South Beach Once Considered a Slum

This 1971 article from Winnipeg Free Press tells of the state of our neighbourhood in the 1970s. The precursor of SBPOA was the South Beach Campers Association.

Gimli Cottage Owners Say South Beach A Slum Area (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, MARCH 16, 1971)

By David Lee

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Gimli, Man. (Staff) – There was a time when local cottage owners flocked by the hundreds to nearby South Beach every July and August where they had built their summer retreats. But in the last two years, summer traffic to the once-popular resort are has dropped considerably. Some cottage owners have even boarded up their summer homes and haven’t returned. There have been others, and their numbers are expected to swell during the next few summers, who have simply loaded their cottages onto trucks and headed for other nearby lake resorts to get away from it all. What they are escaping, according to representatives of the South Beach Campers Association which represents more than 100 of the area’s cottage owners, is Manitoba’s newest slum.

It all started about four years ago, when absentee landlords began moving old houses and rundown cottages onto vacant lots in the area which were later rented at modest year-round rates to military personnel stationed at the Gimli air force base. When the air force tenants moved away, the houses were quickly filled – only this time with families on welfare. Their rents were picked up by the Town of Gimli and The Rural Municipality of Gimli. Ever since, say the cottage owners, South Beach has lost all its appeal as a summer resort. It has, they insist, been turned into a ‘disgusting slum’.

Doug Hicks, a member of the campers association, says the cottage owners have protested the deteriorating conditions of South Beach for the past four years – and have received promises of change every time. However these promises, he adds, have never materialized and the situation at the beach resort has just been getting much, much worse.

Three years ago, Mr Hicks said the cottage owners were promised building restrictions at South Beach which would have stopped more old buildings from being moved into the area as well as forcing condemnation of the existing buildings. But that pledge, like many others, has never been kept by the Rural Municipality of Gimli.

“They (the council) have made us more promises than we can count,” said Mr. Hicks in an interview. “Especially [missing text]……………. (Councillor Kasupski), he’s been promising action for years.”

Pointing to actual areas of concern to the cottage owners, and to himself, Mr. Hicks said the greatest problem at South Beach is the continuing contribution made by welfare families to the deterioration of the area. Some examples, he said, are:

“Garbage, including broken beer bottles, furniture, and even an old cottage, being tossed into nearby Lake Winnipeg which is used by the cottage owners and their families for swimming. There have been many cases of injuries from the deposits.

“All night – every night – parties during the summer at the welfare family homes, with resultant open drinking, swearing and indecent behaviour.

“An abundance of children – as many as 20 in one three-room cottage – who are sent out at night while their unwed or separated mothers party or entertain male friends.

“Drunks pounding on cottage doors at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. as well as a variety of other offenses committed in the area including regular cottage break-ins by people in search of liquor.

“Trash – on lots, streets, the beach and in nearby bushes. As quickly as it is picked up, it reappears.

“There are plenty of other things as well,” said Mr. Hicks. “Fire hazards, health hazards, you name it.”

While the local municipal councils may be inactive on the problem, the cottage owners insist that the battle is not lost. “We don’t want to move away….we built here in good faith many years ago and would like to stay,” said Mr. Hicks. “But now, it is plainly a case of either them or us.” Mr. Hicks, a Winnipeg police traffic inspector, said he feels that rigid building restrictions and increased police patrols in the South Beach area would probably ease the situation. But in a meeting Friday with the Rural Municipality of Gimli municipal council, Mr. Hicks said the answer came through “clear as possible” that such action would not be received.

At that meeting, Reeve Adam Franz and Councillor Kasupski agreed the cottage owners had a problem, but indicated the council could do nothing about it.

“We can’t force them out of there,” said the reeve. “As much as we’d like to, we can’t chase them out.” Reeve Franz told the cottage owners at the meeting that most of the people placed in the old houses and building in South Beach were not welfare recipients. Moments later, however, when Councillor Kasupski said he was going to show the cottage owners receipts of rents paid by the council on behalf of the tenants, Reeve Franz quickly moved him out of order. Bill Trynacity, the area’s health officer who also attended the meeting, agreed with members of the municipal council and suggested the welfare people are just as anxious to see you out of there.

“It is getting to a stage where your complaints are ridiculous,”Mr. Trynacity told the cottage owners. “Come every summer, I start getting your nuisance calls. I wouldn’t want them for neighbours either, but there’s nothing I can do,” he added. “With the NDP government, we’ve got to bend over backwards for all the poor people.”  Mr. Hicks and the other South Beach cottage owners now feel that the only way to correct the situation at the beach resort is through the provincial health department.

A meeting has been scheduled for later this month between cottage owners and health authorities in which it is expected members of the campers association will demand that health regulations be enforced in the area. “Something has got to happen soon,” said Mr. Hicks. “This situation has been allowed to go on long enough. If someone doesn’t start acting, people will have to move away from there….that’s all that will be left.”

South Beach Article 1971.pdf