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Column: EACOM president wants continued provincial support for forestry roads

Access roads provide lifeline to remote northeastern Ontario communities

Northern Ontario is known for its vast forests, many lakes, and outdoor adventure offerings. 

Since 2005, the Ontario government has invested in the construction and maintenance of forest access roads across the province. 

Distances are long in Ontario. Thunder Bay is 1,400 kilometres from Toronto. That is 15 hours of driving, and you are just starting to get remote. 

The forest access roads program expands on the provincial highway network to strengthen multi-use public infrastructure. Thanks to this government infrastructure program, many roads, bridges, and water crossings are maintained, repaired, and replaced annually.

A well-known example is the Sultan Road, a 115-kilometre road connecting Chapleau to Sudbury that saves motorists hours off that east-west trip and provides land access to recreationists. 

EACOM’s Woodlands team makes sure to have it groomed each spring before the May long weekend traffic and looks after its year-long maintenance. 

In remote areas, one road can also be the lifeline of a community – its only connection to its distant neighbours and a vital supply line of food, medication, and other goods. 

Northwest of Sudbury, the 160-kilometre West Branch Road provides access to the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation’s Ritchie Falls Resort and many cottage owners.

2018 marked Ontario as the hottest wildfire season in recent memory. 

Forest access roads provided a critical link for emergency services during the fire known as North Bay 72, which grew to more than 27,000 hectares, only 20 kilometres away from our community of Elk Lake.

In recent months, the Ford government has launched several initiatives to facilitate Ontarians’ enjoyment of their great outdoors. 

In turn, we, at EACOM, continue to do our part to ready the access to Ontario’s forests and lakes: in 2018, we worked to maintain 5,167 kilometres and built 973 kilometres of roads. 

These roads are built and maintained to government standard and owned by the Crown. 

We hope to see a $75-million forest access roads funding program in the 2019 budget to support people who live, work, and play in Northern Ontario. 

The public-private engagement with the forest industry to implement road building and maintenance activities ensures a cost-effective approach to investing in infrastructure. That is a good infrastructure deal for both government and its people.  

Kevin Edgson is the president-CEO of EACOM Timber Corporation