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Rob Messervey

All About the Lake


Jonathan van Bilsen

September 19, 2022

Many people in the GTA and Durham Region have visited and enjoyed Lake Scugog. The 172 km of shoreline, as spectacular as it may be, and an average depth of 1.4 metres or 54 inches, make this lake a troublesome water system with several problems. Is it fixable? The Scugog Lake Stewards, with Rob Messervey at the helm, certainly believe it is.

Rob has been in the environmental business most of his working life. He recently joined his wife Karen, in operating their family-owned native plants business, in Claremont.

Rob began his career with the Otonabee Region Conservation Authority and Central Lake Ontario C.A., and then served as General Manager of the Lower Trent Region C.A. in Trenton, for six years. 

In 1986, Rob moved to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and assumed regional, followed by provincial responsibilities, for the Conservation Authorities Program before taking on the role of District Manager in the Aylmer, Midhurst and Aurora region.

 In 2002, Rob became the manager of Water Resources, with the Ministry in Peterborough. He had oversight for the Conservation Authorities Program, and responsibilities for Great Lakes protection and management, various emergency management programs, surface water monitoring, and drinking water source protection. Two years later, Rob served as Director of the Ministry’s Lands and Waters program, with oversight for water, crown lands, aggregate and petroleum resources, and renewable energy.

Until his retirement in 2016, Rob was the CAO of the Kawartha Region Conservation Authority. Who better than Rob Messervey, to head up the ‘fixing’ of Lake Scugog? 

 So what exactly is wrong with the lake? To find the answer, we have to delve into the past, all the way back to 1826. A fellow named William Purdy, made his way north, to what is now Lindsay. He settled there, along with his third or fourth wife, and built a sawmill on the Scugog River. In an effort to obtain a strong flow of water to power his mills, Purdy decided to build a ten-foot dam. By September of 1828, the project was completed. As water filled the dammed area, the pressure became too severe, and the barrier broke. 

It took another year to rebuild, but by the spring of 1830, William Purdy was in business… but not for long. The second dam was seven feet higher than the original, causing the Scugog basin to flood, raising the water by seven feet. This doubled the surface area of the lake and killed thousands of trees, and created a number of unhappy neighbours. The government stepped in, built a proper dam, and presto, Lake Scugog appeared.

I asked Rob if the shallowness of the Lake was the problem, and he replied, ‘it was’. After successfully combating Eurasian Milfoil, an invasive species, we now have Starry Stonewart, another invasive aquatic plant. “It grows like a weed along the bottom of the lake, and causes concerns for swimmers and boaters. If the lake was deeper, the Starry Stonewart problem would stay at the bottom, but that is not the case here.”

Rob explained, “Stop-gap measures have not worked, so the time has come to create a permanent solution – The Lake Scugog Enhancement Project.”

The very complex project, a joint effort by the Township of Scugog, the Kawartha Lakes CA and the Lake Stewards, will commence construction this fall. There is still a financial shortfall, but steps are underway to make it work.

Runoff from the town, into Port Perry Bay, is a major contributor to feeding harmful pollutants into the water. To filter these contaminants, a berm will be constructed, roughly from the Independent Grocer to the playground. This berm will be a place for people to stroll, fish and enjoy nature, and will incorporate the current walkway, already in place.

The bay will then be dredged and sloped and the evasive species will be removed. The left over residue will be used to fill the area between the berm and the shore. Native, aquatic plants will be added and the area will become a sanctuary for fish, birds, amphibians and turtles. In other words, a great place for the residents and visitors of Scugog to enjoy our best feature.

“The project is expected to be completed in 2024, and will greatly enhance Lake Scugog,” Rob added.

Rob Messervey certainly has the credentials to spearhead this project. His passion, dedication and knowledge is a driving force to make this happen. To find out more about the project or Rob Messervey, visit 

I had the pleasure of interviewing Rob Messervey on my talk show, which will air on October 16th on RogersTV and YouTube (search for The Jonathan van Bilsen Show). To coin a phrase, made popular a few years ago, ‘without Lake Scugog, we would just be another little town’.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, ‘The Jonathan van Bilsen Show,’ on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.

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