By Alex Gallacher
Approximately 40 families along Bear Lake Road have formed the Bear Lake winter maintenance association, looking to hire a private contractor to plow the road in the winter after years of requesting that Algonquin Highlands do so. Members of the association spoke to Algonquin Highlands council at the Oct. 21 meeting with the goal of getting their plan for winter snow removal approved, as well as private winter maintenance for better winter access to their seasonal properties.
Doug Middlebrook and Kathleen Hedley brought forth the proposal after receiving a notice in August that the parking area for their cars would no longer be available. Most year-round Bear Lake Road residents would park their cars and snowmobile at their homes and cottages, however, congestion on the road has always been an issue. It has also created an additional safety hazard with cars parked up and down the shoulder, and on the adjacent street.
The proposal consisted of hiring an independent crew that would sand and plow the road for a cost of around $20,000, that cost which would be put up by the residents of Bear Lake Road.
Bear Lake Road, located in the northern portion of Algonquin Highlands, poses a unique and complicated situation since while it is municipally owned it is not municipally maintained during the winter months. It is a seasonal road. In 2016, council voted against spending $4 million that would be required to bring the road up to municipal standards where it could be travelled by a snowplow during the winter months.
A major question from council was both the status of the snowmobile trail on Bear Lake Road and the safety concerns of having both cars and snowmobiles on the road. The delegations assured council that they would cross that bridge when they got there and that a precedence has been set in places like North Creek Road, who have made it work for them in the past. Hedley also mentioned that they would work closely with the snowmobile club, who said they would inform the Bear Lake Road association of any issues.
Another main concern was over damages that could occur to the road in the spring, and who would be responsible for that. The road association added that it would be included in the confidential agreement, and that Hedley’s experience in the industry would lead to the development of the safe plowing of the road with minimal damage.
With a fraction of the 120 residents living on the Dysart side of the road, council felt better about the impact it would have with the other municipality. However, Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen expressed her concern over the relationship with the snowmobile club and the possible change to policy of the county. Danielsen mentioned that it would be next to impossible to keep the road maintained to the township’s standards during the wintertime, and that while the delegates argued it would be possible, the council remained concerned.
Councillor Jennifer Dailloux expressed that more information was needed due to the feedback from her constituents, as Bear Lake Road falls under her jurisdiction.
The conclusion made by council was that more information was needed, as well as a meeting with the snowmobile club, before an official resolution was able to be met. Moffatt added that more calls needed to be made and more unknowns needed to be resolved before the project could be considered to be given the green light. The Bear Lake road association will have to bring forth more information before finding out if their proposal will be accepted.
with files from the Minden Times