The August long-weekend is one of the busiest times of the year for those in Saskatchewan, with thousands expected to hit the road to soak up, what’s looking like, a beautiful holiday weekend.
Provincial parks and campgrounds in the province are expected to be full or nearly full. Mary-Anne Wihak, the director of visitor experience with Saskatchewan Parks, confirmed it will be a busy weekend but there are still some spots left. However, you might have to drive a few hours as she said many of those can be found in northern Saskatchewan.
While finding a campsite might be difficult, some are finding it just as difficult to simply drive to parks.
Highways 220 and 322 have been in poor condition for a while, but it really came to the forefront earlier this spring. Several months later their condition is still impacting people’s decision to book a spot at Rowan’s Ravine Provincial Park.
“This is my first time here. I don’t know if I’ll want to come again because of the road,” revealed camper Gerald Mydan.
“I’ve got a very expensive unit. I don’t plan on coming back til this road is fixed.”
Campers insist the park itself is beautiful, with spacious, roomy campsites that are well maintained and great to bring the family to. Just feet away from the sites sits Last Mountain Lake, where small waves crash against the shore as boats zip by on the water.
Rick Sorenson looking out at Last Mountain Lake, July 30 2015. Kevin Martel/CJME
Mydan was there visiting his friend, Wilf Binsfeld, who told said he’s been coming to Rowan’s Ravine for the past three years because his family enjoys the layout.
However, to Binsfeld it’s not worth it anymore.
“You’re pulling expensive units. If them roads aren’t fixed we won’t come back,” he stated bluntly.
Traffic heading to the park is being directed to Highway 220 instead of Highway 322. Binsfeld called 220 “terrible” during his drive in, saying everything on his vehicle and camper banged around, worried about what kind of impact that will have in the future.
Rick Sorenson said he lost a cap off his bumper after travelling on the highway.
“It was very washboard and a lot of potholes,” he said.
Orange hazard markers dot the highway frequently, usually just seconds apart if you’re driving. Brenda Hospedales lives along Highway 220.
“The trips you make in town, you just don’t do them as often. It’s because I don’t want to drive the roads. I’ve never actually seen it this bad. It must have hit critical mass or something and the whole thing just kind of went all at once,” she explained.
Two graders were making their way down the road on Friday. Hospedales said that usually helps, but only for two to three days before deteriorating again. She joked she was actually looking forward to winter because at least then the snow will make the road a bit more solid and smooth the infrastructure out. She recommended drivers simply slow down.
For Mydan that just won’t cut it.
“Going through a washboard, it doesn’t matter how slow you travel, it’s gonna tear your vehicle apart. It’s gonna create loose spots. It’s just hard on the unit.”
Saskatchewan Highways Minister Nancy Heppner had previously taken a drive down both roads this past spring and agreed they were in poor condition. She said to completely replace the highways would not be feasible with the current budget, but it’s something she’ll look at over the long term. In the meantime, temporary repairs are being done, much to the dismay of local residents, who have called it a “band-aid fix”.