Polar Bear Alley

This is a collection of northern stories - polar bear, arctic and otherwise from churchill, manitoba, canada - the polar
bear capital of the world.

It follows the polar bears of western Hudson Bay during their season on land from mid-July to November.

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July 12-17
July 2006
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May 2006

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Tide Table for Churchill


Hudson Bay Post - Goodbye Churchil Dump

New waste transfer station for Churchill?

The Churchill dump, a both famous and infamous aspect of the community for over forty years, is slated for closure this year.

Currently, the Federal Government is divesting all publicly owned properties across Canada. As part of the former site of the military community of Fort Churchill, the Churchill dump falls under this category.

Over two dozen people, primarily small business owners, attended a public consultation held May 3. Dan Sonmor, of Department of Public Works, and Ken Friesen, of Earthbound Consulting, along with Mayor and council were on hand to discuss proposed solutions and answer community concerns.

This proposed solution involves the establishment of a recycling and waste transfer station, in the building, known as L5.

Located approximately 5km outside of town, L5 is hard to miss. This 24,000 sq. ft building, juts out of the rocks, north of the Churchill Airport. Currently abandoned, it was once the cold storage unit for Fort Churchill and, later, served as the main centre for public housing construction site.

While as yet not formally approved by council, it seems that this is virtually the only course of action for Churchill. Other options, including relocating the dump to Joe Buck’s Ridge or the the current scrap metal dump, were explored but fell within an eight kilometre ‘no go’ zone around the Churchill Airport. Due to concerns over an increase in bird activity near the airport, Transport Canada could not allow these sites to be considered. This left shipping recyclables and waste out of Churchill as the only real alternative remaining.

Refurbishing L5 is scheduled to cost $850,000, a conservative estimate according to Friesen, a representative of the consulting company working with council. Mayor and council have indicated that the town will contribute approximately one third of this sum, through monetary and in-kind contributions. The Provincial and Federal Governments are expected to contribute the remainder.

Estimated usage of the station run at 490 tonnes per year, broken down to 375 tonnes or residential (including tourists) and 115 of commercial. Of this, approximately 150 tonnes is recyclable, 65 compostable (not including grain dust from the Port of Churchill) and 275-300 simply garbage. Annual, per tonne costs include $32/tonne for recyclables, $33/tonne for compostable materials, $150/tonne for waste shipped to Thompson.

L5 was deemed suitable for a variety of reasons. Structurally it remains very sound, with relatively minor repairs required. As well, it has a 3’ thick floor, important for limiting the chances of leachant reaching the groundwater. Finally, its proximity to town will also reduce transportation costs.

The close distance to the Town of Churchill raised concerns about increased polar bear activity within the community.

Richard Romaniuk, of Manitoba Conservation, does expect an increase in polar bear activity near and in town over the short-term. But he feels, the long-term gain, due to a fenced enclosure, reduced smells and no food reinforcement, will greatly benefit both the polar bears and Churchill.

When questioned whether the Polar Bear Alert program can handle more bears in and around town, he states with confidence that additional officers and resources are available, to assist local personnel, if need be. He concludes, ‘We have local officers who know their job and do it very well, and we expect that won’t change.’

Another critical aspect of this project rests on a significant increase in recycling activities from the people and businesses in Churchill. Project forecasts are based on a 65% recycling rate in our community. Currently, Churchill lies at about eight per cent, resulting in about 8kg of recycling per person per year, compared with the Manitoba average of 40-50kg per year.

While recycling is already quite actively promoted within the local school system, it will be a challenge to alter current behaviours. Friesen believes that ‘with a promotional and educational campaign in place, 8% can easily translate to 40% within one or two years.’

Friesen concludes, ‘A rate of 65% is very reasonable, and can, in fact, be exceeded quite easily. Take cardboard, for instance...there is a lot of it in Churchill going to the landfill. It is a heavy material and easily recyclable. That alone will make quite a difference.’

- prepared by Kelsey Eliasson, first appearing in the Hudson Bay Post - Churchill Manitoba May 2004 issue



Polar Bear Alley is a real place but not this place. It is a strip of white sand beach along the coast of Hudson Bay near the former site of the Churchill garbage dump. A beautiful place for a picnic if you know how to handle a shotgun.

This version of Polar Bear Alley is created by Kelsey Eliasson in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada or more specifically at Camp Nanuq -a 'cottage suburb' twenty kilometres or fifteen miles east of Churchill. I also run a publishing house called Munck's Cafe and write a few books, including the newly released Polar Bears of Churchill, when not chasing bears of my porch.

Polar Bears of Churchill is a comprehensive guide to the Polar Bears of western Hudson Bay and their relationship with Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. It combines seven years of guiding experience in Churchill with the latest scientific research and some colourful local history. Independently published in Churchill, Manitoba.

Second Edition, ©2006, Written by Kelsey Eliasson
Photography and Map Design by Kelsey Eliasson
Additional photography by Northern Soul Adventures
and Polar Bears International
Retail price $14.95, 64 pages, full colour throughout.

Email polarbearalley here.