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Star Lake

September 2022 Update Request

By Doug Collicutt (Updated Oct. 1, 2022)

On August 25, 2022 I sent the following email to our Whiteshell Specialist, Joanne Podolchuk. On Sept. 28, 2022, I met online with Joanne and Glen Holmes, Senior Manager, Planning and Coordination, largely to discuss the issues I had raised in my email of August 25. I have updated the notes I made previously (in red) below.

I did make a specific request of Joanne and Glen at the start of the meeting. I asked if there were any planned actions, events or developments slated for the Star Lake area that we ought to know about and was told that nothing was in the works at this time. I pointed out that we, as the real owners of the park, have the right to know what's happening in our backyard.

My email to Whiteshell Specialist, Joanne Podolchuk:

"Hi, Joanne. I'd like to get some updates to pass along to folks here.

1) McFarlane mining situation: Has Parks received any new applications for permits relating to the Star Lake property? If so, what stage are these at? Is there any other news related to this site? McFarlane has not posted anything on its news page about further actions at its "West Hawk Lake" site, claiming the High Lake property is their next priority for exploration. Their stock price continues to languish, so I suspect there is little interest in any of their properties so far. On visiting the Star Lake site I saw no evidence of any recent activity re their requirement for remediation. I would like to update folks with the current state of affairs.

McFarlane Lake Mining (MLM) has not submitted any further requests for permits relating to the Star Lake site. Their news feed suggests they are now focusing their activities on their High Lake properties in Ontario. You can follow their news feed at this link: McFarlane Lake Mining News.

(This does not mean that this issue has concluded, it may just be dormant for now. The threat of additional exploration and mine development remains until our government protects our parks from such commercial activities.)

Ms. Podolchuk stated that remediation measures conducted on the mineral exploration site were completed recently and that she was pleased with the efforts. I have yet to view the site since, but will report on my findings at a later date.

The WCA was provided with some information regarding the remediation of the mineral exploration site at Star Lake:

"Good Afternoon Star Lake Cottager,

We have been notified that there is firewood that is available to the cottagers in the Star Lake area.

The wood is at the entrance into the mining area located off the Block 4, 5, 6 road. Cottagers will need to come to the Falcon Lake District Office (204-349-2201) for a personal use timber permit. Office hours are MondayFriday, 8;30 am to 4:30 pm, closed for lunch noon to 12:45. It is also suggested that anyone interested check out the area first as there isn’t a tremendous amount of wood available.

 Thank you! Lee Hurton, WCA Administration "

2) Park Hunting Map: I see that the Whiteshell Park hunting map has not yet been changed. The website still shows the 2013 PDF which wrongly shows the Hydro transmission line as within the allowable hunting zone. As I have told everyone before, and posted my own accurate map of the 300 m buffer zone, the Hydro line is clearly within 300 m of cottages in block 6 until about 1 km west of our access road. Will Parks be correcting this erroneous map before the start of "boom and crack season"? It is extremely dangerous to have hunting allowed so close to cottages and, according to the current diagram (it's really not even a decent "map") hunting is being promoted within the so-called buffer zone. Folks are rightly concerned about this situation. Personally, I will continue to lobby for the return to the previous status of "no hunting" in south Whiteshell.

The 2013 decision to open the south part of the park to hunters was done without the knowledge, let alone input from local cottagers. The government's attempt to "consult" cottagers on this issue consisted of one meeting with the WCA and no attempt to inform locals that would be most affected with this decision; i.e. Star Lake cottagers. The open hydro line and old roads and trails make our backyard a prime location for modern "road hunters". (We found out about the change by confronting guys with guns on the snowmobile trails behind our cottage.) I would also like to know the status of snowmobile trails as "hunt-able" locations. Last year, with early snow, snowmobile season and deer rifle season overlapped. Surely it is unsafe to have guys blasting away while folks are snowmobiling? If you cannot get me the information regarding snowmobile trails and hunting, I would appreciate you directing me to whatever agency oversees this.

The erroneous diagram remains on the Parks website as of this writing. I have added some comments to the Hunting Safety article I wrote last year: Hunting Safety Issue. Please remember, I do not oppose hunting; I do oppose the firing of shotguns and rifles in close proximity to homes, cottages, roads and snowmobile trails.

I raised the issue of the crude diagram and was told that the matter was under review by the Wildlife Branch. Apparently the hunting areas map was not prepared by Parks. I pointed out the potential for liability to Parks and the government in general given that the diagram may encourage hunters to be in areas as close as 200 m from cottages.

3) Main beach dock repair/replacement: I know it's still early times in flood damage repair in the park, but folks are asking if any decisions or actions have been taken regarding the two large public docks at either end of our public beach that were destroyed in the spring floods. The situation at the boat-launch end of the beach is not good. Folks are uncertain as to where they can safely launch boats and with no dock those with mobility issues are having a difficult time getting into boats after they are launched. (We've already had requests from our neighbours to use our dock for boat access as they have mobility issues.) This is clearly a safety and accessibility issue.  And I hope that Parks will make the effort to consult Star Lake cottagers regarding this issue and not just make a Winnipeg-board-room decision on the matter. A number of local folks have varying ideas concerning the docks and it would be nice to achieve a consensus before things move ahead. (It's always nice to be asked for an opinion, Joanne.)

The main beach docks are going to be replaced, but Parks provided no further information at this time. A time line for replacement was, understandably, not available.

4) Continuing boat-wake issues: There are postings around the beach regarding boat speed and wake with 100 m of shorelines, and of course these are often being ignored. A number of folks have complained to me about one boat in particular that regularly bounces boats and docks around with large wake close to shore. Might it be possible to have some more regular enforcement activity at Star regarding this issue? I don't know who's responsible for implementing that.

I inquired about the actions we should take regarding any improper or illegal boating activities. Things that are clearly illegal (underage use, dangerous operation, etc.) should be reported to the RCMP immediately. Other issues can be reported to the Parks offices at Falcon Lake. (See contact info page.)

5) Back road access: I noticed earlier this year that the road to the mining site was blocked by large rocks. I and others applauded this. The snowmobile trails south of Star also get blocked with boulders each year to limit access to the trails and back roads. In the past the mine road has not been blocked and folks have driven in that road and gained access to the back roads by a shortcut linking that road to others. (It veers off to the right and leads to the old sand pit. It was cut in by the logging company back when the commercial logging operation was underway. Another "development" that Star lakers weren't informed of until after the fact.) Blocking 2 of 3 entries is not blocking access. However, one "boulder" on the mine road is not very big and was rolled away to allow someone to go 4-wheelin' on the back roads. They cut across the old sand pit site and cruised around for a few clicks. I rolled the stone back myself yesterday, but clearly the road is not "blocked". I hope in future that the road will be blocked a little more effectively.

I made a recommendation that if Parks is going to block access to some or all of the back roads and snowmobile trails for the summer months with rocks and boulders that they need to use larger boulders. I mentioned that on several occasions I and others have found vehicles entering the back roads by simply pushing smaller stones out of the way.

6) ATV use: There are still no signs posted informing folks that ATVs are not permitted to be used in the park, and numbers and sightings of such use are still increasing. What's the use of having a prohibition in place if no one knows about it? I hope the goal is not to ultimately allow ATVs in the park, by acquiescing to the rising demand and saying, "oh well, if that's what people want". Folks at Star DO NOT want ATVs roaring around (any more than we want hunters blasting away on the Hydro line).

Despite Parks extensive use of signage on our public beach and throughout the Park for various reasons there seems to be no interest in posting signs to make folks aware of the prohibition on the use of ATV's in the park. But the matter is apparently under discussion.

7) Dangerous open mine shaft: In an addendum to the above email I pointed out that there is still a dangerous open mine shaft south of Star Lake (see image). The shaft is surrounded by a fence, but the site, regularly visited by folks, remains dangerous. Ms. Podolchuk requested I send her the GPS location of the site so the site could be inspected. This is the same site that was reported to Parks two years ago and nothing has been done to properly secure the site as of this date.

Parks was not able to provide any information on securing the dangerous open mine shaft (see link above), but another source has suggested the shaft is to be properly capped in 2023.

8) Lake levels: (This wasn't included in my initial email, but the issue has been raised by folks on the north shore of Star L.) Given the severe flooding situation of the spring of 2022 folks are concerned that the level of Star Lake has not been allowed to return to normal summer/fall levels and may remain high until freeze-up. Blocked and slow culverts have been addressed by Manitoba Highways, but a more permanent solution is needed.

Beavers and culvert blocking will continue to be an issue in the park, as long as there are beavers in the park. Parks is considering deploying "Beaver Deceivers" of some sort to help improve the situation. You can get some info on this technique at this website: Beaver Deceivers. (As a biologist I know that the alternative to developing ways to live with beavers is to have them killed. This method, however, is a temporary solution as removing one family of beavers just opens up the habitat for another family to move in. Live-trapping and relocation of beavers is pretty much a death sentence when other habitats are full.)

9) Beach tree planting: (Also not in the original email.) On a lighter note I inquired about the loss of trees on the public land near the beach. Dead trees have been removed, but none are ever planted. I suggested that some tree plantings might be a project cottagers could get involved with. If anyone is interested, let me know and we might be able to arrange something before all the shade trees by the beach are gone. Of course, we'd have to jump through some bureaucratic hoops (their approval, correct species, etc.), but it could be something positive and worthwhile to do.

Parks had no objections to this idea.

So, thanks for your time again. And I hope Parks has nothing else in the works for Star Lake that we don't yet know about. I hope you can provide updates or information on some or all of these issues. I have cc'ed the WCA on this email to keep them in the loop. Thanks, again, bye for now.


P.S. I'd like to post your replies, but anything you want kept off the record will not be posted."

I was glad to meet with Parks to help keep the lines of communication open, but I encourage everyone to be pro-active in requesting, or even demanding, the information we are entitled to on any issue or situation facing Star Lake. Please share this information to whomever you choose. Thanks, bye for now.

The annoying ad below just lets me keep track of how much traffic this page receives.

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