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'It was an old relic': Inuvik resident remembers boat that burned down at Boot Lake Park

Vince Sharpe said he remembers when the old boat broke down near Boot Lake in the 1970s. He said it was near the shore and was half sunk for about a year, before it was brought up to land. 

Town of Inuvik looking into the history of the boat that burned down Wednesday

Little remains of a wooden boat that was set on fire early Wednesday morning at Inuvik's Boot Lake Park. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC news)

The old wooden boat that was burned down at Boot Lake Park in Inuvik, N.W.T., was iconic for many Inuvik residents. 

Some remember it from their childhood, and others even remember when it was operational. 

"I don't know if it means much to new people in town but it meant a lot to me just to see it and remember when it was operational," said Vince Sharpe, a longtime Inuvik resident who was a part of bringing the boat on land decades ago.

"I was disappointed when I heard the news ... I went down and looked at it. There's nothing but a hole in ground and ashes now, and a motor sticking out."

Inuvik RCMP confirmed that the boat was burned to the ground due to arson Wednesday morning. Firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby trees.

It used to make me smile that old things could still go back and forth to Reindeer Station.- Vince Sharpe, Inuvik resident

Some people on an Inuvik community Facebook page discussing the history of the boat suggested that it was called the Reindeer — a boat that used to make its way to Reindeer Station, an area near Tuktoyaktuk. It was created back in the 1930s for the Canadian Reindeer Project, an initiative by the federal government in the 1920s to bring reindeer from Alaska to the Mackenzie Delta region.

But when some residents saw a photo of the original Reindeer from the NWT archives site, people pointed out on social media that the boat at Boot Lake Park looked different.

Sharpe said he never knew the name of the wooden boat at the park, but has distinct memories of seeing it decades ago head to Reindeer Station with equipment and meat.

"It used to make me smile that old things could still go back and forth to Reindeer Station."

Sharpe said he remembers when the old boat broke down near Boot Lake in the 1970s. He said it was near the shore and was half sunk for about a year, before it was brought up to land. 

The boat, left, photographed on Google Earth before it burned down. (Google Earth)

Sharpe was part of several community members who decided to place the boat at what's now known as Boot Lake Park. Decades later, a playground would be built near it.

Sharpe pointed out the boat was nearly 40 years old at the time.

"It was ancient," said Sharpe. "The kids played on it for years and years."

Sharpe said there are a couple of other retired boats in town that he'd love to see replace the former boat at the park.

But he suggests a fence be built around it this time.

No thoughts of replacement: SAO

Grant Hood, Inuvik's senior administrative officer, said the town is looking into the history of the boat but that could take a while.

He said there are no thoughts of putting a replacement boat there right now, but said that the town would be open to the idea. Hood said the town wouldn't be liable if something happened to it.

Sharpe said the boat and other treasures around town serve as a reminder of Inuvik's history.

"It was an old relic, a thing of times past," said Sharpe.


Do you know about this boat's history? Contact mackenzie.scott@cbc.ca

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