Posted on: October 3, 2016 | General News
By Ronald Smith
Where has the summer gone? It doesn’t seem that long ago when forest fires were threatening West Hawk and Caddy Lake cottages and then torrential rains doused the Whiteshell Provincial Park with six inches of rain in six hours causing blown out culverts, road wash outs, stranded cottagers and flood levels on every South Whiteshell lake. Caddy Lake seemed to take the brunt of Mother Nature’s gift from the skies with its lake level dramatically increasing six feet and causing severe damage and destruction to many boat houses and cottages. This “once in fifty year” storm clearly identified and magnified the many flaws and shortcomings in the water flow management infrastructure within the Whiteshell Provincial Park watershed. To her credit and within days of its occurrence, our new Minister of Sustainable Development, Honourable Catherine Cox and her staff took the time to personally visit and review the extent of the flood damage. I must say that during my five year term as Whiteshell Cottagers Association Director, this was the first time I can recall a presiding Provincial Parks Minister taking the time to visit stakeholders in our Park.
Since the storm, your Whiteshell Cottagers Association Environment Committee chaired by Alan Roberts, has continuously and tirelessly consulted with the MIT Provincial Officials to both alleviate the currently dangerous high lake levels as we approach the necessary fall lake level draw down in preparation and anticipation of next spring’s run-off; and, to make urgent systemic change recommendations to alleviate and/or prevent future wild weather disasters. Damaging forest fires, high lake levels and many rainy weekends have certain made this past summer one that will be long remembered! Please read this accompanying document written by Alan Roberts (along with a few photos) where he not only professionally analyzes flaws in the present water management control for Falcon Lake and other Whiteshell Lakes flowing westward from West Hawk Lake but also proposes changes his Committee has determined necessary in the long term to maintain lake levels at the appropriate level for normal lake activities to take place. The absolute urgency and importance of the Lake Levels Sub-Committee and key Provincial Officials working cooperatively together to address water flow management in the Whiteshell Provincial Park cannot be overstated!
Over the summer I attended a few events in our Park. On Saturday, August 13th I attended the Annual Open House at the South East Whiteshell Firehall. This event is well organized, well attended and children-friendly event where the Firehall opens its doors to all stakeholders and guests…young and old! I was impressed with the wide range of fire and rescue equipment on display with demonstrations and other artifacts, photos and memorabilia posted upstairs in the Firehall. Bruce Morrison, Fire Chief and his outstanding team of volunteers includes not only the volunteer fire fighters but also fund raisers and other supporting cast who makes this a pre-eminent organization. Bruce has shared his organization’s best practices with the North Whiteshell District where Vice-President, Gary Kennedy, is a driving force with Provincial officials behind an initiative to set up a similar fire and rescue operation in our North Whiteshell area. In particular, Geoff Smith, Regional Field Supervisor has been a huge help in this initiative.
On Sunday, August 20th an inaugural Falcon Lake Show and Shine was held to raise money for the St. Amant Center. Micheal McCarron was the organizer along with his wife and Manny Damata. The show exhibited cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and big rigs and an exhibition of towing and extraction vehicles. Free beef on a bun along with a soft drink was available between Ski Nautique boats and other fancy watercraft on display in front of the Falcon Beach Shell Station. A few photos of the event are featured in this Echo.
On Sunday, August 21st, I was invited to represent WCA at a historic event along Highway 301 in the Red Pines forest area close to Faloma Beach. The grand opening of the South East Whiteshell Cemetery was very meaningful….the setting was awesome! We learned the difference between a graveyard (on Church property and designated for that church’s members) and a cemetery (off church property). Please see Sandra Fisette’s article in this Echo that shares the 15 year long journey by a very dedicated group of Whiteshell stakeholders. The Constituency MLA, Dennis Smook, along with Mike Gilbertson, Director of Parks and another Provincial official attended the opening. The WCA Board of Directors sincerely wishes Mike Gilbertson well in his departure from Manitoba to return to the Maritimes. Our Association will miss Mike Gilbertson – a gentleman we found to be both open minded and willing to listen and consider the plight of cottage owners where escalating fees were going to force them to sell their lake treasure and leave life-long family bonding experiences and memories behind.
I would like to thank all new and renewing 2016 Whiteshell Cottagers Association members who continue to actively support the activities your association is undertaking. Our overall numbers are up this year over last. If your neighbour is not a member, please encourage him/her to join our team. We feel proud that along with the support of our Coalition partners our efforts have resulted in signicant dollar savings both in 2016 where our former government froze lease fees for the year, and, now for 2017 and 2018 where our new government has frozen both lease and service fees pending the establishment of a new and financially fair agreement for both parties. We must not get complacent – the real journey is just now starting but we feel optomistic that a respectful partnership with our Provincial colleagues has begun and can be achieved.
I am very pleased to formally announce that the Strategic Alliance/Coalition initiative that your Whiteshell Cottagers Association has been pursuing for the past two+ years with the objective of forming a single unified voice for all Manitoba Provincial Park Cottage Owners has reached a historic milestone. On Monday, September 12th, the inaugural meeting of the new Alliance, known as the Manitoba Provincial Park Cabin Owners Association (MPPCOA) with its own new Constitution was held at the 1975 Corydon Avenue building library.
The new Organization consists of five Mb. Provincial Park COA’s as follows: 1) Duck Mountain Provincial Park; 2) Grindstone Provincial Park; 3) Hecla Historic Village; 4) Moose Lake Provincial Park; and; 5) Whiteshell Provincial Park. The new MPPCOA Board of Directors and Executive Committee are: President – Jack Elliot (Duck Mountain); Vice-President – Dean Amundson (Hecla Historic Village); Secretary – Nichola Wigle (Moose Lake); Treasurer – Ronald Smith (WCA); and, Director – Bob Johnston (Grindstone). A Committee was immediately set up under Chair, Daniel Klass (Past President – WCA) with the authority to establish a representative committee named the Negotiating Advisory Committee. It will consist of individuals with specific required skills/knowledge to achieve a fair financial arrangement based upon the Parks Act. We are looking at other provincial models of Parks Management, looking for an approach that is open, fair, accountable etc etc. and cost recovery based. The three agreed principles of partnership, transparency and fairness would be the center theme for all negotiations.
I agree to continue to recruit other Provincial Park COA which, if total inclusiveness was achieved, would be beneficial both to the Province and Cottage Owners when discussing matters of common concern. Ken Kennedy, President of the Duck Mountain COA has agreed to join me in this initiative.
It has been a busy summer from many perspectives. I hope the fall and its usual fashion show of colours brings many beautiful cottage days for you and your family as you think about closing up for another year. Please continue to check out the WCA website for news even during the winter months.