The Rainy River District is making the call to the provincial government to step in and provide four-season wayside stops in the west end of the district.
As part of the business session that took place on Saturday at the Rainy River District Municipal Association (RRDMA) AGM, a motion from the Town of Rainy River was read and discussed pertaining to the lack of roadside or wayside rest areas for travellers coming to and passing through the district. RRDMA president and Rainy River mayor Deb Ewald said she brought the item up to her council following a Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) board meeting with the minister of Transportation.
“They were talking about adding another three or four wayside rests on the Trans Canada,” Ewald recalled.
“I said to them, ‘Around Atikokan, there are lots. There’s one that goes up the 502, but you have to go off Highway 11 to access it, and the other one is at Mine Centre. So other than the one that Dawson has in Sleeman, there are none. I had a complaint from the gas station owner here [in Rainy River] and he said he had Americans stop… they came in, used his rest room facilities, didn’t buy any gas and bought a pack of gum for six people. He said ‘I have to buy supplies, I have to clean it, and that’s not fair. If they’re just looking for a place to use, then there should be something available.’ From the Shuniah turnoff to Atikokan there’s at least five or six, and yet there’s nothing [in our area].”
The resolution itself states that as no wayside rest stops are available for public use in the west end of the district, the Town of Rainy River is calling on the Minister of Transportation to install some stops in the region, as well as forwarding the motion to Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford. Additionally, the motion notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the need for public rest areas as pandemic related shutdowns could mean travellers passing through the area may not be able to stop at stores or other gas stations that might otherwise have restrooms open for public use.
One of the additions made at the RRDMA was that the region should be pushing governments to install four season wayside rests, as winter weather would make something like a port-a-potty or small outbuilding mostly unusable. Another note was to ask that the wayside stops be provincially maintained, as opposed to something that has been put up by municipalities, like the stop in Sleeman, as well as ensuring whatever stops installed by the province in the future are transport truck accessible.
“There’s a lot of people that are hauling wood and stuff,” Ewald said.
“That highway is very busy up to Chapple to the mill there. I’m just surprised. It’s probably not going to happen overnight, but at least I think we need to get it in there and let the ministry know that it’s a need. Even up the 621 there should at least be one.”
Ewald noted there is one rest stop located west of Mine Centre, but it is not open in the winter.
Lake of the Woods councillor Colleen Fadden noted that in years past the RRDMA has made the request for additional wayside stops.
“We’ve been asking for years,” Fadden remarked.
“I remember when Val Pizey was president that she would ask the ministry just about every year about putting in a wayside rest stop. To this day we still don’t really have it. They say we have one in Sleeman, but she used to say, ‘we still have to use the bathroom in the winter.’ And you can’t use the one in Sleeman in the winter.”
Ewald noted that having both the RRDMA and NOMA advocating for additional wayside stops could put enough pressure on the government to make steps towards accommodating the request.