You gotta know how to hold it: lack of Highway 6 bathrooms a private business matter, province says

Get your motor running. Head out on the highway. If you need a bathroom, you may have a real long wait.

The lack of a public washroom on Highway 6 between Wabowden and Grand Rapids since the Ponton service station burnt down nearly a year ago is unfortunate, Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler told Mayor Colleen Smook in a July 3 letter, but the province isn’t willing to do more than perhaps put up some signs warning drivers to go now or prepare to hold their pee.

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Schuler was responding to a May 10 letter from Smook about the distance between restrooms along Highway 6.

“Manitoba Infrastructure acknowledges that remoteness and longer distances between communities in the north has always been a challenge,” said Schuler. “Devil’s Lake Wayside Park and other wayside parks have been closed for several years now. Unfortunately, vandalism and cleanliness were issues that made wayside parks at these locations difficult to sustain.”

Since the Ponton gas station at the junction of Highway 6 and Highway 39 burnt down last July 28, travellers between Thompson and southern Manitoba have had to endure a 225-kilometre stretch between Wabowden and Grand Rapids with nowhere to fill up their car or empty their own tank. South of Grand Rapids, it’s about 175 kilometres to reach businesses with washrooms at St. Martin Junction.

“It is very unfortunate that the Ponton service station burnt down last summer,” said Schuler. “Providing facilities for use by the public at such locations is typically a service that would be provided by the private sector. If a private entity wanted to provide services at Devil’s Lake or at Ponton, Manitoba Infrastructure would certainly consider supporting where appropriate.”

The infrastructure minister said travellers should be made aware of the long distances between destinations and that department staff would review signs between Thompson and Grand Rapids as well as south of Grand Rapids to ensure they provide adequate information.

“If additional signs are warranted, they will be installed as soon as possible,” said Schuler.

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