Jack Brezina: Community rises to occasion, again
|By Jack Brezina - Contributing Writer | May 11, 2017|
One could feel the love and concern in the air as volunteers descended on Minden and spent the weekend moving sand around. From large mounds they funnelled the wet sand into plastic bags in the parking lot of the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena. People had come from across the county and beyond to help their neighbours and friends, once again, defend their property against the rising water of the Gull River.
Swollen by a week of steady rain throughout the watershed, and with the saturated ground unable to absorb any more, the river rose and by late in the week was spilling over its banks. Thoughts of the mess left behind by the same situation in 2013 came flooding back and people sprang into action. Filling a bag with sand hardly seemed significant in the larger picture, but with a host of volunteers and the new mechanical four chute, bag filler, (up to 1,600 bags an hour or more than 24 bags a minute) the work of many amounted to a mountain of sandbags, and perhaps hope for some that they can stave off the ravages of the rising water. It was wet and tedious filling the bags with shovels and the job seemed to be never-ending. Just when the pile looked like it had been conquered, a municipal dump truck would back into the middle of everything and drop several more tonnes of sand at the feet of the hard-working volunteers. If there is one thing this county has lots of, it is sand.
In addition to the mechanical filler, there were a number of ingenious methods of filling the bags this time around. Someone repurposed a cardboard tube used for pouring cement footings (Sonotube is the commercial name). Neatly fitted into the empty bag, the sand was shovelled into the tube, the tube removed and voila the bag held just the right amount of sand. This clever innovation sped up the process and allowed fillers to work in teams or individually. The bags disappeared almost as quickly as they were being filled. Good Samaritans with pickup trucks and trailers backed in and flung the bags into the backs of their vehicles and drove back to the roads along the river. Some were working with individual home owners while others were just providing a delivery to anyone who needed the bags.
In true community spirit, people arrived with boxes of pizza from Godfather’s and flats of bottled water. One woman stopped by with a plate of homemade brownies. There were volunteers from across the county. I recognized many who had driven down from Haliburton and Algonquin Highlands to help out. Staff members from the MNRF fire base were there too, along with many, many others. On Monday, the Grade 7 and 8 students from Archie Stouffer Elementary School spent the morning filling bags. Ontario Hydro crews were pressed into service delivering the bags to strategic locations along the river. Salvation Army personnel from Orillia were handing out hot lunches from a mobile kitchen that arrived on the scene and the Red Cross along with the Community Kitchen at the Minden Food Bank distributed sandwiches.
The appetite for more bags seemed to wane a little as the day wore on. Access across the bridge was cut off at 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon. The number of people bagging sand dwindled as well, as energy levels dropped. Volunteers headed home hoping all their effort had made a difference and that someone’s property somewhere along the river had been made more secure because of their work.
- NOTE # 1: It is uncertain at this writing whether more bags will be needed by the time this column is published. Check the Minden Hills website to determine if assistance is still required and for other flood updates: mindenhills.ca
- NOTE # 2: In the 2013 flood, downtown businesses took a major hit as shoppers stayed away from the core area. I encourage everyone to make a special effort to visit the businesses on both sides of the bridge and continue your patronage. They need your support at this time more than ever.
- NOTE # 3: As in all reports of this nature, it is difficult to include the names of everyone who helped. For those missed, I apologize.
Jack Brezina is a contributing writer for The Highlander.