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Proposed: Commercial Light Industry and Storage Sites at Star Lake

Letters of Opposition sent to Manitoba Parks

To: Dale Sobkowich, Head of Commercial Policy, Planning and Programing, Parks

Cc: Sarah Guillemard, Minister of Conservation and Climate

Cc: Brian Pallister, Premier of Manitoba

Cc: Jon Sigurdson, Whiteshell Cottager's Association

Dear Dale,

I have included the Minister, Premier, and Star Lake Whiteshell Cottagers Association Board Member, in my comments to you as well, as I believe the Planning Policy is flawed if all residents of Provincial Parks are not included in the planning process.

I am strongly opposed to the proposed commercial development at Star Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park.  Better long term park planning is required to meet the needs of all park patrons, including the business sector and other interested parties who lobby the government for park policy changes.  Much wider buffer zones are required between cottagers/homeowners and business/storage sites, otherwise conflicts will continue and additional time, money and resources will be wasted.

28 years ago in 1992 I was fortunate enough to purchase a cottage so my young children and extended families could experience nature, and I could escape the stress of the city.  We were excited to be located on a back road lot on Block 6 knowing there would be no further development across the road facing south.  This provides us with easy access to many trails, sand roads, and the southern forested area where you are proposing 14 commercial lots be established.  My husband and his extended family spent many happy and memorable years at Star Lake as well, beginning in the early 1960’s, so Star Lake is definitely like a second home to them.

This proposal is unacceptable as the 14 commercial lots are only 300 meters from our front yard and would only provide a 180 meter buffer of remaining forest as the Hydro Pole Line is also a cleared wide open area. 

We have endured years of noise and pollution while the ‘old dump’ was operational; listened to and had to jump out of the way of logging trucks while out walking; heard the backhoes, bulldozers and dump trucks dropping the trees so that sand extraction could occur; and saw the amount of garbage, oil and other material being removed from the old mining sites along the back roads.  We are glad that Parks finally removed these activities from the area and completed remediation of the land even though it was at considerable expense.  Trees were replanted, the sand pit was levelled to allow for restoration of vegetation, and dangerous mining shafts were capped.  It was the right thing to do, allow the land to recover from the mess that man made, and I do not want to see this area developed or managed like that again.  For that matter, I do not want to see this occur elsewhere in the park.  It astonishes me how anyone would state the area will only require “minimal vegetative clearing” when in fact a good majority of the proposed area contains old forest growth.

Our family, neighbours and friends utilize this area to walk, bike, ski, snowshoe, experience quiet and nature, berry and mushroom pick, and photograph and view wildlife.  We personally have encountered bears, wolves, fox, fisher, martin, weasel, porcupine, eagles, hawks, cranes, frogs, toads, moose tracks, abundant flora too numerous to list, along with lady slippers, directly in the area you are proposing to develop.

The letter provided to cottage owners contained inaccurate information and provided vague details that create many questions about policy planning for business development at Star Lake, and in the Whiteshell Provincial Park as a whole, as well as future land use in general. 

1)      The map in Conservation’s letter did not show the proximity of the proposed development to the Block 4, 5, 6 cottages and homes. It appears to show a remote forested area with no reference marks to the highway or cottage subdivision, and many people from the area were unaware of where the proposed lots are located.  As stated in the letter “The intent of these Commercial Light Industry and Storage Sites is to provide light industry and storage opportunity for registered Cottage Based Business away from cottage subdivisions, thus reducing conflicts between cottagers and CBB owners.”  I do not consider 300 meters is far enough away from cottage subdivisions.  Several residents live year round at Star Lake and many have upgraded their property and have installed expensive wells.  Ground water contamination is a concern as the land slopes towards the subdivision and lake, along with safety issues associated with potential chemical storage and potential fire hazards.  I am also concerned about our property value being impacted and experiencing break-ins as the result of increased traffic into the area.

2)      No other cottage owners on the north and east sides of Star Lake were provided with the letter to my knowledge, or extended the opportunity to share their concerns.  They use the Block 4, 5, 6 gravel road to access the Star Lake Main Beach to launch their boats, enjoy the beach, and also use the trails and enjoy nature.  Day visitors to the lake, students from the University of Manitoba Geology Field Station, and visitors to Keswick Bible Camp also use the surrounding trails and area. Many others also come from West Hawk Lake and surrounding areas to enjoy the calmer warm lake to swim, boat, and fish and access the lake via the Block 4, 5, 6 road.  This is the only access road from PTH 301 and it cannot sustain any additional traffic due to its washboard condition, is road restricted for weight at certain times of the year, and is a safety concern due to the blind spot while turning north towards West Hawk onto PTH 301 or crossing it to access the Trans-Canada Trail system located directly across the road.

3)      The letter states “Conservation and Climate staff in conjunction with members of the CLIS group have developed a detailed application process including eligibility criteria, a draw process to acquire a lot, guidelines and standard operational conditions for lot/site development”, however, no information has been provided to the cottage and home owners or the Whiteshell Cottagers Association.   No information on what type of businesses fall under the Cottage Based Business umbrella have been provided, nor have the requirements of the businesses been shared, nor the types of material being stored, nor the hours of operation, nor any of the conditions you have been working on with the BCC Group.  It appears Conservation has spent a considerable amount of time and money planning all this but has failed to include the main stakeholders, the cottage owners, into the process until now.   It is also difficult to locate zoning and park policy information as any documents containing any zoning plan information appear to be from the 1980’s, and The Cottagers Handbook, used to provided information on what cottagers can and must do, has been ‘under review’ for several years.  It is unclear what policies and rules exist for business within the Park.

4)      Proposals for CLIS lots were previously made at Falcon Lake near Birdie Bay and at The Riding Stables, and in both cases were declined due to opposition.  One has to wonder if the main reason was because of the proximity to existing residential and cottage areas.  It seems inefficient and costly to have to re-plan proposals while only providing information to select groups and select cottage owners.  It is also concerning what the entire cost of implementing a 14 lot commercial location will be, which I am assuming taxpayers will have to pay.

Since I am not aware of the business requirements I can only suggest the following locations be reviewed for consideration:

a.       If 14 lots must be developed together the road to the South Whiteshell Transfer Station located 1.8 kms from the nearest park residents seems ideal.  It provides excellent highway access just west of Falcon Lake, is hidden by trees, and can be monitored for compliance to the guidelines being developed by Conservation. Since Parks are currently utilizing this location daily, I see no reason why businesses could not. This would also allow businesses to make better use of the transfer station to get rid of their construction materials and refuse, and provide cost savings for Parks Garbage hauling.

b.      A location along the new Freedom Road also would provide proximity to Falcon Lake for business lots to be established.

c.       Alternatively, plans could be developed to split up proposed business lot development into smaller groupings that would allow for closer proximity for businesses to Falcon Lake, and West Hawk, while still remaining at least a minimum of 800 meters or more (my suggestion) from developed cottage areas.

d.      Develop a couple of lots along Barren Lake Road east of the stables.  Existing commercial lots could be shared or expanded.

e.       Clean up the abandoned trailers and other debris near the stables and snowmobile trail, and make better use of this existing area.

f.        Expand or share existing Parks Maintenance yards at Falcon Lake.

g.       Expand or share the existing Dept. of Highways Compound located behind the Star Lake Transfer Station on PTH 301.

h.      Develop several lots adjacent to the Falcon lagoons or across from the Falcon Lake Marina south of the South Shore Road.

i.         Expand or share existing Parks Maintenance yards at West Hawk Lake back towards the Lutheran Church.

j.         Develop several lots adjacent to the West Hawk Lagoon or on land further south of the Lutheran Church.

k.       Review available privately owned land options.

In 2014 a decision was made to allow hunting 300 meters from cottages in the south Whiteshell to help reduce the high white deer population, but this change was not communicated to us.  There is nothing like waking up to gunshots so close to our cottage. The hunting boundary shown on the current posted map available online reflects the 300 meter boundary at Star Lake north of the Hydro transmission line, but in fact the correct distance is south of the transmission line, exactly where the commercial lots are proposed.  This needs to be corrected and even expanded beyond the 300 meter limit as all the walking and snowmobile trails used by cottagers put us in a direct path with hunters and is too dangerous.

In closing, I am opposed to the development proposal for Star Lake, and expect to see that Park Policy Planning process and options will be closely reviewed and information provided to all residents of the park for input. This will help to avoid making mistakes that could set precedence and impact park users for future generations to come. If proposals continue to just get re-worked and other cottage areas get blind-sided like us, then this entire process is flawed.  We need to be able to have input to the process at the beginning, include the Whiteshell Cottagers Association, and ensure proper stewardship on park policy changes are managed effectively.  Star Lake was recently reported as the #1 best little-known stay-cation spot in Manitoba this summer.  I do not want my next lake trip to include the sight of bulldozers or trees already having been removed.  Better communication, information, and involvement in planning activities are necessary.

 Val Collicutt

Lot 7, Block 6, Star Lake

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