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New Ste. Agathe Boat Launch to Boost Community

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Claude Lemoine, Louis Allain, Joel Gagnon, and Justin Johnson at the site of the new boat launch. Sara Beth Dacombe

Thanks to a generous grant, Ste. Agathe will be developing a dock and boat launch project in the centre of the town along the west bank of the Red River. On Friday, October 2, the Ste. Agathe Community Development Inc. along with the Conseil de dévelopement économique du Manitoba (CDEM) held a press conference at the Ste. Agathe Community Centre to announce the project.

The project includes road access down to the river from a new crescent-shaped road that will be built off Pembina Trail. A smaller road will then lead down to the boat launch, which will be constructed next an 80-foot floating dock, large enough to accommodate approximately four to six boats at once.

The committee responsible for the project says an engineering study has been done and onsite measurements and mapping are underway now that the project has received its funding.

The existing walkways in the area will also be built up, with added seating.

This project is the result of years of community planning to provide better community access to the Red River for the purposes of recreation and even tourism.

The location was chosen due to its proximity to the historic Cheyenne Boiler Monument and its surrounding walking paths. This monument consists of a model and an iron boiler from the steamboat Cheyenne that operated on the Red River during the 1870s and 1880s.

“As the boat was sinking on 2 June 1885, the boiler was thrown overboard,” according to the Manitoba Historical Society. “In 1981, it was found during construction of a flood dike around the community and was recovered from the river.”

The boiler is a symbol of how life was conducted in the past, centring around the necessity of the river.

Remembering the local history that brings the town together, the community formed a committee to oversee the Red River Access Project, with Ste. Agathe resident Joel Gagnon as chair.

“We’re really trying to get across the theme of place-making,” says Gagnon, who is also president of the Ste. Agathe Community Development Initiative. “We used to have a boat launch here, and I remember countless hours fishing as a kid. I want to see that happen again. We want to promote active and healthy living, and we want to make sure we’re delivering on building a community with meaning. Having water as a theme and the Cheyenne as a theme is culturally important.”

Alongside the health benefits is the possibility for tourism to generate income for the community as well. With access to the river, it’s hoped that fishing and boating enthusiasts will frequent the area, bringing customers to the local gas station, stores, and restaurants. Kayaks and canoes will also be able to launch from the site. Wintertime activities include snowmobiling and snowshoeing.

The $45,500 grant for the boat launch project comes from the Francophone Economic Development Organizations (FEDOs), as part of the pandemic response investment of $1.8 million for Western Economic Diversification Canada, announced by the federal government in July. Through the fund, the federal government is looking to ignite economic recovery for francophone businesses in the western provinces.

The CDEM has been the driving force behind economic development in Manitoba’s bilingual communities since 1996.

“The new fund is being administered by the four entities that represent francophone economic development in Western Canada,” says Louis Allain, CDEM executive director. “CDEM’s role is to collaborate and help coordinate the funding. Ste. Agathe was successful within the contest and they won the opportunity to get the funding.”

Allain points out that all this recently announced development has been made possible due to a Red River master plan that was put in years ago.

“The dock was part of sketches and plans made years ago to bring life back to the Red River, and hopefully this project will be a sparkplug within the whole area and will help other communities to follow,” Allain adds. “All communities from the U.S. border at Emerson, all the way to Lake Winnipeg, everybody has pitched in and we now have a shared vision of what the Red River should look like in the future. This community is a leader among all the others and we’re really, really proud today to offer them this grant. It’s a new push for them to realize their project.”

Gagnon also acknowledges the extensive work that has been done to move this dock project forward.

“This is not something that just came out of the blue,” Gagnon says. “This has been in the works for many, many years, and as such, the Ste. Agathe CDI took the initiative a number of years ago to see this project to fruition. So we’re happy to be here at this point. Thank you to the committee members for all the work, which was instrumental in seeing this project to where it is today. I’d like to highlight the support of the municipality as well. This project is to serve not just Ste. Agathe, but the greater metropolitan area. There is very much a lack of access to the Red River from the Winnipeg perimeter to the U.S. border, so we’re very pleased for this project to see the light of day.”

The mayor of Ritchot, Chris Ewen, was also present at the October 2 announcement and says he is really thankful for the visionaries who are putting effort into increasing tourism in Ritchot.

“What a great opportunity!” Ewen says. “I can’t thank CDEM, AMBM, and FEDO enough for getting us together, because these are great projects for everyone who’s involved in the area… Having a dock here will really bring more opportunities, more incentives, and more things to do in Ritchot. It will create a tourism vibe which I think we are lacking a bit in Ritchot.”

Allain acknowledges that the banks of the Red River are temperamental, rising and falling each spring. He says that the engineers involved in the project are aware of the challenges and that this site was chosen specifically because it sits at the highest point in elevation along the Red River from the U.S. border to Winnipeg.

“It’s a bit of an engineering feat to get this done, but we should be able to complete it on schedule,” he says. “The river is low right now, which is good for construction. Mother Nature is cooperating with us this year. Construction will begin over the winter to be finished in spring.”

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