Demonstrators want their portage back
Parks Canada says the work isn’t finished, will talk to stakeholders
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | August 17, 2017|
With demonstrators blocking traffic, it took about a minute for three men to portage across Highway 35 near Moore Falls.
The group’s message was clear: they want the boat rollers back.
“It’s really important to us that we have a safe passage because we don’t want to take eight or nine-year-olds across the highway. That’s why we’re out here supporting the cause,” Trevor Wright, leader and training director at Camp Kilcoo, told The Highlander Aug. 12.
He and three others were cheered on by more than 100 people nearby as they made the portage.
In addition to dozens of young campers, members of the Moore Falls, Gull Lake and Black Lake property owners’ associations lined the bridge with signs.
The demonstration in Minden Hills came two years after Parks Canada removed the boat rollers on the portage, replacing them with hydraulic booms on both sides of the dam.
In preparation for dam upgrades on the Trent Severn Waterway (TSW), Parks Canada introduced new regulations that included a mandatory buffer zone around each dam.
But Parks Canada’s actions make little sense to Nick Evans, treasurer of the Gull Lake Property Owners’ Association.
“The fact that you have buoys at the bottom of the rapids doesn’t make any sense. No one is being sucked up the rapids. We’ve been using the boat rollers here for a long time … it’s been pretty safe,” he said.
He pointed to the fact that anyone using a tin boat with an engine will now have to turn around upon reaching Moore Falls.
Public safety was at the heart of the decision, said Jewel Cunningham, director of Ontario Waterways for Parks Canada.
While there wasn’t a specific public safety assessment for Moore Falls, other assessments for dams on the TSW indicated a pattern of unpredictable currents and water levels, she said.
“There was a long boom system that was tight to this dam and it did not adequately protect people from the significant amounts of water travelling through that area in the summer … especially on the upside of the stream. Installing these new booms and moving the distance back [from the dam] mitigates that risk by taking people further away from where the danger is and the in-flow.”
She said in 1975, two women died while crossing from one side of the dam to the other.
“It was the subject of a coroner’s inquest, and the conclusions from it were quite clear, with regards to risk at that particular dam, and the necessity of a long boom system that would protect people from the risk associated with the intake of this dam,” she said.
There was little feedback from the public when notifications were sent out in 2015 regarding dam infrastructure changes at Moore Falls, said Cunningham.
That’s changed in the past several weeks.
As a result, she’s scheduled meetings with cottage association members and Minden Hills councillors, specifically Coun. Pam Sayne.
Cunningham said she understands the concerns around portaging across Highway 35 and that the government wants to mitigate them.
That will require discussions with cottage associations, municipal governments and the Ministry of Transportation.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.