Shore Road Allowance – What it Means

Lake Joseph,Muskoka

What is Shore Road Allowance?

When you're searching waterfront properties the term " Shore Road Allowance" or S.R.A. frequently appears on the listings. What is this mysterious S.R.A and what does it have to do with me buying a cottage? Well it could be incredibly important or incredibly irrelative depending on your particular situation.  To begin with let's look at what it is and then how it could have an impact on your purchase.

Back in the 1800s the Ontario government created the Shoreline Road Allowance to allow access to the shore from navigable waterways for commercial use during a time that travel by lakes and rivers was used primarily for logging operations. As time passed ownership of these road allowances was passed down to the local municipalities. Generally speaking landowners have been able to purchase the shoreline road allowance that goes between there property and the water from the townships at a reasonable cost. Other shoreline road allowances such unopened concession roads usually remain in the ownership of the municipality.

  • Width is 20 meters or 66' running perpendicular the the shoreline
  • Applicable to most, but not all, lakes & rivers
  • Generally islands are have no S.R.A.
  • On controlled waterways ( ie. Hydro, flood dams) the S.R.A area may be completely underwater
  • Can be purchased only by abutting property owner

Keep in mind that if the lot is "pie shaped" and the smaller end is at the waterfront you could potentially end up with a narrower shoreline. The opposite is true if the pie is wide at the lakefront which can be very beneficial in certain severance situations. Always consult with the township & a reputable lawyer familiar with the process to see what implications can arise from the transaction!

Potential Problems

In times past people would build structures close to the waterfront on property they technically didn't own, probably without even knowing it. Many a boathouse, bunkie or storage building is located on municipal lands. This is not necessarily a "grandfathered" situation as many people are lead to believe.  If there are any structures by the water's edge knowing if you own the land they sit on is paramount. Boathouses on Muskoka's "Big Three" have their own set of challenges as the lakebed under the structure must be purchased or leased from the Ministry of Natural Resources.  Any Offer of Purchase and Sale for a boat house & cottage on Lake Rosseau, Lake Muskoka or Lake Joseph with a boat house should address this.

S.R.A. Survey Example
Muskoka road shore allowance
Purchasing the S.R.A.

There are many reasons waterfront property owners would want to buy the Shore Road Allowance from the municipality. Most are quite accommodating and have the process you will need to follow on their websites. There are times when purchasing is not allowed, for instance when the land/waterway is environmentally protected, where the S.R.A is underwater or where there might be a negative impact on adjoining property owners access. There are some Muskoka law firms that look after the entire process for their waterfront clients, just contact us if you need a recommendation. There is usually a set fee per square meter from the township, a survey is required and application fees. Here are some of the situations where purchasing makes sense;

  1. You want to build a boathouse.
  2. There are existing structures located or encroaching on the S.R.A.
  3. You're building an addition to the cottage or another structure and are at the lot coverage limit.
  4. You're pondering selling the cottage down the road & you want to make the property more attractive to potential purchasers.
  5. Keeping your waterfront private from the public


Here are some helpful links Muskoka & Parry Sound townships S.R.A. applications forms:

The portion of the shore road allowance to be closed and conveyed will generally be determined by straight lot line projections. Most waterfront is irregular in nature of so deviations from straight extensions of existing lot lines may be considered and may be required by some townships.



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