Group petitions removal of portage
By Chad Ingram
A group of residents is petitioning Parks Canada’s effective closure of a portage at the bottom of Gull Lake near Moore Falls, after it removed boat rollers from the route, which has been used for generations.
“The portage and boat rollers at Moore Falls have allowed thousands of paddlers and small watercraft over the decades to enjoy the adjoining lakes,” reads the online petition, which has been signed by hundreds of supporters. “The Moore Falls portage has been used without incident for many years. The Gull River canoe route is recognized as one of the region’s best heritage canoe routes. The water control structure at Moore Falls is unique on the TSW in that it was designed to be integral with the highway and incorporated an under-highway portage as part of its structure. Paddlers traversing between Moore and Gull Lakes are now forced to portage across the busy Highway 35 very near to a dangerous curve in the roadway. The risk to young kids crossing a highway while portaging a canoe and supplies must surely be greater than any associated risk to using the under–highway portage route. We are asking for your help today. By signing this petition, you agree that you would like us to take actions to influence the federal government, through the local Member of Parliament, to take the necessary first steps to restore the portage and boat rollers.”
Parks Canada, which operates the Trent-Severn Waterway, told the paper the removal of the rollers earlier this year was an issue of public safety.
“Visitor safety is Parks Canada’s top priority,” communication officer Natalie Austin wrote in an email to the Times. “Infrastructure work was done at the Gull Lake and Moore Lake dam in advance of the 2015 spring and summer season. This included the installation of new safety boom upstream and downstream of the dam. Any vessels and swimmers in the areas between the dam and the safety booms are exposed to significant public safety risk created from significant, unpredictable and fluctuating water flows and levels. The previous boat roller system at this dam placed paddlers within the danger zone of the dam.”
That response is not sitting well with the group behind the petition, who say the safety risk is unproven and that Parks Canada should have consulted the community.
“We believe that the TSW chose to react to an unproven risk by installing the simplest and most expedient of possible solutions in the form of the existing single upstream boom across both water control structures,” the group wrote in a response, submitted to the paper by organizer Neil Hutchings. “While we do not pretend to be experts in the design of safety equipment at water control structures, we believe that an upstream dual boom solution would have provided the required public safety while allowing the use of the portage and boat rollers. If required, the alternate dual boom solution could be anchored to the lake bottom to maintain its shape and integrity.
“We believe that the TSW acted incorrectly by not first consulting with the local community, and that they only informed the local lake associations after the decision had been made to remove the boat rollers and install the new safety booms. We believe that the TSW should now consult with the local community, to explain its interpretation of the ‘danger zones’ related to the water control structures at Moore Falls and why an alternate solution that kept the portage and boat rollers in operation was not considered. The removal of access to the portage has removed forever a popular recreational activity enjoyed for decades by the local community.”
The group pointed out that the Minden Wild Water Preserve, a regular paddling venue that is part of the TSW system, could also be considered dangerous.
The petition can be found at change.org.