Summer residents volunteer efforts contribute to Manitoulin flavour

Friends of Misery Bay volunteers Barb and Bill Kling fell in love with Manitoulin on their honeymoon and the couple enjoy putting back into the community with their work at the provincial park. Although they are originally from the Rochester, New York area and now winter in Florida, the Island has become their summer retreat.

MANITOULIN—They may only be here for part of the year, and quite a number don’t even sport Canadian passports, but there is no denying the immense contribution that many of our summer residents make to the general weal of the Island.

“There are so many wonderful people who contribute their time and treasure to help make Misery Bay Park the success that it has been,” said Ken McKenzie, volunteer coordinator for the Friends of Misery Bay, that almost unique organization that assists with operating the interpretive centre and trail system that has made Misery Bay Park a globally famous site, drawing visitors from all points to the rare and mysterious alvar formations for which the park is known.

For the uninitiated, and that tends to hold true for far too many Island residents, Misery Bay Provincial Park is the only operating (day-use only) provincial park on Manitoulin Island. Beside providing access to the scenic Lake Huron coastline and sporting an eco-friendly visitor centre, 15 km of hiking trails and a plethora of rare plants and globally significant ecosystems, Misery Bay Provincial Park also provides great educational programming opportunities through interactive hi-tech displays, posting charts and maps as well as helpful student staff and volunteers drawn from across the spectrum of Island residents.

Barb and Bill Kling are fairly representative of those volunteers who hang their hats rather far afield come the winter months. The couple hail originally from the Buffalo/Rochester area of New York, but now settle into warmer digs in Florida each winter—but come summer, it’s Manitoulin time!

“I have been coming to Manitoulin since 1936,” said Ms. Kling. Her parents were convinced to come to Manitoulin by the Ontario Superintendent of Police when they met him onboard ship travelling back to England. “They rented his place on Silver Lake and then eventually, in 1937, they bought the property.”

Reverand Irwin Tompson helps a young tourist on his journey of
discovery at the Misery Bay Park reception centre. There is
something for just about everyone at the park, which encompasses some of the rarest geology on earth.

Mr. Kling married into the family camp and the couple spent their honeymoon on Manitoulin, where love blossomed.

As for Misery Bay, the couple were friends with the original owners, Tom and Ellie Moore. “We knew how much work they did on the property,” said Mr. Kling. “Misery Bay is such a great corner of the world.”

Aside from the beauty and rare alvars that fascinate the couple, volunteering has led to them meeting a large number of people from all across the globe. “There are so many fascinating people from all over the world that you get to meet,” said Ms. Kling.

Regina Moorecroft, a linguist by career, has enjoyed her time with the Friends of Misery Bay as well. She first became involved as a way to become better integrated into the community. “Both my husband and I, when he was still alive, wanted to be involved, I still do actually,” she said. Becoming involved with the Misery Bay Provincial Park project combined her love of the outdoors. “It seemed like a really good thing,” she laughed. “Having a park on the Island. At the time we became involved there wasn’t a park on the Island.”

The government seemed to think so too. Soon the group were able to harness a number of grants to build up the park infrastructure, with the addition of a centre building and ever expanding trails. “To a large extent it was grants from the government that made everything possible,” said Ms. Moorecroft, who originally hails from the London area.

Her motivation these days is much the same as that of the Klings. “Meeting people is really fun,” she said. “Almost everybody who comes really enjoys their time here. I like the other volunteers, it is great to mix with like-minded people and getting to know the other volunteers. Besides, volunteering with the Friends of Misery Bay is a great reason to go out there, to go out on the trails and become familiar.”

Those interested in becoming part of the Friends of Misery Bay family are invited to contact Ken McKenzie at kenmfomb@gmail.com for more information on how you can become involved.