The Gimli Breakwater

(This article was originally published in 2013 under the title The Gimli Seawall.)

One of the unique parts of Gimli is its seawall or breakwater.

We’re not talking here about the Main Pier. We’re talking about the paved strip of path from South Beach to town, one of the treasures we locals love.

Section from Colville Dr (formerly 4 Street S) looking North

Section from Colville Dr (formerly 4 Street S) looking North

Its history is stitched with layers of municipal politics and weather events.

It has been a fixture since at least 1956.

furthest southern portion

furthest southern portion

Following the curve of the shoreline along the south basin of the Gimli harbour.


Photo credit, Dorothy Keizer

The seawall and the Viking seem to go hand in hand, inextricably tied.

Its creation was a Gimli Chamber of Commerce centennial project. Designed by Gissur Eliasson of the University of Manitoba, it was constructed by George Barone, the creator of other Manitoba statues, at a cost of $15,000. It was unveiled in 1967 by then-President of Iceland Asgeir Asgeirsson. The finished statue is 4.6 meters or 15 feet tall, constructed entirely of fiberglass.


The requisite photo with “the Viking”

Historically the breakwater was a dike, paid for by the Federal Government who bequeathed it to the town to maintain in perpetuity. (Geez, thanks Feds).

finished breakwater in front of Betel Home

looking north towards Betel Home



Breakwater construction, original section 2016


Historic section in front of Betel Home

This historic section, in front of Betel Home, is one of the only remaining parts of the old wall.

The Gimli Town Council wanted to upgrade the waterfront as part of a master plan. With various twists and turns, including land agreements, harbour improvements, street surveying, and preparations to host the Pan American Games the seawall remained forever intertwined like a thread holding together an old quilt.

When the Betel Home was rebuilt, it necessitated the moving of the Viking statue. Originally Town Council was hoping to move the statue to the little jetty of land where the New Iceland heritage plaque sits. But this would have meant rerouting of streets and major public discussion. The Viking was moved instead to a little triangular lot which became town property.


old section, the ‘architecture’ of which was three stones across

In preparation for the Pan Am Games Sailing venue in 1999, they finished dredging the harbour to a 12 foot depth and subsequently built a hill with the dredgate (affectionately referred to as “Bill’s Hill” after then mayor, William Barlow) to the south of Betel. The dredgate was so wet that it took a long time for the hill to settle.

Historic section in front of Betel Home

Historic section in front of Betel Home, Bill’s Hill to the right (south)

Thankfully the town left the old breakwater exposed.

It still shows through the grass and is still used as a bike path.

Feels like our own little slice of Hadrian’s Wall.


looking northeast by the Viking Statue

The original ‘dike’ was so skinny, you would never think of actually walking on it for fear of falling in the lake.


Historic section in front of Betel Home looking southwest

Sometime between 1956 and the 70’s the wall was widened to about 4-5 feet across and paved, covering up most of the original architecture.



One homeowner’s addition to the seawall

Third Avenue homeowner's garden

Third Avenue homeowner’s garden

During the high water events of 2006-2007 and subsequent Provincial government diking fiasco, the wall was backfilled and had to be shorn up against a wooden parapet.

2006 construction

2006 construction

It does remain somewhat of a bastion of defence against the 3-day Autumn storms.

IMG_1135 IMG_1136

Major cracks have developed this year making it almost treacherous for cyclists and joggers.

IMG_1331(Town Council please take note!)

Even though this year the Town paved the part of the path which bridges the south culvert (or what we used to call the Municipal Ditch), nothing has been done to maintain the southernly-most portion into South Beach.


In the 1960’s the seawall stretched all the way to Morkill Street, if memory serves.


Ultimate south end of seawall stretching in front of Isfjord’s


Ultimate north end of seawall, running into the yacht club locker building

Over the years the seawall has been upgraded, but never maintained as the most beautiful scenic footpath from South Beach and the tourist-drawing treasure which it could be.


Perhaps it was due to this blog post that the Council saw fit to repair the breakwater!

seawall update

Submitted by Evelyn Ward de Roo. Thanks to Bill Barlow for filling in the gaps.

Lucky Stones

As you may or may not know, Gimli is famous for its lucky stones. These specimens are stones with naturally occurring holes found on the beaches of Lake Winnipeg around Gimli, Manitoba, Canada.

closeup stones

Some call them crinoids but they are more likely to be gastropods. These “lucky stones”, which locals lovingly call them, are imprints and negatives of gastropods or snails. So this sign at the Lake Winnipeg Visitors Centre is a little off. Crinoids are actually found at Hecla Island.


Sign at the Lake Winnipeg Visitor’s Centre

To know more about these fascinating stones I sent some samples to Ask-a-Geologist. I got an identification from Jean Dougherty, Geological Survey of Canada.

The most prominent feature of the gastropod is the spiral-shaped shell. These can vary considerably in shape from a low whorl to a high whorl. Now imagine that these gastropods (snails) have died. Over time, the soft body of the snail would have rotted away leaving only the shell. Then imagine the shells having been buried in sediments at the bottom of some sea. Over millions of years, more sediment builds up overtop of them, and presses them into sedimentary rocks (this process is called diagenesis). The shell also undergoes a chemical transformation in which it is mineralized, becoming a rock. Depending on the rock type containing the fossil, either the fossil could be weathered away, leaving a hollow space where the fossil once was, or the rock could get worn away leaving the fossil, or some combination of these two. In the case of your samples, the third process happened. The fossil eventually dissolved and disappeared, leaving rock, but some of the rock was weathered away also. Depending on the degree to which the rock was worn away, you are still left with some amount of the fossil’s structure still visible. The spiral shell of the gastropod turns around a central hollow tube which gets narrower as you get to the point of the spiral. That is why, in some of your samples, the hole is wider on one side of the rock than on the other side of the rock they are what remains of that narrowing tube.

Lucky Stones are made into jewelry by local artisans.


One has to be lucky to find these stones. They are always light grey in colour. The trick is to look for the hole, not the rock. And knowing where to look for them is important as well.


Stones that have natural holes, called Odin Stones or Hag Stones, have always been considered mystical and sacred, with special healing properties, windows into the soul and doorways to other dimensions. These stones are reported to have extremely powerful magical properties, the most important of which is protection.

Submitted by Evelyn Ward de Roo


Seasonal Sewer Rates Issue

Gimli seasonal and urban district residents criticize water, sewer rates

The Interlake Enterprise, June 15, 2016, Page 10

By Jim Mosher

Outnumbered by provincial and local municipal officials, the four people who spoke during a Public Utilities Board (PUB) hearing last Tuesday [June 7, 2016] evening hammered home long-standing concerns about Gimli’s water and sewer rates.

Four people spoke to the matter after introductory remarks from Anita Neville, vice chair of the board and chairman of the PUB hearing panel of four.

Representing the municipal delegation were Mayor Randy Woroniuk, chief administrative officer Joann King, utility and planning services clerk Amanda Colbourne and public works chairman Coun. Danny Luprypa.

King said the rates, which had been approved by the PUB on an interim basis in December, pending the recent public hearing, said reduced rates for sewer reflect the municipality’s decision to take sewage from the Diageo plant on Distillery Rd.

“We have been working on these rates for some time,” King told the PUB panel. “[We are] moving them forward so we could offer our consumers this reasonable rate structure. We had an opportunity come forward with a major industrial customer. We’ve worked with them [Diageo] to put together a rate that would be feasible for them.”

The chief administrator noted that the municipality and Diageo have a three-year agreement. The interim rates cover the years 2016-2018, inclusive.

“Are there any positive environmental impacts [of the Diageo deal]?” a panel member asked.

“The environmental benefits are really in the area of odour from their aging system,” King said. “At our sewage treatment plant, we struggle because we don’t have a large number of users.”

In addition, she said the effluent from Diageo is “not sewage in the traditional sense” because it has high concentrations of “bugs” that are active year-round.

The four property owners who spoke during the hour-long hearing were more concerned about the minimum charge for sewer.

Most argued that they should not be charged a minimum consumption rate of 13.5 cubic metres quarterly when they are only at their summer homes four to six months a year. According to the interim rates for sewer in Loni Beach and South Beach, property owners there pay a quarterly service charge of $21.33 this year (down from $27.07) and a $1.29/ cu.m. (down from $2.31) charge based on a minimum of 13.5 cu. m., or $17.41.

Glen Rossong has been a persistent critic of the municipality’s sewer and water rates structure for years. His family has had a summer home in South Beach since 1937, he told the panel.

“I’ve been waiting for this day for two-and-a-half years,” Rossong, 62, and a permanent resident of West St. Paul, told the PUB panel.

He said he wanted a seasonal rate to be considered because he does not use the sewer system during the winter. Administrator King later explained that there had been a seasonal rate but many seasonal residents used their sewer during the off-season.

Rossong estimated that of 120 homes in South Beach, only 17 property owners live there permanently. King did not quibble with Rossong’s numbers but, once again, stressed that there are many more permanent residences that could be occupied during the winter if the owners chose.

That creates an enforcement and fairness issue should residents ‘over stay’ during the winter, she suggested.

Rossong said the matter could be resolved by installing meters in sewage tanks. “I should have the right to install a meter — at my cost,” he said. “In my case, I don’t have a well.”

He characterized the existing sewer rates for summer property owners as a cash grab from city people. “We are paying more than in the town of Gimli,” he said. “The question is: Why shouldn’t everybody be paying the same.”

South Beach resident Ken Kristjanson told the PUB panel the area’s cottage association made a presentation to council four years ago. “There would have been more people here tonight had we known about this meeting,” he said. “We said four years ago that we’d like consideration for the seasonal. They [council of the day] said it was not possible.”

Kristjanson said if the rates stay as they are in the now-enforced interim rates, it won’t be the end. But: “Ever since we got the service, my municipal tax bill has always been lower that the sewer bill,” he said.

Ken Andrewshenko lives in the Vesturland subdivision, west of Hwy. 9. He has lived in Gimli since 1983. A contractor, Andrewshenko says he has a lot of contact with permanent residents and others who choose to travel during the winter months.

They are required to pay the quarterly sewer and water rates, even though don’t use the ‘commodities’, he said. He noted that Manitoba Hydro would be skewered by customers if it charged a minimum consumption rate when customers are not using electricity.

He did not quarrel with the quarterly service charge which is meant to defray the ongoing cost of maintaining the sewer and water systems.

He said charging a base quarterly rate of 13.5 cu.m. when no ‘commodity’ is consumed is “unfair, probably illegal, probably fraudulent.”

“I have not been satisfied by any of their explanations,” he said of Gimli administration’s arguments for maintaining a minimum quarterly ‘consumption’ rate over and above the service charge.

“It’s not fair to the people who have summer cottages,” he said. “They’re not using the commodity but they’re paying for a commodity. This system should be changed. We vote for leadership. A leader would say, ‘Let’s do some critical thinking here.’”

Further, Andrewshenko believes the entire municipality should be on a seasonally-adjusted flat rate for all consumers.

King said the minimum consumption rate has been around for some time. “It’s to ensure our system is sustainable operationally,” she said. “The quarterly minimum is reflective of managing and administering the utility. It’s not a pipe charge.”

Panel chair Neville interrupted Andrewshenko who’d taken exception to King’s explanations. “We’re not here to get into an argument,” Neville said.

“We just want to pay for what we get,” Andrewshenko concluded.

Before the hearing concluded, a long- time resident, who did not provide his name, encouraged the panel to consider the aging demographic of Gimli and the struggle among seniors to keep pace with everincreasing costs.

“I’ve heard from many seniors who say they can’t afford to stay in Gimli,” he said.

The PUB normally takes about two months to make its decisions regarding utility rate changes. It may approve, deny or amend Gimli’s application.Ltr to the Editor 16-6-15

Amusement Park

by Ken S. Kristjanson, May 2011

Amusement Park

(first printed in Logberg Heimskringla August 1, 2011)

Growing up in Gimli in the 40s, we were fortunate to have the whole town as our playground. The harbor was always busy and we could go swimming or just watch the boats come and go. Our adventures were limited only by our imaginations (and occasionally by our parents!)

Next to our house, Kristjanson Brothers had a large warehouse that housed all the nets and other gear necessary for 3 seasons of commercial fishing. There were cans of paint, hammers, saws, kegs of nails, lumber, coils of ropes and dozens of other wondrous things. A kid’s imagination could find enough raw material for a hundred adventures to entertain from dawn to dusk. Outside the warehouse there were hundreds of wooden fish boxes and, usually in the company of our trusted ally John Kressock, we made them into forts, aircraft carriers or airplanes. We regularly re-fought the battle of Britain, destroying the entire German air force in one afternoon.

One hot summer night, a big storm brought fierce lightening and a bolt struck a giant oak tree in the vacant lot across the street from our house. (Street is a bit of a stretch, it was really just a trail where the streetwould someday go.) The next morning, we couldn’t wait to get outside for a closer look. As we explored the damage to the massive tree we could see that the lightning strike had taken the top of the tree clean off. Racing to the warehouse, we retrieved a long ladder and placing it against the tree we were able to climb to the new top of the sheared oak. Our collective imagination immediately kicked into high gear and we sped back to the warehouse for tools and supplies.

In short order, a pulley was affixed to the top-most branch and a rope was used to hoist lumber up the tree. In no time a platform was built and we had our very own observation post for keeping track of the enemy’s movements.

We stood on our platform far off the ground and looked over at the warehouse. Inspiration struck and we nearly simultaneously came up with the idea of an aerial ride. By fastening a 2 x 4 to the warehouse we figured that we could tie a rope to it and then string it over to our newly built platform, a distance of about 150 feet.  A Gimli Gondola.  Back to raid the warehouse once more.

We chose the rope carefully: a new coil of 1/2 inch howser rope that was to be used to tow skiffs up north for the fall fishing season. We salvaged a 100 pound fish box from Armstrong fisheries. (The box was socalled because it could hold 100 pounds of fish. All Armstrong’s boxes were made by Thorkelson, the master box maker, so we knew that they were very strong.) Next we found 2 lifeboat pulleys and by drilling holes in the box we were able to make a harness. The pulleys were hooked up to the box harness which would roll easily on our rope over to the warehouse.

We were all set. As we envisioned it, a person would climb the tree, get into the box and have a thrilling ride across the street the come to rest against the warehouse.

Our own amusement park ride!  Soon many other kids heard about our ride and came to see for themselves. We decided to get set up to charge admission when suddenly Gramma Annie came to check on the commotion. One look convinced her to go straight back into the kitchen. She re-emerged with a huge butcher knife, walked swiftly to the ladder leaning against the warehouse, ascended with great purpose and with a swing of the big blade she decommissioned our wondrous aerial ride before its maiden flight.

Everyone agreed that this was a dirty trick and that she clearly worked for the enemy. We decided to return to the top of our platform in order to keep a close eye on her activities while we plotted our next adventure.