An Open Letter to Summer People Everywhere

This is not “a recreational paradise” or “a summer playground”. This is our neighbourhood.

Those labels are marketing ploys used by real estate agents and business owners eager to make money on sales. They do not speak for us. We live here; they do not.

Many of us have lived here for five, ten, twenty years. Half of us are retired; half of us still work. We live here because we want to live on a lake in a forest. We love to look out at the water and see the sun sparkle, the moonlight shimmer. We love to hear the birds and see the squirrels at our feeders; we stand in awe when we see the occasional moose or bobcat. We sit out in the evening and look up at the starry sky. We open our windows at night to hear the loons as we fall asleep. We love the peace and quiet; we bask in the solitude.

So when you ‘summer people’ come here on the weekends and do whatever the hell you want, of course we consider it an invasion. And of course we want our neighbourhood back.

When you come here, you’re not leaving the city and driving to a place where you can ‘let loose’ – you’re simply leaving your own neighbourhood and entering ours.

When we have asked, politely, that you not drive so fast in your pick-ups, we were told we don’t own the road. (And to prove it, you sped up as you passed us, spraying gravel in our faces.)

When we have asked, politely, that you not come so close to us on your seadoos, you have screamed at us “You don’t own the fucking lake!”

True enough. But this is not a public campground: it is not empty before you arrive, it does not exist solely for your pleasure, it is not empty when you leave. Did you really think no one lives here?

Right. Okay.

Churn up the roads with your ATVs; no one will have to deal with the grooves and gullies until the grader next comes by because no one lives here.

Drive around on your dirt bikes all day, being sure to have made modifications so everyone within ten miles can hear you. All day. Because there isn’t anyone within ten miles to hear you.

Don’t worry about people having to walk through the fume trail you leave because no one but you ever wants to use the trails.

Leave your empty beer cans and coffee cups and cigarette butts and fast food cartons along the roads and trails. No one will see any of it because no one lives here.

Don’t bother taking your household garbage to the dump; just toss it. Sure, it’ll attract bears, but you won’t be putting anyone at risk because no one lives here.

(And when all of it’s gone by the next time you’re up, that’s because a bunch of little elves came in the middle of the night and cleaned up after you.)

Use those environmentally-friendly solar lights that don’t have an on-off switch. Put dozens all over your property; they’ll stay on even when you’re not here. But they won’t spoil the dark and beautiful night, all night, every night, because no one lives here.

Have a campfire even when there’s a fire ban. If the fire spreads, that’s fine, no one’s home will burn down, because no one lives here.

When you turn on the radio, turn it up loud. Open all your windows. You won’t be forcing anyone else to listen to it because no one lives here. (And if they did, rest assured they like exactly the same music you do and want to listen to it when and for as long as you do.)

Park your party barge in front of someone’s house – oops, that’s not someone’s house. No one lives there. They won’t hear your kids’ shrieks or your conversation. (And if they do, they will care deeply about whether you remembered to buy marshmallows, where you left your hat, how to do a proper dive, whether the water’s too cold, and what to say to Mark when you get back.)

You can also park your fishing boat in front of someone’s house – oops. No one will smell your cigarette smoke or your motor fumes. They won’t hear your conversation either. (And if they do, they will surely want to know that John’s a fuckin’ asshole and that you couldn’t care less what that bitch does.)

Zoom around on your jet skis, bring your large-motored boats, consider the lake an abandoned gravel pit, pretend you’re doing the Indy 500. No one will have to go inside and shut their windows, because no one lives here.

Believe Home Depot and Canadian Tire when they tell you that being ‘at the lake on the weekend’ is all about being a he-man: use all the power tools you want – nail guns, circular saws, lawn mowers, weed trimmers, leaf blowers, and chain saws. Use them outside. Use them on the lake side. Use them in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening. No one will hear any of it because no one lives here.

(And if we do, we don’t want to sit outside anyway. It’s not like we’ve been waiting through six months of winter and another month of bugs to finally be able to do so.)

Don’t spend the money to hook up to hydro; use a generator instead. No one will have to hear the motor echo across the lake all day, and all evening, and into the night if you go into town and don’t come back until two or three in the morning, because no one lives here.

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