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The Friends of the Muskoka Watershed want you to haul ash!

Forests are a vital part of the Muskoka landscape but declining calcium levels in the soil are impacting their health and that of the district's water bodies.

In January 2019, the Friends of the Muskoka Watershed (FMW) launched a three-year study in collaboration with Laurentian University, Trent University and the University of Victoria, to determine if wood and ash could restore those calcium levels.

The organization put a call out to community members to donate wood ash for the project and quickly exceeded their year-one goal of receiving donations from 100 households.

"This is Canada's first residential wood ash recycling program to solve the calcium decline problem in our lakes and forests," says Audrey van Petegem, marketing director for Friends of the Muskoka Watershed. "This is a model that the Ontario government hopes  other communities will follow."

The friends are aiming to have 1,000 households participating in the project by its third year, and they encourage anyone who wants to participate to email

"It's for anybody who is interested in helping the local environment and to make a  difference so we can continue to enjoy our lakes and forests. The more the merrier," says van Petegem. "We couldn't do it without community involvement."

They have a limited number of ash collection cans available for residents who sign up for the program.

The project received a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF). The FMW hosted a recognition event recently to at Brooklands Farm to thank the OTF for its $733,000 contribution.

The Friends of the Muskoka Watershed recently opened a new office at 126 Kimberley Avenue in Bracebridge, which will help the organization to spread its message to the community more easily. "It makes our presence know," says van Petegem. For more information about the organization and its programs, visit

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