A long-standing disagreement between Algonquin Highlands and residents along Bear Lake Road is no closer to being resolved after the municipality again refused to sanction snow removal on the municipal laneway during the winter.

The issue was last discussed in October 2021, when Doug Middlebrook and Kathleen Hedley, representing the newly formed Bear Lake Winter Maintenance Association, informed council that as many as 40 families that live on the road year-round were having trouble accessing their properties after the municipality closed a nearby parking area last year.

The road, assumed by the township in the early 1970s, isn’t maintained during the winter. According to Adam Thorn, public works supervisor with Algonquin Highlands, Bear Lake Road, in its current condition, is not suitable for winter clearing due to its steep hills, tight turns and poor condition.

“It’s a safety concern. One of the inclines in particular… If a vehicle was to take off on you, you would miss the curve at the bottom of the hill. There’s no safe zone or runoff where you can slow a vehicle down,” Thorn said. “This is a big concern in the winter with icy conditions.”

The resident group has requested that council allow them to hire a contractor to clear the road during the winter. Thorn said this could cause some liability issues for the township, especially if there is an accident.

While talks between the two sides are ongoing, mayor Carol Moffatt informed council that she and CAO Angie Bird received a letter April 4 from the association stating they “fully intend to plow the road next winter regardless of what council decides”.

Council sought advice from their legal representative, and discussed the issue during a closed session April 7. Not completely closing the book on the matter, council elected to defer the issue pending further discussions with municipal lawyers.

“There is a part of me that wants to say ‘sure, go ahead’, but there are so many problems and so many things to overcome that I just don’t think we’re anywhere near ready to make a decision,” said deputy mayor Liz Danielsen.

‘We should be part of the solution’

Coun. Jennifer Dailloux said she’d like to see Algonquin Highlands be more proactive when it comes to helping to clean up eyesores from local lakes, voicing her support for a proposed Kawagama Lake Cottagers Association initiative to remove abandoned docks from area waterways.

The initiative, brought to council April 7, included a request that the municipality waive all landfill fees for any debris collected on clean-up days. A similar request made by the Halls and Hawk Lakes Property Owners Association in July 2018 was denied by the previous council.

While Dailloux liked the idea, Moffatt had her reservations.

“One of my concerns is being able to provide equitable access to everyone. Would this just be for lake associations, or are we going to waive fees for the disposal of docks for everybody?” Moffatt said.

“In theory it’s a good idea. But I remain skeptical over the application… I think people would take advantage of this.”

Staff were directed to see if there are any similar programs happening in other communities and, if so, find out how they’re working. A report with a recommendation will be coming back to council at a later date.