Optimistic about the future

It finally is the end of 2014—a year that most of us would like to forget.
The snow piled high and everyone’s snowblower had a long seasonal workout last winter. In fact, the district had one of its highest snowfalls ever recorded.
The cold winter began shortly after Remembrance Day in 2013 continued through March without any let-up. It only seemed to warm enough to drop another foot of snow on the ground.
I ended up cleaning my roof twice and the pile of snow grew to be over my head. Winter never wanted to let up and it wasn’t until late April that lawns were raked.
At the end of February, the last paper came off the machines at the Resolute mill in Fort Frances. Over time, several suitors appeared wanting to acquire the assets of the mill but were unable to reach an agreement with the company over fibre requirements.
Rainy Lake didn’t open up until almost the third Saturday in May—one of the latest ice-outs on record.
The late-season warming had a major affect on the watershed, and we learned quickly by the end of May that Rainy Lake and the Rainy River were approaching flood stage. That really put a damper on boating and fishing.
Many people just gave up on going to their cabins. A boat washed up from the American side of Rainy Lake, along with a chest freezer, and lots of dock decking.
Our dock, which in normal years requires almost a stepladder to reach the deck, disappeared under 30 inches of water. Rainy Lake reached its second-highest level in recorded history.
The lake changed. What were common landmarks disappeared. Reefs that were once visible slipped beneath the water.
People lost docks. The wharf at Point Park disappeared. The bank at the cemetery at Couchiching First Nation became eroded and was shored up by reinforcing the shoreline with rubble.
A highlight was the coming together of the people of Rainy River District to sandbag shorelines that were about to be flooded. It was a total community effort in every place that was experiencing flooding.
Summer finally arrived at the end of July and cabin owners finally could get to their cabins on Rainy Lake. Everyone went into clean-up mode, removing the flotsam from beaches and shores.
Rumours began circulating in September that another paper company was interested in the mill and continued through October, when Expera publicly announced it was negotiating to acquire the Fort Frances mill.
Company officials flew to the Fort and met with First Nations’ communities, district communities, and fibre producers. Excitement grew and then hopes were squashed again when the negotiations broke down.
But the disappointment and frustration turned to anger and again the communities grew together and stormed the halls of Queen’s Park demanding action by the Wynne government to transfer the forest licenses away from Resolute.
The multiple voices were heard and the government became involved.
Resolute agreed to heat critical parts of the mill to prevent freezing. District residents, businesses, and governments continue to press the provincial government.
At the end of December, the mill remains idle and the deep freeze is happening. But on the horizon, it appears that New Gold will begin building a gold mine in the Chapple area.
And hope remains that a suitor will come to the table to purchase the mill.
We are optimistic that the future again looks brighter for the district.

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