City council displays lack of vision with new causeway detailed design

We will have accomplished very little if on Jan. 28 Portage la Prairie city council votes to approve the recently revealed $7 million dollar causeway design.

If anything, voters here leading up to the October 2018 municipal election voiced concerns over the inclusion of roundabouts on the proposed new causeway and that of a design that would continue to see the lake divided into two.

As a municipal council candidate, I heard loud and clear many ratepayers were not interested in paying close to $1 million for the two roundabouts and there is a strong recreational desire to be able to travel safely (again) from one end of the lake to the other.

I heard significant public resistance to the project from social, environmental, financial, administrative and strategic concerns.

I don’t want to fight a lost cause calling out the roundabout designs as the wrong answer for a causeway serving Island Park. Roundabouts work. I just hope they will work in this location. It just seems, though, the design makes it harder for pedestrians!

I do want to make the effort to again draw attention to the omission of an underpass in the causeway design.

If approved, the new detailed design presented to the city council on Jan. 14 by engineering firm AECOM, will only marginally improve the now pathetic flow in Crescent Lake from its present choke point. Recreational users will be forced to use only half of the lake or struggle to get to the other side. You only need to look at the snowmobile tracks there today to see that, if possible, recreational users of the lake will use both sides.

The plans as they are today force snowmobilers and cross country skiers to go up and over the causeway and crossing three lanes and more. It’s hard on gear and not the safest option?

At minimum, the causeway design should include an underpass for recreational users. How much more can this cost? More directly, how much will it cost not to do this?

If this city council does not see value in having a long term strategy for the health of Crescent Lake, it should at least accept the responsibility of not constructing a $7 million dollar stop sign to a future visionary council that will include Crescent Lake in this city’s future economic planning.

What role can Crescent Lake play in Portage la Prairie’s future? Not very much according to this city council!

To many, many others, though, the lake represents an opportunity. An opportunity that will deliver an economic return.

Imagine how Island on the Prairies, the major tourism thrust in Portage la Prairie, would benefit if it could include a healthy lake in its promotion?

There is science available today that says flow in the lake can be improved. It has been argued for decades if, in fact, it would work, but seemingly it is only the politicians arguing it won’t. Even if the available studies are flawed, new ideas and modern engineering would defeat those flaws.

Imagine going to the beach at Island Park? How about a swim from a public dock where you could also launch your personal watercraft? How about

I don’t see a beach at Island Park and I don’t see anyone swimming in the lake. Since moving here in 2015 I have been told the lake is “diseased”, it’s “sick”, or “I wouldn’t push my enemy in there”. Frankly, I have not heard very much nice about the lake and it is all because of the water quality. Perceived or otherwise. Let it freeze over eliminating the fear of falling in and you see more users.

City council will vote on Jan. 28 to approve this detailed design. The project already carries a price tag of $1 million dollars more than at last accounting.

With nearly $1 billion dollars being invested here, Portagers are not seeing civic investment — special projects, legacy projects — in step with the opportunity.

Portagers can only hope the mayor and the six men and women on the council have not closed their ears and hearts to what Crescent Lake can be.

Otherwise, any future council with vision seeking to draw up plans to make Crescent Lake, a fun tourist attraction, will only see those council members’ names who voted to nail down the coffin lid on this opportunity.

This causeway design should not proceed without a large enough culvert to accommodate a vision this council cannot see.



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