Dore Lake residents concerned about highway safety

by Phil Ambroziak

A recent meeting to discuss future forestry operations in the Dore Lake area resulted in a dead end for residents who were more interested in the condition of a nearby provincial highway.

Close to 50 residents and cabin owners attended the Jan. 19 meeting at the Dore Lake Hall which also included several representatives and stakeholders from the local logging industry. The residents were hoping to share their opinions and to hear potential solutions for improving the condition of Highway 924, also referred to as the Dore Lake Road. According to at least two people who were on hand, however, nothing of the sort was achieved.

“The purpose of the meeting was for them to supposedly get our input, but all they really did was give us a presentation about the work they’re doing in the area – people are quite irate,” remarked resident Shirley Feszyk.

Cabin owner Ken Steinhauer agreed, adding he did have an opportunity to present a letter to officials outlining the residents’ concerns, but not to verbally present these concerns as he’d anticipated.

“They don’t want to listen to us,” Steinhauer said. “This meeting led to no outcome, no results. People got fired up because no one wants to hear the history of forestry or look at facts and figures – they want to know what’s going to be done to improve the highway and they didn’t get any response.”

Both Steinhauer and Feszyk said, for the last year or more, the volume of log trucks accessing the Dore Lake Road has increased to the point where the highway is no longer safe to travel. It was an issue also raised in the fall of 2014 by Dore Lake councillor Jonathon Fonos who noted the already narrow road was “completely destroyed” during the summer months when logging truck traffic appeared to be at an all time high. And, although the road has become more manageable now that it’s hardened with the winter freeze, Feszyk said something still needs to be done.

“The road is not built for those type of loads,” she said.
Among those to also participate in the meeting was David Stevenson, manager of forest practices and science with the provincial Ministry of Environment. He said highway improvement wasn’t on the agenda last week because the meeting was actually designed to address planned forestry operations for the coming year.

“We were there to illicit feedback, but it turned out a lot of that feedback was about the road,” Stevenson said.

Meanwhile, Steinhauer said other concerns include the logging companies’’ effort to harvest too close to residential and recreational areas.

“We’re asking for corridors to prevent the area from being subjected to bad looking clear cuts,” he said. “There’s also the environmental impact all of this could have on the lake. We’re not opposed to logging, we just don’t like the fact we’re not being heard.”

Stevenson reassured the visual aesthetics along Highway 924 – at least – would be retained with the creation of a buffer zone. However, he also noted the discussion quickly reverted back to one about the highway itself.

“Compared to five years ago when the industry was on the downturn, there probably is a lot more logging traffic on that road now,” he said. “But, it’s probably quite similar to what it was a decade ago when the industry was at its peak. The real question is, can the road handle the volume. That’s a question for the Ministry of Highways and it’s one the people of Fore Lake have once again made loud and clear.”

Blockade considered
When Fonos initially voiced his thoughts on the road and on the apparent lack of effort to either improve its condition for the long term or to prevent log trucks from accessing the highway at certain times of year, he claimed a lack of cooperation on the government’s part could lead to residents forming a blockade.

“There’s still some murmuring going on in the background about that being a possibility – I don’t know what we’ll do next if we don’t see some action taken following this meeting,” Feszyk noted.

In an interview conducted following a previous meeting in Dore Lake that included representatives from the provincial Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, communications consultant Joel Cherry said close to 200 log trucks travel the Dore Lake Road on a daily basis. He also said there were no immediate plans to rebuild the highway, adding it’s not in the government’s five-year plan. However, he did not a maintenance crew addresses and problems with the road as they arise. This includes grading the road several times throughout the week during the summer months.

“All they do now is patch it from time-to-time, but when it rains it gets soft again,” Feszyk said. “And, in the meantime, they’re still hauling logs down that road, which certainly doesn’t help matters. The thing is, the logging industry wouldn’t even be responsible for paying for the road improvements. It would be up to the government, which means it would be up to the taxpayers. Meanwhile, the logging companies get all the profit from our trees yet all we’re left with is the mess.”

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