Culture News

Up and down year for the ice road

BY LINDSAY BRISCOE

After a stretch of time without the snow removal equipment he normally uses, local Leigh Moncrief was able to borrow a groomer over the weekend from Barrens Northern Transportation to perform some touch-ups to the ice road between Red Lake and Cochenour that he and local Dan Theriault initially plowed late in 2013.

Moncrief, a former employee of Barrens, explains he had to take a break from his volunteer snow removal as the equipment Barrens generously supplies him has been tied up doing other jobs, mainly north of Red Lake.

“I definitely could do it all year long if I owned my own plow truck and went out there every weekend and kind of touched it up…but it only gets done on the availability of the equipment that we have access to,” he explains. “This is the first year that I’ve been out there that Barrens hasn’t had anything breaking down because that’s usually how I do it. If they have something break down, they bring it back, fix it, and then I’ll go out for a day and us it on the ice and make sure it’s running properly before they send it back to the bush. So it’s kind of worked out good that way for everybody…”

“Usually I’ll use a Suburban with a plow on it. This time of year I’m waiting because most of their winter roads are done now so some of the equipment is coming back,” he said late last week.

He says it’s important to use the proper equipment since small truck plows alone don’t disperse the snow properly. Sometimes when others try to help out it unfortunately ends up being more of a hindrance than a help, he adds.

“Everybody in town with a plow tries to help when they use the ice road – and bless their hearts for trying to help out – but if you don’t move the snow properly you can’t make the road wide so that it won’t blow in. So I went to do it with the Suburban recently and I just couldn’t. There was just too much snow.”

Moncrief, Theriault and another friend Rod Stamarski volunteered an entire weekend of their time as well as paid for two and a half tanks of fuel costing upwards of $500 out of their own pockets to plow the initial ice road at the end of last year.

Moncrief says he enjoys taking care of the ice road when he is able to, and can even let the complaints about its condition “roll off his shoulders,” but says he will not continue with snow removal on the ice road if people continue to dispose garbage there.

“This year, when Frog (Theriault) and I finished plowing, we came to work Monday morning and on my way home there was Tim Hortons garbage all over the ice,” he says. “So that’s one thing I did make very clear. I’m not doing it as long as there’s garbage on the ice. That’s just ridiculous. It wasn’t even 12 hours and there were multiple coffee cups and sandwich bags strewn across the ice and that gets very frustrating.”

As of Monday, the ice road between Red Lake and Cochenour was reportedly in better condition but still fairly narrow in a few spots. The 300 litres of diesel fuel Moncrief went through using the groomer over the weekend was provided by Barrens.

There have been a number of locals involved with snow removal on the stretch of the ice road to Rahill Beach. The Municipality of Red Lake is responsible for the stretch between Cochenour and McKenzie Island.

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