One town has been ‘circling the drain’ for decades, its mayor says
It’s a long drive, twisting through seemingly endless forest, past lakes, down a long two-lane highway that alternates between patches of broken pavement and gravel. Eventually Manitoba’s Provincial Road 391 comes to an end.
More than a thousand kilometres north of Winnipeg, Lynn Lake is just about as far north as you can drive in Manitoba on an all-weather road. It’s also long been at the end of the road economically. On the final stretch of 391 — Sherritt Avenue, Lynn Lake’s main drag — is the Northern Store, one of the few active businesses in town. A group of residents, including Tommy Caribou, is just sitting around outside.
Caribou’s red cap would be familiar to anyone that’s been paying even minimal attention to American politics. The slogan, written in white, is slightly modified: “Make Lynn Lake Great Again.” That job has fallen by default to local teacher James Lindsay, Lynn Lake’s mayor by acclamation.
“We’ve been circling the drain here for about 30 years,” says Lindsay, walking along Sherritt, past buildings that have been boarded up for years. “The bottom of that circle is getting smaller and smaller.”
In the 1970s and ’80s, Lynn Lake was far more than just the end of the road; it was a destination. Nickel and gold mining made it a true northern boom town.
In its heyday, 3,500 people lived here. The mines provided good-paying local jobs, while the taxes and royalties they generated helped prop up the provincial treasury.
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