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Letter: Bodily functions require better roadside rest areas

'I challenge you and the Ontario Minister of Health, to drive 200 kilometers past North Bay and find a Roadside Public Rest Area that you would use, let alone allow your kids to use or an aged relative.'
Highway 11 West

Editor's note: Mr. Loewen's letter refers to the BayToday story New rest area being built for travellers on Highway 11 near Marten River. It is an email he sent to the Ontario Minister of Transport about his experience with the rest areas from North Bay to Nipigon.


Dear Honorable Ms. Mulroney,

I am writing to you today about my recent road trip from Vaudreuil-Dorion, where I live - to Winnipeg, where I visit family and friends.  I have not travelled Hwy 11 in several years, however, I have made many road trips back and forth from Vaudreuil to Winnipeg travelling through the Ontario northern forest.  

I love it up there. The scenery is incredible. 

However,  as human beings, we have bodily functions that require services that are accessible and clean and have running water, with the ability to wash our hands afterward, at the very least.   I challenge you and the Ontario Minister of Health, to drive 200 kilometres past North Bay and find a Roadside Public Rest Area that you would use, let alone allow your kids to use or an aged relative. 

Governments are controlled by budgets, I get that, so you need to make better choices along that route.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Lock the doors on all of the metal sheds with a cement block sewer toilet.  The stench is bad, no running water and they are not clean.  The life cycle of this design is OBSOLETE.  I lived on a farm and we had cleaner outhouses.
  2. At all locations you want to service, provide the portable toilets that some of the rest areas already have.  Make sure that hand sanitizer is available inside the portable toilet and that they are serviced regularly by a private company under contract.  Make sure they are inspected regularly by a government inspector of health.   
  3. There are 50 Public Rest Areas along that route based on the government website - all of them beautiful except for the number 1 and number 2 reason that travellers stop along the way.    Close some of them if necessary, in order to provide Basic Human Needs Services. 
  4. Truck Drivers are human also.   This is a truck route.   There is nothing between Nipigon and Hearst, repeat...nothing but wilderness.   You cannot rely on Tim Horton's or Mcdonald's to provide services as there are no towns.  All of the small-town coffee shops have shut down, probably because of covid.   Provide services for Truckers like Enroute along that road.   A small investment will provide northern employment to a totally depressed economic area.  Do the same for Hwy 17 and advertise that the north is back open for the tourist business.  

I can drive this route alone as is because I love it.   But I can't show it to my wife (we are both closing in on 70) and I cannot recommend it to anyone I know, no matter how much I love it.   I came home through the States and spent my tourist dollars from Winnipeg to Minneapolis to Madison to Chicago to Detroit.  Excellent 4-lane highways with small town services for travellers.  

I don't understand why the Ontario government has ignored the north for tourism and trucking and treats both negatively with regards to basic public health.  It's time for a clean-up.

Yours truly,

William Loewen

Vaudreuil-Dorion, Quebec