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Proposed: Commercial Light Industry and Storage Sites at Star Lake

Letters of Opposition sent to Manitoba Parks

September 8, 2020
Mr. Dale Sobkowich
Head of Commercial Policy
Planning and Programming
Parks and Protected Spaces – Winnipeg
Dear Dale,
I am writing to express my strong opposition to the proposed Commercial Light Industry and Storage Sites location at Star Lake.
Long history and extensive knowledge of area…
My family and I have owned a cottage at Star Lake for 62 years, since 1958, and a big attraction has been access to the natural environment on our doorstep. I have had a mountain bike at the cottage for more than 25 years and have extensively explored most of the trails in and beyond the proposed development site going as far as the south end of McGillvray Lake. I probably have more informal geographic knowledge of that backcountry area than most other users. Over it’s history, the entire area has been subject to logging and mining activity, most recently with an extensive logging operation, I believe in the 1990s. However, the impacts of those operations are becoming less obvious and increasingly overgrown with vegetation and have become more of a historic resource.
Proposed site intensively used for informal recreation…
The proposed site is behind a gated road and at a key entrance to what has been for decades an intensively used informal recreation area for walking, hiking, cycling, dog walking and berry picking.  On many occasions while walking or cycling in the area, I encounter other users.  Its close proximity to the Star Lake townsite (within a brisk 5 minute walk from the nearest cottage) as well as the south shore cottages makes it a popular destination. That close proximity alone makes the proposal incompatible with current use and certainly not a “remote” location as described in your letter.
Proposed use would degrade recreation experience and pose hazards from site traffic…
For recreation users, the development would seriously degrade the semi-natural recreation experience since users would have to walk right through the middle of this industrial development to access more natural areas beyond. Perhaps this development would even block existing passage altogether? The development would also bring additional vehicular traffic into the area, possibly including large trucks, which could pose dangers to recreation users. Currently, all motor vehicle access is prohibited. Vehicular access to this site could also potentially open up the entire backcountry beyond to motorized vehicles. How would that be controlled?
Increased traffic on Fire Road S1 access road to Star Lake townsite…
The Blocks 4, 5 and 6 access road, S1, off highway 301 is already heavily used by cottagers and day users from West Hawk, Falcon and beyond who come for boating and beach use when wind conditions make the larger lakes unusable. The industrial park would add traffic, potentially from larger commercial vehicles, which could negatively impact road conditions.

Reusing garbage dump not a relevant argument…
The rationale that the site was a former garbage dump does not seem relevant. Restoration has been well mitigated with site vegetation successfully regenerating. Except for the physical presence of the sand pit that until recently has been supplying sand for park use, most people would not even be able to identify the full extent of the former dump.  Other disturbed sites likely exist in the south Whiteshell that are less intrusive to cottaging and recreation use.
Geology poses contamination risks; fires could block cottagers’ escape…
The extensive sand resource underlying the proposed site would also seem to be incompatible with industrial development since, without any natural clay or near-surface bedrock barrier, any spillage of industrial chemicals could easily contaminate groundwater or result in toxic fires. Since Fire Road S1 is the sole access for Blocks 4, 5, and 6, in the event of a spreading fire originating at the site, it’s close proximity to S1 could also trap cottagers’, blocking their escape to safety.

No information provided on cottage-based businesses

Your letter does not provided any useful information on the nature of these cottage-based industrial businesses and raises more questions than it answers.

Alternative remote location needed…
Your letter mentions that this location is convenient to Star, West Hawk, Caddy and Falcon lakes. Why should business convenience outweigh the interests of the larger population of nearby cottagers? A prime consideration should be that given the incompatibility with nearby residential development and the natural and recreation mandate of the park, the industrial site should be as remote from cottage and recreation development as possible. Such a location as near the solid waste transfer station on Highway 1 would be ideal.
Other sites already rejected…
I’ve heard that two earlier proposed sites, one near Lumber 1 at Falcon Lake and the other near the riding stables north of TCH 1, were rejected by nearby cottagers or the stable owners. Hopefully Star Lake cottagers will be given the same consideration.
Based on the above information and the obvious incompatibility of the current and proposed uses, I strongly oppose this proposal and urge you to find a more suitable, less intrusive site. This type of development, wherever located, should be subject to public hearings and a full environmental review.
Yours truly,
Glenn Merritt
Star Lake Cottager, Block 4 Lot 8

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