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MANITOBA PARKS: After the flood

For some Manitobans, last summer’s flood is just a memory. But for farmers and property owners along the Assiniboine River, Lake Manitoba and some other regions, the effects of the flood are still very evident — and this applies to several of our provincial parks, as well.

Some parks remain closed for the foreseeable future, in particular St. Ambroise Provincial Park, on the east side of Lake Manitoba, where most of the campground and park infrastructure were destroyed. Engineering and insurance assessments are still underway there, and no decisions have been made on redeveloping it. Watchorn Provincial Park, farther north, is in a similar situation. Parks in other areas of the province, such as the one at Rivers, fared somewhat better last year and are set to open in May. Some will open partially, although flood effects are still very evident.

At Beaudry Park, a day-use park just to the west of Headingley, the effects of the flood can be clearly seen. My husband and I visited there near the end of April and were able to enjoy an hour-long walk on the trails, but watermarks on the trees clearly show last year’s flood level. A greyness seems to envelop the lower part of the trails and forest. Perhaps by the end of this summer, things may return to normal there, but the vegetation is slow to come back. Will the ferns and grass recover? Will the trees live or die? It’s hard to answer these questions yet.

One park which will be only partially open again this year is Spruce Woods. Hiking trails such as those to the Spirit Sands and Epinette Creek are accessible, and the Spirit Sands Wagon Outfitters — which provides wagon rides into the desert — plans to operate. Other sections of the park fared much worse. Work on the normal access road from Highway 5 is starting but at Kiche Manitou Campground, the lower campground was destroyed. It remains a disaster area, with all buildings beyond repair, and a thick layer of silt lying everywhere. This part of the campground will not be used. No decision has yet been made on rebuilding the washrooms and administration building at the lower level. How many of the trees in this once-beautiful area will survive is not yet known, but it is feared that many will not recover.

The upper campground and the yurts are usable, as they were last summer. Plans are underway to convert Bay 11, previously used for group use, into 42 basic campsites, and to convert the former overflow area into regular campsites, once the road is repaired. Fortunately, some work on renovating the beach occurred over the winter — with about eight to 10 centimetres of silt removed — and the cleanup is continuing. A provincial spokesperson said that it is hoped a temporary road to the beach will be available by July 1, with the Visitors’ Centre, the pedestrian bridge to the beach, and the Pine Fort facilities open by then. The Friends of Spruce Wood organization is also planning to open. In other areas of the province, Lundar Beach had some of its lower sites flooded in 2011, and road access was also affected. Repairs are scheduled to begin there this spring, so it is hoped the campground can reopen later. At Manipogo Campground, repairs will begin this spring with plans to reopen it later. Repairs at Rainbow Beach on Lake Dauphin began last fall. The campground was not affected and will open May 11, but repairs at the beach are ongoing.

Before you choose where to camp or visit, check out the Manitoba parks website at: http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/parks/. Also, remember that the entrance fee has been reinstated this year. Purchase a seasonal pass ($30) at various locations throughout the province, or buy a day pass ($4) valid until midnight on the day of purchase, or a casual pass ($8) valid for three consecutive days, as you enter.

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