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Letters to Parks from cottagers opposed to mining at Star Lake

From Doug Collicutt: I didn't send this letter directly to our Park Specialist. I have been in contact with her and she knows my thoughts already, but I wanted to get some personal thoughts on record. Here goes:

As a Star Lake cottage owner for 30 years (and a Star Laker for 60 years!) I don't know what I'm more angry about: seeing the damage done to a place I care about or not being told that this would happen before I could act to try to stop it?

The old mining road south of Star Lake is a place my family has used for 30 years. When my sons were young we would hike up the road to the "beaver pond", as we called it, at the end of the road. It's only a couple of km from our cottage to the pond. My boys would "ploop stones" in the water and throw sticks for our dog to fetch. (We're on our 3rd big dog now that has swum for sticks in the pond.) I knew the site was an old decommissioned gold mine and I told my boys about the history of the site and how nature had reclaimed the area after the mining had ended. I'm sure that many other Star Lake families have used this area in the past, too, and have similar good memories. My sons are grown now, but they still like to hike up to the pond, and my wife and I still throw sticks in the pond for the latest dog and pick berries along the side of the trail. Or at least we did prior to the "mineral exploration" that took place this winter. A place I loved to visit has been vandalized by bulldozers and heavy equipment. Even assuming we can manage to put a stop to further exploration and mine development at Star Lake (and that is a hopeful assumption, not a certainty!) it will be many years before the land recovers again.

So, I'm angry about the damage done to a place a I care deeply about, but I'm also very angry that I wasn't informed that this was going to take place. Why weren't local residents and cottagers informed of this first step in commercial development that could lead to the re-opening of full-scale mining operation only a few hundred metres from our cottages? Well, it turns out that Parks Branch didn't think it necessary to inform us of an application for a permit for mineral exploration by the Ontario company, that only recently acquired the mineral lease to the property. They claim to have contacted the Whiteshell Cottagers Association back in the fall and assumed that the WCA would contact cottagers about this issue. That didn't happen. (I'm waiting for an explanation from the WCA at the time I'm writing this. I'm afraid the WCA is not proving to be an effective communication line, and what about folks that aren't even members?)

Parks effectively washed their hands of any responsibility to contact local residents and cottagers. There were no physical notices placed by the road warning local folks of heavy machinery use in the area. (I guess when things get snuck in during the off season you really don't want folks to know?) Had some folks not gone up that road to see what was going on we probably still wouldn't even know what has and is going on.

I've been in direct contact with Parks staff for some, at times, heated discussions about this issue. Their line is that their is a "process and protocols to follow" and they still claim it was not their responsibility to inform cottagers of this matter. So I remain angry and determined to fight against any further "exploration" or the establishment of a new commercial mining operation in the heart of Whiteshell Provincial Park, immediately adjacent to Star Lake homes and cottages! I'm asking all Park users and all Manitobans to make the effort to follow the information I'm posting on the Mining Issues web page, and when the time comes to be ready to confront our government and stop what I consider as a desecration in our park.

As you can tell from this writing, this is an emotional issue for me. A place I have come to care about is under attack. Continued exploration and possible development will have a huge negative effect on my cottage experiences. I think most of my neighbours echo this. After the CLISS issue only a year and a half ago I thought we had made it clear to Parks that Star Lake cottagers just want to have our backyard left alone. I, for one, will fight hard to stop mining in Star Lake's backyard and I hope other cottagers and Manitobans in general will get involved to protect our provincial parks. Thanks for reading this.

Yours angrily, Doug Collicutt (Star Lake cottage owner for 30 years, Star Laker for 60 years!)

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