More than 100 people gathered on Saturday to protest the closure of a popular under-highway portage in the heart of cottage country in Minden Township.
Cottagers and residents gathered along Highway 35, demanding the federal government reopen the portage at Moore Falls (about 60 kilometres north of Lindsay, Ont.) which was utilized under a bridge between Gull Lake and Moore Lake.
Two years ago Parks Canada announced plans to close the passage due to safety concerns of water flow and deteriorating boat rollers. The boat rollers were removed earlier this year and replaced with hydraulic booms as Parks Canada stated they placed paddlers at risk of the Moore Lake dam and its fluctuating water flows and levels.
But a trio of lake property owner associations disagree.
The Black Lake Owner’s Association, the Moore Lake Owner’s Association and the Gull Lake Cottager’s Association argue the portage has served the area for more than 85 years.
“Parks Canada recently cut off that portage without consulting the public, which now forces camp paddlers to portage over a busy highway,” stated Neil Hutchings, who launched an online petition.
Hutchings and others say the Moore Falls portage has been used without incident for many years and that the water control structure on the Trent Severn Waterway was designed to be integral with Highway 35 and incorporated an under-highway portage as part of its structure.
“Paddlers traversing between Moore and Gull Lakes are now forced to portage across the busy Highway 35 very near to a dangerous curve in the roadway,” he said. “The risk to young kids crossing a highway while portaging a canoe and supplies must surely be greater than any associated risk to using the under–highway portage route.”
Hutchings also said in a June meeting, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation indicated the portaging was safe.
“Signage was promised (on Highway 35) but it has not been installed,” said Hutchings.
The groups want a safe passage tunnel included in design plans for a new Moore Falls bridge.