds for the spring Back in the Bay magazine (now scheduled to go with an arts section in the summer edition). The idea was to get an official shot with other winners because, as my journalism instructors and editors always said, faces and names are the foundation of a community publication. It was to go with another group shot last weekend taken before she went out on a Nipissing Naturalist Club excursion at the Callander Trails. Listen to my interview with Kaye Edmonds HERE on YouTube on at the bottom of this story.

Nipissing Naturalists Club at Callander Trails Feb. 19, 2023.

Put it all together and you have a decent people feature (which will end up posted on this site when done). The Club seems well organized for those who like to hike (or will bear a walk to take interesting photos of flora and fauna). For more information about the club and its activities, see its private Facebook group HERE. I will try to get an alternate contact point for those who are off social media.

Landscape, by Kaye Edmonds

Water, by Kaye Edmonds

Another bonus was seeing my fellow retired Nuggeteer Ken Sitter get an award, congrats as well to the very active Kevin Lalonde, who does some exceptional work.

“To see these photographs, they tell the story of why conservation authorities, together with our municipal and community partners, need to continue the work we do as watershed managers so that our water remains healthy for generations to come,” said NBMCA Vice Chair Shelley Belanger.

First Place Overall, by Kevin Lalonde

People and Nature, by Kevin Lalonde

Wildlife, by Ken Sitter

Sustainable Structures, by Megan Johnson

“The photographers have captured the serenity, beauty, and meaningful relationship between people and the natural landscape within our watersheds,” said chief administrative officer Chitra Gowda.

The NBMCA said winning photographs and honourable mentions (see the Watershed Wonders website story for all the pics and descriptions) will be featured in an exhibition in the NBMCA tower this spring.

Now, I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t know Mayor Peter Chirico would be there as a council representative. I figured as much and it was bound to happen eventually. We’ve not crossed paths since before the election and the “Stuffles Street Saga” columns. For the blissfully uninitiated, you can surf through my BayToday columns and get the gist of the background about the vacant 200-foot deep road allowance between his Ski Club Road property and neighbour Sylvia Ross. Chirico and I don’t see eye to eye on several matters. But this has driven the wedge deep between us, there’s no doubt, and it will be remain uncomfortable for at least the near future. It’s at the point I didn’t offer a salutation or force eye contact and he didn’t either, despite sitting a boardroom table width apart. Maybe some day.

Until then, I am looking forward to seeing Ross’s reaction to the latest staff response to her recent letters asking for a review of the status of the road allowance.

Dave Dale and Sylvia Ross at the Home and Garden Expo at Memorial Gardens Feb. 25, 2023


As for the meeting, it should be noted that Chirico did recuse himself before the discussion about a land swap recommendation with the Callander development company his brother Mike partly owns. Also in the meeting, Gowda offered to cut her CAO/secretary treasurer pay by $7,000 to re-establish a family benefit program for staff. Gowda said her pay was increased more than she expected last year when the grid was adjusted and thought staff support is a worthwhile investment. Chirico said he appreciated her gesture but declined the offer and then moved a motion to find the $10,000 to $12,000 in the budget to fund a benefit plan addition. If it costs anything more, though, it must come back to the board, he said. See the board meeting package in PDF format HERE. Reports made in the meeting are not included.


Watershed data collection was shared with the North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority board Feb. 22, 2023.

Want to see more columns and features on this website? See the front page for donation buttons or virtual store tab to subscribe for the next three magazines delivered for $35 (you actually get four but I can’t seem to change the website widget or whatever).



Dave Dale
Dave Dale

Writer, photographer and proud father. My mom’s family is from the Soo with its Algoma Highlands, dad hailed from Cobden in the Ottawa Valley and I spent my teen years in Capreol. Summers were at the beach on the Vermillion River and winters at ‘The Rink.’ Born in East York but Toronto never was my thing. Ever since a kid looking out the window on long trips, I imagined living on the highway in a little house with a big yard and trees growing all around me.

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