Posted on: August 8, 2016 | General News
Upon looking out of my cabin window this July Monday morning, I am taken by the serenity of the day!!! As has been the case for the past 3 weeks, although the forecast is for more precipitation and a continuation of same until Thursday, the sun is now shining, the birds are singing and the scene belies what has happened in the Whiteshell Provincial Park these past two months. Who would believe that mother nature would send her fury to this part of Manitoba not once but twice in a two month period!
In the June edition of the Whiteshell Echo, the front page caption read “Proceed With Caution” with a photo of the raging forest fire. “By May 21st the Caddy Lake fire was 85% contained and evacuation orders for Florence and Nora Lakes were lifted May 23rd.” Now, in our August Echo edition there are photos of high water levels at almost every Whiteshell lake caused by the “once in 50 years” torrential storm on Friday/Saturday, June 24th and 25th leaving 6+ inches of rain over a four hour period. I was advised by Warren Barnard, Falcon Lake cottage resident at the regular Monday morning coffee gathering at the Nest Restaurant in Falcon Lake that another 1 inch of rain also was recorded Sunday totally 7+ inches in three days! Now, not fire but flooded roads prevents our Nora Lake Board Member, Angela Hogan from accessing her cottage. Although serious residual damage to roads and properties caused by run-off along with the resulting unprecedented increases in lake levels eg. Falcon Lake -24 inch increase; West Hawk – 30 inch increase; and, Caddy Lake – 72 inch increase; provincial officials and related organizations along with other provincial park stakeholders worked quickly and cooperatively together to help those cottagers stranded and severely affected by the storm. Talking with a Parks Officer the following Monday when I drove to view the status of the Falcon Lake South Shore road and cottages off the South Shore Road, I was advised that Parks staff had walked from the ski hill back to Falcon Lake Marina checking each cottage to ensure no one needed assistance.
Since the devastating storm your Whiteshell Cottagers Association Board of Directors has been in daily contact with the media and provincial officials whether by phone, email or text to relay updates to the best of their knowledge. A very informative and open meeting was convened at the Whiteshell Community Center by Parks staff on Sunday mid-afternoon, July 3rd where the details of the storm’s impact were communicated and cottagers allowed to voice comments and questions to the Provincial Parks officials in attendance. Although close to 200 individuals attended, an earlier starting time, a more effective notification method and a location closer to Caddy Lake where the flood impact was greatest were suggestions I heard from attendees. There was general agreement that the province had reacted very quickly to repair roads, provided sand bags and reduced to some degree further damage to lakefront structures by posting a restriction to operating boats within 100 meters of the shoreline. Recommendations were voiced by members of the Whiteshell Cottagers Association Lake Levels Committee (many of which had been raised in the past) that, if acted upon, would have minimized the impact of that unseasonal rainfall on lake levels and would have improved the capability to flow water out of the lakes and reduce lake levels more effectively. After our discussions, I sensed that there was a very positive interest and commitment on the part of Provincial Officials to listen to these recommendations and work together with the WCA Lake Level Committee to review the adequacy of lake level control structures in order to prevent or at least minimize such a flooding disaster in the future. I applaud the WCA Lake Level Committee but in particular, Alan Roberts, for his tireless work done to advocate on behalf of all cottagers to improve lake level controls.
The Whiteshell Cottagers Association website (whiteshellcottagers.com) continues to update its “news” page each day with the “South Whiteshell Flooding Update” provided to Whiteshell Provincial Park stakeholders by Sue Atkin, Regional Park Specialist with our new Department of Sustainable Development, Parks and Regional Services. Our website has proven to be an excellent communication tool during this crisis. It is our hope that Whiteshell cottage owners will get into the habit of accessing their WCA website on a regular basis. Certainly any feedback about your experience in utilizing the website or any recommendations for changes and improvements would be welcome.
I am pleased to report that the initiative to develop a strong strategic alliance and partnership with other Cottage Owner Associations (COA’s) in other Provincial Parks has reached an important milestone. A new organization called the Manitoba Provincial Parks Cabin Owners Association (MPPCOA) has become a reality although still with some paperwork etc. needs to be done. A new and historic MPPCOA Constitution has been signed by five Cottage Owner Associations namely Duck Mountain, Grindstone, Hecla Historic Village, Moose Lake and the Whiteshell, that will present a strong, united and focused voice in presenting common issues to Provincial Officials. To maximize effective negotiations on your behalf, it is absolutely imperative that each cottage owner become a member and encourage any neighbour to join! We are here to represent you to the best of our abilities! We sincerely hope that other Provincial Park Cottage Owner Associations will decide to join this new Association as it moves forward. There is an obvious strength in size and numbers but there is also the saying “birds of a feather should stick together!”. It is shared view with our MPPCOA partners that having one single organization to negotiate and to work with as pertains to matters impacting/affecting all cottage owners within the Association will benefit both cottage owners and the Provincial Government. Definitely a “win/win” situation! We are excited about the positive results this partnership can achieve!
The MPPCOA is anxious to begin meetings with our colleagues in the newly announced Sustainable Development Department. Under the leadership of Daniel Klass, Past President, WCA and in partnership and consultation with representatives from each MPPCOA member, our next step will be to establish an Advisory Committee and Negotiating Committee. The goal remains to begin a new era of trust, transparency and fairness in a partnership with the Government in order to sustain and even enhance our lakelife experiences. Stay tuned.
A final thought — if you are incurring costs to repair the damage done to your cottage property by the torrential rainfall, it is recommended you retain your receipts. We are not aware of any source of reimbursement other than one’s cottage insurance policy but will keep cottage owners posted as to any developments in that area.
Enjoy your summers and check our WCA website for news updates.