Chamber of Commerce supports Bending Lake road link to Ignace

The Atikokan Chamber of Commerce gave its unanimous endorsation Wednesday evening, March 12, to a proposal that the Bending Lake Road be built on a “community-to-community” basis to link Atikokan and Ignace.

The chamber thereby aligned itself with the councils of Ignace and Atikokan and the Ignace Chamber of Commerce in opposing the route stipulated by the Ontario Ministry of Northern Affairs which calls for the section from Bending Lake north to emerge on the Trans-Canada Highway 24 miles west of Ignace.

At the meeting, chaired by chamber president Ken Nephin, several speakers made the point that the preferred road link would be one running directly between Atikokan and Ignace rather than making an arc to the west to bring in the Bending Lake area. Likewise, however, they agreed that any move to press for such a route undoubtly would create undue delays in construction of the road link.

Vic Prokopchuk, in a presentation on behalf of the chamber, said that the direct route would be the one that would mean the most economically both to Atikokan and Ignace because much of the business that could be developed lies in the mining areas to the north of Ignace.

 Mr. Prokopchuk contended that it was “baloney” to think that the road from Atikokan to Bending Lake would have any bearing on development of iron ore deposits in that area. Or, for that matter, that this particular route was needed to make timber areas available for the Domtar operation at Sapawe.

“If companies want to get at the resources, they’ll do it,“ said Mr. Prokopchuk. He maintained, however, that it was a lot more likely that the Lake St. Joseph iron ore deposits well north of the Trans-Canada would be developed before Bending Lake.

(Mr. Nephin, in comment following the meeting, said that the Atikokan chamber’s position had been inaccurately described in a report of a March 7 meeting here involving representatives of the two councils and the Ignace chamber.

(Mr. Nephin said that he had appeared late at the meeting because the local chamber’s participation had been overlooked in invitations to attend the session. When asked for the Atikokan chamber’s views he had noted that some time back the Atikokan chamber had gone on record as favoring a direct route.

“(The implication that I was contending that the local chamber still wanted to purchase such a route at all costs was incorrect,” said Mr. Nephin.)

Most of the members of township council attended that portion of the meeting dealing with the Bending Lake road, along with Ignace chamber representative Mike Zappitelli. Mr. Zappitelli launched the general discussion with a resume of the entire situation. Like Mr. Prokopchuk and several other speakers, he considered that a direct route between Atikokan and Ignace would be best but he agreed matters were probably too far advanced to make any change to such a route.

Mr. Zappitelli said that the next best choice was to have the northern section emerge right in Ignace rather than to have it conclude at a “nowhere” point on the Trans-Canada. He said that the change wouldn’t be that much more costly, nor was the terrain any more difficult to traverse than what would be involved in emerging at the “nowhere” place.

Vice-president Don Beckett reported that work is forging ahead on preparation of a directory of local business firms. Copies would be dispatched to companies gaining contracts on the construction of the Atikokan Generating Station, making them aware of the services and facilities available to them locally.

The chamber approved a proposal by Ray Gowriluk that a protest be made concerning the reported intention of the Federal government to reduce drastically the staff of the Department of Regional Economic Expansion (DREE) located in Thunder Bay. Township council has voted similar objections.

Bob Olson reported that 15,000 tourist brochures had been printed for the chamber. He termed this about a two-year supply. At Barry Brown’s urging, the chamber passed a resolution to be forwarded to appropriate government authorities asking for determination on the status of White Otter Lake with regard to fishing this season.

March 15, 1980
Atikokan Progress