Drag the Red searchers start 3rd season while boats remain landlocked

With a special ceremony and a feast, the volunteers from Drag the Red marked the start of their season searching Winnipeg’s Red River for clues about the province’s missing people.

Winnipeg group says it’s working to find permanent docks to tie boats for the season

Drag the Red has been searching Winnipeg's Red River since 2014, but this year the group is struggling to get its boats in the water. (CBC)

With a special ceremony and a feast on Wednesday evening, the volunteers from Drag the Red marked the start of their season searching Winnipeg's Red River for clues about the province's missing people.

It's the third year the volunteer group will be searching for answers in and along the Red River.

But this year, an important part of those plans is anchored to the shore.

Neil Walstrom has volunteered his boat since Drag the Red's first year. But he said this year, the dock the group usually uses for its two boats may not be available.

"It's quite laborious. You have, first of all, the Red River," he said, adding there's no way to haul the boats in and out of the water multiple times a week.

"It's not a lake, so it's constantly moving. You need a strong dock."

The group had been using the docks at Redboine Boat Club. Walstrom said Drag the Red volunteers would help put the docks out at the start of the season and put them away at the end, and in return they could keep their boats tied up between searches.

"However, this year there is a bit of a change and we need to speak with them next week. We may have to give them some funds," Walstrom said.

Neil Walstrom has volunteered his boat since Drag the Red began. He says he is optimistic the group will find a way to get it back in the water. (Jules Runne/CBC)

He said the group is trying to work out a deal with the club and raise money to keep the boats at the docks, adding he's optimistic they will be in the water in a few weeks.

Until then, the boats are left high and dry.

The group will begin ground searches next week. Walstrom said it's an important effort that sends a message to families with missing loved ones.

"We are letting the families and the loved ones of these missing individuals know that they are not alone," he said. "There are people in their community that care."

There will be two ground searches each week, and once the boats hit the water they will start combing the bottom of the river twice weekly as well.

Walstrom said that the group is always looking for more people to volunteer their time and help.

"It's a community initiative and it's about people coming together and giving back," he said.

For more information, visit the Drag the Red Facebook page.