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Controversy erupts between ice fishers, residents over closed road to Lake Winnipeg
A passionate debate has erupted over access on a road to Lake Winnipeg often used by ice fishers. The Rural Municipality of St. Andrews closed a section of Chalet Beach Road, directing drivers who want to access the lake to Warner Road, the next road over.
Ice fishing guide Donovan Pearase said business has been booming this year thanks to what he calls the ‘greenback bonanza’.
Pearase said the municipality has welcomed many tourists from the United States who’ve been spending thousands of dollars in the area to catch giant trophy walleye, but now the last two weeks of the season are ending on a sour note.
"It's small minded thinking to satisfy a small number of people," he said.
Crews from the municipality moved a heap of snow at the end of the Chalet Beach road to make sure people stop driving on or off the ice.
Pearase said fishers have been using Chalet Beach Road for a decade and now have to drive 800 meters further on the lake's ice road to get to fishing spots, beating up their vehicles on the way. Instead of restricting access, he’d like to see the municipality open more access roads to the lake.
“It's like we treat our tourism dollars like it's a plague. It's ridiculous,” he said. “Instead of encouraging it and making it more comfortable we make it more difficult."
CLOSED FOR SAFETY REASONS: RURAL MUNICIPALITY OF ST. ANDREWS
Rural Municipality of St. Andrews tells CTV News the road was closed for safety reasons so emergency responders could be guaranteed access in the event of a crisis.
The municipality's Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Weremy said conditions on the lake can change in an instant and drastically reduce visibility. With curves along Chalet Beach Road, he said moving traffic to Warner Road, which is straight and has better parking, is more practical.
Eva Brunger lives on Chalet Beach Road and agrees with the municipality’s decision to block fishers’ access to the lake.
"You're scared for your dogs and your kids. They have a slowdown sign but they don't listen to that most of them, and it makes the road yucky and it's just really annoying," said Brunger.
Brunger said over the past three years the traffic along the road has become worse and worse.
“The Municipality understands the questions and concerns that some fishers have expressed over the closure of this access,” said Weremy.
“The Municipality respects the tremendous resource the lake brings to the area, its users and the residents. We also would be willing to work with all groups to try and balance these interests as we move forward for the summer season and next ice fishing season.”
Weremy said there are about 10 families living on that section of Chalet Beach Road.