Ministry of Highways to hire contractor for maintenance of provincial entrance

July 14, 2020, 8:57 am
by Rob Paul Local, Journalism Initiative Reporter

The provincial entrance from Manitoba into Saskatchewan on the Trans-Canada Highway has seen better days with a need for weed maintenance and garbage cans. The Ministry of Highways says they’re looking into hiring a contractor for the area.

When entering Saskatchewan from Manitoba on the Trans-Canada Highway, there used to be a tourism information centre, but after that was sold to the Town of Moosomin—and ultimately relocated to the Pipestone Hills Golf Course—the provincial entrance has lost its lustre.

The Saskatchewan provincial entrance might not be something everybody takes notice of because they see it all the time, but for newcomers and travellers it’s their first impression of the “Land of Living Skies.”

Even without the tourism information centre there, the Saskatchewan sign is a frequent stopping spot for travellers to snap a photo and create a lasting memory.

Last week, Moosomin resident Trevor Green took notice of the area and felt the need to bring attention to the lack of upkeep in hopes it would lead to whomever is responsible stepping up and taking care of the issue.

After some confusion between the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport, the Ministry of Highways, and the Ministry of Central Services about which ministry is responsible for the area—and one department thought the Town of Moosomin owned the site because it bought the building—the Ministry of Highways figured out it is under their jurisdiction.

“We tender the work out to private contractors,” said Ministry of Highways Senior Communications Consultant Steve Shaheen.

“Regular ditch mowing will begin fairly shortly all along the four-lane highways and will continue through fall, in addition to to the ditch mowing they’ll do any property we own along that plot. In this case, for the most part, our crew’s priority is addressing any spring road damage. Then we can turn our attention to some other locations.”

The concerns about the area go beyond the overgrown grass and weeds, with garbage sprinkled all over, concrete pads for picnic tables that aren’t there, a broken gate, and dead trees.

Moosomin MLA Steven Bonk says, the main problem that led to nobody taking care of the area was nobody knew who was supposed to be maintaining it.

“This is one of those cases of stereotypical, what you think happens in government, that’s what happened here” Bonk said. “It’s that nobody knew who was in charge.

“There’s one more twist to this story,” he said. “Tourism told me that they thought the town (of Moosomin) owned the piece of property because the building had been turned over to the town,” he said. “The people in tourism thought that, but didn’t know so I checked and then they said highways is in charge of that.”

Bonk said that the situation was nobody’s fault and something that none of the ministries were aware of prior to it being brought up.

“Absolutely it fell through the cracks because it kind of fell between three ministries, tourism, central services, and highways, and tourism thought the Town of Moosomin owned it,” he said. “It was a bit of a mixup.”

Now that the Ministry of Highways is aware work needs to be done, maintenance will be done in the near future, as for the long-term care and maintenance, they’re looking into options, says Bonk.

“Highways doesn’t own any grass maintenance equipment anymore, it’s all contracted out,” he said.

“What they’re interested in doing is either working out a deal with the Town of Moosomin or the local RM and see if they can enter into an agreement to maintain the property.

“At the moment I think what they want to do is maintain it and if there are concerns I ask that people please pass them along to my office. For example, some of these trees need to be maintained and perhaps we can enter into an agreement with the town or RM to manage the site for us.”

Bonk said he was unsure whether there are supposed to be picnic tables on the concrete pads, but said that would be something for tourism to look at, he also mentioned the area having no garbage cans as an issue.

Bonk hadn’t heard any complaints about the area before, but after stopping at it earlier in the year he took notice of the overgrowth and knew something needed to be done, he says.

“The funny thing is, I stopped there April 18,” he said.

“I actually went and visited this area and was wondering when they would get around to looking after it. That was the first time I had been there and actually paid attention to it since the building had been moved to the golf course (in 2018). It looked like it hadn’t been looked after and it was one of my many projects to check into.

“As an MLA for this area and as a representative of the Government of Saskatchewan, this is the first thing that a visitor into our province would see and I think that it’s our duty to maintain this area and make sure it’s a nice welcome for our tourists and guests. There’s a small army looking into this at the moment, from three ministries.

“This isn’t one of those cases of willful neglect,” he said.

“This is truly one of those cases where it fell through the cracks. This is a situation where it’s very helpful when people notice things in the constituency and let us know because it’s hard for me to see everything. Hopefully we’ll get it done soon. I think it will be quick.”

Bonk says, he thinks now that awareness of the issues with the provincial entrance have been raised, the problem will be dealt with and it’s something everybody wants to see taken care of in a timely manner.

Now that it’s clear the Saskatchewan provincial entrance maintenance falls under the Ministry of Highways, they’ll be moving toward taking care of some of the problems.

“We’re working on finding a contractor to mow the area,” said Ministry of Highways Assistant Director of Communications David Horth.

“The site is one that we maintain so whatever maintenance needs to be done there we will work out an arrangement with a contractor. At the moment what we’re looking at is someone to take care of mowing the grass and that kind of general maintenance.

“We do a lot of mowing along all the provincial four-lane highways and we try to keep the grass down to an acceptable height.”

When it comes to beautifying the area with picnic tables or setting up garbage cans, Horth says, the ministry sometimes works with communities to set that up.

“I don’t know with this specific site, other than trying to get a contractor to do mowing,” he said.

“Often with those sorts of things we work in partnership with communities or community organizations. Honestly, we want Saskatchewan to be visually pleasing as well.

“Our primary focus is road maintenance and keeping the snow off the roads. Weed control, at times, can affect the ability of the driver to see everything they need to see to have a safe journey, so we do handle a measure of weed control. It’s mostly to maintain sight lines.”

The main priority right now is to clean up the weeds and grass in the area, says Horth, but they’re open to doing more.

“We’d be open to working with somebody,” he said.

“If someone wanted to suggest to us who to work with we’d welcome that, we’ve done stuff like that in other locations through adopt-a-highway types of programs.

“We’re basically, at the moment, looking for a contractor just to take care of the weeds which is the primary thing.

“Primarily we’re trying to make sure roads are consistent and safe. We’re taking care of potholes and making sure drainage is right. Weed maintenance is something that tends to start at the end of spring and beginning of summer because that’s the natural cycle of when it starts growing.

“As far as this particular site, it’s a bit of an oversight and it’s a good thing it was brought to our attention so it can receive the attention it deserves,” he said.

“Our intention is to make this something a contractor would take care of regularly.”