New Park: Chiniguchi River Waterway Park

 

JULY 12, 2006  The spectacular Donald Lake roadless area, lagoon-peppered Chiniguchi River, and a section of the ancient Timiskaming-to-Wanapitei aboriginal highway have been wrapped into the protective cocoon of the 9,368-hectare Chiniguchi River Waterway Provincial Park, the newest patch of green on the map.

Normally a waterway park will follow a water course with, at most, a 200-metre-deep buffer of protected land along its shoreline, and contain no lock-box blocks of land as found in a wilderness park. However, the addition of the Donald Lake uplands and a portion of the Wolf Lake old-growth red-pine forest make Chiniguchi anything but a ribbon of a park.

It will be managed as part of the Temagami backcountry parks. These are patrolled and require overnight camping permits in the summer (with the exception of the Temagami River Park, which remains non-operational). However, Chiniguchi will be exempt for this season. Fees and patrols do seem probable next summer.

Seven years after its announcement, as part of the Harris government's sweeping Ontario's Living Legacy Strategy, which established 378 new protected areas, the park is a reality though 40 per cent smaller than its original 1999 proposal. That year the newly announced park lands were designated as forest reserves where new mineral staking was prohibited and logging banned. The proposed Chiniguchi park was designated as a cluster of forest reserves.

With mining leases and claims covering over a third of the proposed area, it looked more like it was going to be a quarry than a park, so MNR held back its regulation, the final step in legalization. In the intervening years claims lapsed over about 14 per cent of the area as prospectors lost interest. Last year, Ontario decided to progress with the park, leaving out the roughly 16 per cent remaining under prospectors' thumbs, mostly controlled by one junior mining company, Flag Resources of Calgary.

The heart of Flag's interest is quartzite-studded Wolf Lake, which is often compared to Killarney Provincial Park. The penny-stock company is the mining promotion vehicle for Murdo McLeod. He has been exploring Wolf Lake for nearly 30 years, scarring it with tractor trails and drill holes, promising a bonanza to his investors, but delivering a delisting of its shares from the TSX Venture Exchange last year. Despite financial troubles, McLeod says he intends to remain and develop the unproven mineral potential of the land, so the inclusion of the remaining Wolf Lake Forest Reserve land in the park is unclear.

One other large block of land, a quarter of the original proposal, was left out of the park in the face of opposition from a group of park-fearing cottagers on Kukagami Lake. The 3,749-hectare block remains a forest reserve, potentially to be designated a conservation reserve.

The most certain destiny of the excluded lands is that of the small Chiniguchi Forest Reserve. It will be added to the park. Half of the claims under it have already lapsed. 

"We are happy to see it come to fruition, but are still concerned about access, the Wolf Lake area and the old-growth forest," says Mike McIntosh of Friends of Chiniguchi.

Chiniguchi  

Map: New Chiniguchi River Waterway Provincial Park, 2006
                                                                                                                 UPDATED: 8.9.2006

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