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Township Dock on Lake Muskoka
PIN 48154-0651 Pt. Bed of Lake Muskoka in front of Lot 14, Con 4 Medora; Pt Bed of Lake Muskoka in front of Lot 15 Medora; Pt Lot and Bl 17; Muskoka Lakes.
The Township Dock on Lake Muskoka (Township Dock), which is located on Portage Island in Bala, is a small public park less than one acre in size with public dock facilities. It is located east of Highway 169, and to the north of the adjacent North Bala Falls channel, to the east of the Canadian Pacific (CP) rail line and to the south of Mill Creek.
Statement of Heritage Value or Interest:
The Township Dock is located in the same area as the “Steamship Wharf” that existed in this location and was linked by ramps to the 1907 CPR railway station. Steamship landings are recorded in Bala from the mid-1860's. The Township Dock represents a key link in the primary modes of transportation in the late 1800’s and 1900’s. This public waterfront property supports the traditional practice of arriving and departing Bala by water, making it “important in defining, maintaining or supporting the character of the area” as a water oriented community.
Township Dock’s historical and associative value lies in its relation to modern and traditional transportation, facilitating tourism and recreation in Muskoka for 150 years. The Township Dock site is used for picnicking, and swimming, and has been the site of the annual Bala Regatta for over 100 years. Following the construction of CP rail lines in 1907, the dock area, then known as “Steamboat Wharf”, was linked by ramp to the “Summer Station” on adjacent Canadian Pacific Railway property where the arrival of passenger rail service opened the area to tourists from across North America. Prior to the train, access had been by water and then by road, presently known as Highway 169.
The wooden dock at the Township Dock, and its associated parkland provide open public access to the water and to the Bala town centre and more broadly, to the surrounding area of Muskoka. This dock is reminiscent of the earlier Steamship Wharf. There is potential to yield information or artifacts of the former ramps and docks on the property through marine or terrestrial archaeological fieldwork.
The park area consists of a rough gravel drive, lawn, footpaths and is located next to the constructed railway embankment of the CP rail line. The park and dock is surrounded on three sides by water, Lake Muskoka, the Mill Stream, and the North Bala Falls channel and has an evolved shoreline as well as the manmade dock edge. Vehicular access to the property from the north is by way on a bridge over the Mill Creek from Gordon Street on the adjacent property.
The site’s contextual value lies in its open views to Lake Muskoka, and to nearby forest and cottages, as well as its provision of ongoing connection and transfer points between watercraft and the Bala town centre. It is a key part of a larger cultural heritage landscape of Bala. The view from the dock and/or flat grassy area looking south-west to the CP rail line bridge relates to rail transportation, the view of the portage landing relates to water transportation and tourism themes, both important themes in the cultural landscape of Bala. Even though there is no longer passenger rail service, passing freight trains continue the visual and acoustical association between water and rail transport.
The heritage attribute essential to the cultural heritage value or interest of this property is the public waterfront park serving as the traditional water, then water to rail and road, public transportation interchange (“park”). Key elements of this park include:
- A wooden dock beside the open water.
- The flat grassy area surrounded on three sides by water.
- The association with CP rail line on adjacent property, and potential for archaeological remains of the former ramp linking the dock to the former station area.
- The connections between water transportation and routes to the Bala town centre under CP rail line bridge, and across bridge over Mill Stream, which consist of compacted gravel and sandy grass areas which permit easy access across to the bridge and footpaths on adjacent property.
- Native trees and plants growing on the property.
- Potential for information yielded by marine and terrestrial archeological fieldwork
- Evolved shoreline where the original steamship dock has been removed and replaced with a manmade sand and rock shore and the retaining structures and wooden dock surface
- View to treed embankment, planted by community members, on adjacent CPR property which has potential to yield remains of the former summer train station, as well as dock and ramp foundations
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