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Iroquois Falls residents determined to save Rice Lake forest
TIMMINS -- The people who live at Rice Lake in Iroquois Falls say they are determined to save a one-hundred year old crown forest, adjacent to where they live, cottage and play.
Near the end of April, when some residents went for their daily walks on the network of trails within the stand of jack pine trees, they noticed many of them were tied with pink flagging tape.
"Within a day, we knew there was something happening here," says Mariette Rains, one of the founders of the group determined to save the Rice Lake forest.
"Some of us started reaching out to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry--they have the rights to that crown land--and they've contracted out to Abitibi River Forest Management Group to move forward to harvest this beautiful stand of jack pines. We thought 'Oh my God, we're going to lose our forest."
Rains has had ties to this area for the past fifty years. She spent summers at her parents' cottage which is now her permanent home.
The community is also home to about twenty full-time residents.
"On the other side of me, it's all private property so I can't really pass through there so this has been the spot to go. It's a passage to Horseshoe Lake, so a lot of people here cross back and forth; there's blueberry patches; there's so many animals to see; there are so many water sources...it's beautiful here," describes Sephora Joseph who has lived here for thirty years.
Rice Lake has the only public beach in Iroquois Falls and if cut, the vacant fourteen hectares would be right in the backyards of many, including a forty-site campground.
Lee Edward is one of about twenty seasonal dwellers at Rice Lake.
He's not sure what he'll do if the trees are cut down.
"Maybe leave, but then who's going to want to buy out here. Who's going to want to be out here?"
Not only are the people concerned about losing the beautiful forest, but also about their water systems.
"This is at the height of land. You've got water or erosion happening up there, it's going to get into our wells, into our lake. We want to retain our good water source," explains Rains.
"We feel we were not properly consulted so it's like, wait a second, like this is our world, this is our life, these are our trails, our seniors walk these trails cause they're safe and beautiful and they're very spiritual for a lot of people," describes Celine Cormier who's owned her property here since 2008.
Officials with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry were not available for an interview, but in a statement emailed to CTV News, indicated the block has not yet been licensed for harvest this operating season.
The residents want the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to abandon the project.
"I'd cry myself to sleep pretty much," says twelve year old year old Sebastien Dagenais who's been walking the trails in the forest since he was three.
"I'd be very sad. I just hope they don't destroy the bog."