Seeking input about the use of floating accommodations on waterways over Ontario’s public lands

ERO number
019-5119
Notice type
Bulletin
Act
Public Lands Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry
Bulletin posted
Last updated

This notice is for informational purposes only. There is no requirement to consult on this initiative on the Environmental Registry of Ontario. Learn more about the types of notices on the registry.

Bulletin summary

The Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry is seeking to gather initial input on potential ideas and approaches to manage “camping” on water and the use of floating accommodations on waterways over Ontario’s public lands.

Why consultation isn't required

We are seeking input on ideas to inform possible future regulatory amendments related to “camping” on waterways and the use of floating accommodations over Ontario’s public lands.

Input from this process will inform consideration of potential future changes intended to address growing concerns around the impacts of this activity on Ontario waterways and those who use them.

No regulatory changes are being proposed at this time. Public consultation is not required under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993. Input gathered will inform any regulatory or policy changes that may be considered in the future that would be subject to consultation.

Bulletin details

Background

The Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry is aware of concerns regarding the prolonged and indeterminate occupation of floating accommodations and related potential impacts.

In summary, some of the concerns include, but are not limited to:

  • wastewater management
  • application of building permits
  • duration of use
  • advertisings that suggest a range of options for the use of floating accommodations on water
  • increasing human pressures on waterways
  • impeding access to public land and waterways
  • lack of payment of property taxes

Certain recreational activities are allowed on most public lands without obtaining permission (excluding provincial parks and conservation reserves, private water lots and federally managed lands).

Ontario Regulation 161/17 sets out the types of structures or things that individuals may use on public lands, as long as the conditions set out in the regulation are followed. These types of structures include “camping unit”. A “camping unit” is defined as a structure or vehicle that may be used for camping purposes or as an outdoor accommodation and includes a tent, trailer, tent-trailer, recreational vehicle, camper-back and any watercraft equipped for overnight accommodation. 

The Public Lands Act and Ontario Regulation 161/17 provide that individuals can camp on public lands (including waterways over public lands) if the following rules are met:

  • the camping unit is being used for private non-commercial camping purposes
  • the duration of the use is to a maximum 21 days at one location each year
  • after 21 days the camping unit must move at least 100m from its previous location
  • the public lands that are occupied are not part of a road, trail, parking lot or boat launch
  • the person using the camping unit is a Canadian citizen or resident. If not, the person requires a permit for camping per Ontario Regulation 326/94 Crown Land Camping Permit, when camping north of the French and Mattawa Rivers
  • the public lands being used are not already occupied by another person with occupational authority 
  • camping is not prohibited on the lands (i.e. per a land use plan or signage) 

A boater may always exercise their right of navigation, which includes reasonable moorage. If a person is not using a “camping unit” or navigating, then occupational authority or other permission is required from our ministry.

We are seeing a change on Ontario’s waterways. Over the years, the use of provincial waterways by watercraft has expanded to include floating accommodations, which are designed primarily to provide accommodation for longer stays (i.e., similar to a cottage) and not for navigation or for camping purposes.

The ministry is aware of concerns regarding the use of floating accommodations. Some have also raised concerns related to various potential impacts of these floating accommodations, including municipal services with water-based users (e.g., how emergency services would be deployed to persons using floating accommodations, whether they are subject to building permits and non-application of property taxes), environmental concerns (e.g., sewage), and social concerns (e.g. impeding access to public lands and waterways, noise, and advertising that suggests a range of options for the use of floating accommodations on water).

Questions related to activities on waterways over public lands   

We invite you to provide input on camping on waterways over public lands and the use of floating accommodations. To support gathering input, we have posed the questions below:

  1. Should the types of watercraft that are allowed as “camping units” be clarified?
  • the regulatory definition of a “camping unit” does not currently describe or limit the types of watercraft equipped for overnight accommodation (or vessels) that are allowed for camping on water over public lands
  1. Should the meaning of “camping purposes” be clarified?
  • the regulation doesn’t currently define “camping purposes”
  • the ministry generally regards “camping purposes” to mean for recreational use, used during a vacation, etc.
  1. Should changes be made to the camping rules set out in Ontario Regulation 161/17 as they relate to camping on waterways over public lands?
  • currently the rules include:
    • limiting the number of days a person can camp on water, at one location, to 21 days
    • the distance watercraft must move is 100m if a person camping wishes to stay longer than 21 days
  • are there other rules that should be applied to camping on water?
  1. Should more restrictive municipal bylaws apply where they exist / are created?  
  • interested municipalities may enact bylaws regarding camping on water within their jurisdiction to suit their local needs
  • should municipal bylaw requirements that are more restrictive than the provincial regulation apply (i.e., should they not apply if they are more permissive than provincial regulations and laws)?
  1. Please provide any other information / concerns / suggestions regarding camping on waterways over public lands or the use of floating accommodations on waterways over public lands that you think the ministry should consider in the future.

Please provide your feedback to the above questions by April 19, 2022. Responses can be provided to Public.Lands@ontario.ca

Supporting materials

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Important notice: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, viewing supporting materials in person is not available at this time.

Please reach out to the Contact listed in this notice to see if alternate arrangements can be made.

NDMNRF - Crown Forests and Lands Policy Branch - Crown Lands Policy Section
Address

300 Water Street
5th floor, North tower
Peterborough, ON
K9J 3C7
Canada

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Public Input Coordinator

Email address
Office
NDMNRF - Crown Forests and Lands Policy Branch - Crown Lands Policy Section
Address

300 Water Street
5th floor, North tower
Peterborough, ON
K9J 3C7
Canada

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