ATIKOKAN – Funding of over $5 million provided for the rehabilitation of the Gore Bay-Manitoulin Airport and improvements to two roads in Sheshegwaning First Nation from the provincial and federal governments was announced last week.
“This is an investment in the future of Western Manitoulin,” stated Lee Hayden, chair of the Gore Bay Manitoulin Airport Commission (which includes Gore Bay, Gordon/Barrie Island and Burpee-Mills), after a press conference for infrastructure in Atikokan for 12 Northern Ontario communities. Marcus Powlowski, Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay-Rainy River (on behalf of the Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development), the Honourable Laurie Scott, Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure, and His Worship Dennis Brown, mayor of the Town of Atikokan, all attended the announcement virtually.
The Government of Canada is investing over $23 million in the 12 projects through the Rural and Northern Communities Infrastructure Stream (RNIS) and Ontario is contributing over $12 million. Municipalities as well as Sheshegwaning are contributing over $5 million total towards the projects.
The funding includes $3,966,497 toward the rehabilitation of the Gore Bay-Manitoulin Airport, including a new air terminal, helipad, expansion of the secondary runway and enhancements to security and wildlife fencing. This project will improve passenger safety and security, emergency responses and the flow of traffic.
As well, Sheshegwaning received $1,016,364 in funding for improvements to two roads in the community. Realigning and upgrading roads will improve public safety, reduce road maintenance costs and offer motorists more reliable roads.
“Rural communities help build our nation,” said Mr. Powlowski, at the virtual news conference in Atikokan. “By investing in projects like these, we are helping to make them thrive, become more competitive and we are contributing to our country’s economic recovery in these unprecedented times.”
Minister Scott said, “investing in shovel-ready projects like these helps to create jobs and improve the lives of residents in these Northern and First Nations communities. By investing in new roads and bridges and improvements to regional airports, we can help drive local economic development and move people and goods safely and effectively.”
Dan Osborne, mayor of the Town of Gore Bay said at the announcement, “this is exciting news for us and Gore Bay. It will help solidify the status of our airport as a premium airport in Northern Ontario. We would like to thank the two levels of government for the funding support. It will also help retain our existing businesses and encourage new business to establish here on Western Manitoulin.”
“I hate to think where we would be if we didn’t have this airport and didn’t have the service provided to us,” said Mayor Osborne. “This investment in our airport is an investment in our communities and will help us all grow and prosper in the coming years.”
Chief Dean Roy of Sheshegwaning First Nation said, “thank you for the invitation to speak and provide Sheshegwaning’s appreciation to Infrastructure Canada and Ontario’s Ministry of Infrastructure to the substantial funding for these two roads in the community of Sheshegwaning.”
“The first road project will remove hairpin, or should I say hair-raising, corners that will greatly improve the safety of Sheshegwaning Road,” said Chief Roy. “The second road project will immensely improve Shigniconing Road for future development. Chi-miigwetch on behalf of chief and council and the community of Sheshegwaning.”
“This funding for the airport is fantastic news,” said Gordon/Barrie Island reeve Lee Hayden. “This application has been in for a long time. It provides for an unbelievable opportunity to expand and modernize the airport facilities.”
Ken Noland, reeve of Burpee-Mills said, “this is great news, for the future of Western Manitoulin and maybe all of Manitoulin.”
Robby Colwell, manager of the Gore Bay-Manitoulin Airport said, “the funding announcement for our proposed projects at the airport reinforces my confidence in how multiple level governments can work together to invest in important community infrastructure. With the enhancements covered under this funding program, our airport will become a more substantial aviation hub, serving a larger catchment area and be better positioned to leverage future opportunities. We will have a better foundation to build from, and attract businesses to locate at the airport. As a certified aerodrome, we have the ability to create a first-class facility and create an aviation boom for the Manitoulin and North Shore regions. The reward of this project reaches far beyond the airport and will cultivate economic benefits by supporting health and safety, commerce and tourism within the entire region.”
“The new air terminal building will be the champion of the project. Our existing building was opened in 1947, right after World War II, and has a bomb shelter in the basement. It does not satisfy many of the building codes of modern day structures and has become a limiting factor for growth,” said Mr. Colwell. “The replacement terminal will be approximately four times as large and will be a modern, full service, multi-use air terminal building that will attract more users to our facility and strengthen our appeal to a diverse aviation community. The new building can serve as an emergency crisis management centre and will contain many features to deal with a large scale post-disaster occurrence. The airport already has much of the key infrastructure to deal with this type of emergency and the new terminal building will allow us to enhance the deliverables for this satiation, if/when it happens.”
The terminal will have a large centre core that will be the focal point of the building, with the largest part being a lounge that will be spacious and bright offering great views of airside. Blended into this space will be a customer service and operations centre, he said. Upgraded and larger capacity washrooms will include a barrier free washroom and change tables. A pilot’s fatigue management centre will provide a quiet rest area for pilots to control fatigue and do flight planning in a calm, private setting.
“A large multi-function room for training and aviation safety seminars will be a welcome addition,” he said. A food services area will permit safe preparation and storage of food for catering needs. Rental office will be available for long- and short-term use. An improved and expanded Canada Border Services Agency office will better facilitate the customers’ operations as a port-of-entry airport.
“The new terminal building will eliminate accessibility constraints experienced at our existing building,” he said, explaining, “widening and lengthening our secondary runway will enhance aviation safety by providing an alternative landing surface to a broader range of aircraft. This runway will be widened to 75 feet and lengthened to 3,500 feet with a turning bay at the north end, which will allow for twin piston and turbo-prop operations,” he said. “The installation of a helipad will further add to our aviation capacity and will limit congestion on our existing apron.
“Upgrades to our field electrical centre will establish a reliable and larger capacity emergency power unit and airfield lighting improvements,” said Mr. Colwell. And for a large scale power interruption on the Island, the airport will be able to operate normal to support critical medical transfer flights and Hydro One power grid repair operations. The terminal can be transformed into a temporary emergency shelter if needed.”
“The projects covered under this multi-tiered government funding program will allow us to fulfill our long-term development plans for the airport, bringing true meaning to the worlds ‘regional airport,’ which we have become and will continue to build on,” said Mr. Colwell. “The partnering municipalities of Gore Bay, Gordon/Barrie Island and Burpee-Mills, as well as the provincial and federal governments are to be commended for their support of these projects.”