After weeks of ‘zero answers’ Piney highway rest stop to reopen

Rural Municipality of Piney residents are upset the province has dragged its feet on reopening the only southeastern highway rest stop between Steinbach and Buffalo Point.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/07/2022 (325 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Rural Municipality of Piney residents are upset the province has dragged its feet on reopening the only southeastern highway rest stop between Steinbach and Buffalo Point.

The Menisino Tower site has been a fixture for relief on Highway 12 for almost a half-century before being temporarily closed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fire tower, which resulted in its name, is long gone, but the access road and spots to put portable toilets for passing travellers remain.

SUPPLIED Area resident Lyle Anderson points to the backwards Menisino Tower rest stop sign on Highway 12.

Area residents became worried this spring, and began making calls to government bureaucrats and MLAs, when the province didn’t put out the two seasonal toilets, cut the grass or reverse the highway signs to show the rest stop some 70 kilometres southeast of Steinbach was open.

Lyle Anderson, who has lived in the area his whole life, said travellers passing through drive for many kilometres, seeing mostly pine trees and rocks and no public washrooms, before they finally get to the rest stop.

“It has been a long-standing wayside stop for people to get a break to rest and go to the bathroom,” Anderson said Thursday.

“There’s no place from Steinbach to Buffalo Point (connected to Hwy. 12 by Buffalo Point Road) to stop. Kids need to go to the bathroom. Seniors as well.

“We’ve gone to MLA (Dennis) Smook and others, but all they give you are zero answers,” he added. “It is going on deaf ears.”

Piney Reeve Wayne Anderson said residents became even more worried after one talked to a highways worker.

“They were told highways (department) had been scheduled to take the approach to the rest stop out,” Anderson said. “They’ve done this before. A bureaucrat somewhere wants to close it, then people complain, and then they reverse the decision.

“I don’t know why they do this. There is always people at that rest stop whenever you go by it.”

The reeve may be right. A few hours after the Free Press contacted the province for comment Thursday, it announced the rest stop would not be closing.

“The province temporarily closed the wayside park at this location in response to COVID-19 and will be reopening the site this summer,” a spokesman said.

Anderson was skeptical at the news: “There was absolutely no response until we sent this to the (media). Summer is half over — what was their comments regarding that?”

Terry Bjornson of Winnipeg, who has a cottage in the Piney area, said the rest stop is used for more than just a bathroom break.

“We have derbies, both ATV and snowmobiles, and we use it as a site for serving food to people. We’ll get 200 to 300 people out there,” Bjornson said.

“For the people here in Piney, we don’t use it as a rest stop — we use it as a facility for fundraising. But then there are people coming up from the U.S. and there is an expectation they can stop there to use the washroom. It’s a pretty place in the pines.”

NDP municipalities critic Matt Wiebe said in a statement Thursday (before the province made its announcement): “Frequent rest stops with clean, safe amenities are an important part of safe highway travel. The province should do its part to keep these sites open and available.”

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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