The official guide, powered by On the Road magazine

The Pilot Of Musselman’s Lake


He’s not really a pilot. His name is James Spratley. James launched a pilot project in 2015 with the Town that allowed lands to be conveyed again. The subject land is located in the Musselman’s Lake area, that was originally developed through a plan of subdivision for residential cottage uses with individual wells and holding tanks.

Many of these cottages became inhabited on a year-round basis, creating water quality concerns. In 1952, the Township of Whitchurch passed By-law No. 1386, which deemed these lots to no longer be within a registered plan of subdivision. Once de-registered, the titles of adjacent lots held under common ownership merged and were no longer able to be individually built on. Residential development has been taking place on vacant lots at Musselman’s over time; however, no new lots were being created. Then, along came James.

The Community of Musselman’s Lake is serviced by the Ballantrae/Musselman’s Lake Water Works water supply and distribution system. This municipal water system was commissioned in 1996 due to confirmed salt contamination and elevated levels of bacteria and nutrients within the shallow groundwater system in the area, which was attributed to a combination of poor separation of potable water sources from septic systems, road salting activities, and past agricultural activities.

James and partners, and a family of employees, with Eco Lake Homes have built seven new homes and have performed 14 rebuilds at Musselman’s Lake; several of his crew live at the lake. He has a home there and doesn’t plan to work anywhere else. They are dedicated to rejuvenating the lake.

With water resources being restricted at the lake and almost out of capacity, James plans to conserve water in order to use “new” water. Typically, James will purchase a double lot with an old house on it. These older homes are usually served by very old and broken holding tanks, or dysfunctional septic fields. Eco Lake Homes will modernize the older home, install water-efficient fixtures and the latest bio-filtered septic system. Then, he will split the lot and build a new eco-friendly family home.

At the end of the day, these two homes will save more water and create much less eff luent than the existing unimproved home. Effluent that enters the ground after passing through the bio-filters is almost drinkable.

“We are returning capacity to the community,” says James. This is not an easy process – no ‘big’ developer would touch such a scheme. The environmental burden of proof has to be delivered to Town Planners, the Committee of Adjustment, and the Conservation Authority. “We are re-building the community one-by-one,” says James. “We are in it for the long run, anything we propose has to be a win-win for the lake.”

“We focus on building affordable, modest homes of 1,600-2,2200 square feet, but the way we build them – with spacious ceilings and great views, provides the feel of a much larger home,” says James. When Eco Lake Homes develops a lot, they preserve as many existing trees as possible. When they have to cut a tree down, they will re-use the wood for the next build. They also utilize as many local suppliers and sub-trades as possible, such as Schell Lumber, Farmer Jacks, and other local trade people, that live at the lake.

In addition, James plans to offer the community 50 free low-flow toilets and dishwashers annually to conserve an additional 2.5 million liters of water, so far they have changed over 25 old high flow toilets to low water use units. He also plans to sponsor annual inspections of existing bio filter septic systems. Conservation and preservation are the key to the community’s survival.

Eco Lake Homes became a Tarion Registered builder in 2018. Tarion helps protect consumers and regulates new home builders and sellers by administering and enforcing the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act and Regulations. The legislation sets out the limited warranty protection builders and sellers must provide to home buyers. Tarion informs consumers about warranty rights and assists with claims on any repairs required by the act. Every registered builder is listed on the Ontario Builder Directory, searchable on Eco Lake Homes Inc. is proud to be a member in good standing.

James is connected to the lake in multiple ways. Although he was raised in Brooklin, his parents were engaged on Lakeshore Drive one night, as his father, a floatplane pilot, would fly into the lake and played in a band at the famous Musselman’s Lake dance hall in Glendale Park. That’s where he met James’ mom. James too, met a special lady through friends at Musselman’s Lake, she’s now is his partner. “We built a house and fell in love with the area,” said James. It took another four years to hatch and perfect the idea about re-building the lake.

The interesting part about James is that he is severely dyslexic and had been relegated to an alternate classroom in public school to for years to “play with blocks” while the other kids received a meaningful education. After being passed through high school, James recovered to become a member of Canada’s National Rifle Team, a position he held for 12 years. He travelled the world competing for Canada, he is a Canadian small-bore 50-meter record holder scoring 600 out of 600 and winning several medals including gold at the 1982 world full-bore championships. This taught me that achieving goals in life comes with only great drive and commitment. Despite any learning disabilities, James is the most learned person that I have met in the last year. He can talk about technical aspects of environmentalism and construction endlessly, and passionately.

Recently, James bought a lake access point so that his clients can join his beach club and have access to the lake. James is working the patient game, as it takes a lot of work getting building permits these days, and in the end, he and the crew make a modest living and return value to the lake. “There’s a price for doing business at the lake – it requires a big commitment “and loads of community support concludes James.

Read More Local Spotlights