Leaving aside First Nations settlements, Manitoba’s northern settlements can be grouped together as resource towns. Several are new and are clearly planned with crescents and bays, in contrast to the uniform grid of most southern settlements. However, the older settlements—the Pas, Flin Flon and Churchill—do not fit this pattern. Although all three contain planned elements, local geographical factors determine their location and form.
11.7: Leaf Rapids
The town is located near the north end of GranvilleLake where it empties into the Churchill River. Although there are no rapids on the photo, they exist on the Churchill River east of town off the photo.
Leaf Rapids is located east of PR 391 1 that runs between Thompson to the south and LynnLake to the north. The town is located on an esker complex and PR 391 follows an esker for many kilometres; light tones west of the road represent gravel deposits of the esker visible through the tree cover. The mines are located some distance from town. “The Ruttan Mine, located 20 km east of Leaf Rapids was discovered by Sheritt Gordon in 1969.”[i] Production began in 1973: from 1973 to 1979 by open pit methods and from 1979 onwards by underground methods. The life of the mine was extended by the discovery of the “West Anomaly” deposit 1 km west of the existing mine from which production began in 1991.[ii] The town’s population was 1,613 in 1991 but by 1996 dropped slightly to 1,504 and to 1,304 in 2001; by 2006 there were only 539 inhabitants. The last drop was largely due to the closing in 2002 of the nearby Ruttan Mine.
The photo shows the town site east of PR 391. A cluster of buildings in the south centre 2 is the “uptown shopping mall joined as one enclosed complex with the town’s school (kindergarten to grade 12) and health care services, so that people may move from one to the other in midwinter without experiencing the weather outside."[iii] Close by are baseball diamonds 3 and a racetrack 4. On all sides of the complex—except the west—are residential areas including single-family dwellings 5, townhouse complexes 6, apartment blocks 7, and mobile home courts 8. In the northeast is a separated area with several large buildings 9 that may house commercial or mine-related activities. In the southwest the coniferous forest has been cleared for ski slopes 10.
Leaf Rapids recently (2007) gained notoriety by banning plastic shopping bags—the first community in Canada to do so—and by encouraging the use of electric golf carts for trips around town. This is in keeping with the town's history. It was planned as an experimental town suitable for a northern environment (no residence is more than 10 minutes walk from the town centre) and in 1975 the town won the Vincent Massey Award for Excellence in the Urban Environment.
Figure 11.7: Leaf Rapids
Vertical air photograph: MB99006-253
Flight height: 6,800 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.096 mm