I love Canada’s parks. I aim to visit every one of them in my life time. And, lately, I am finding it is getting allot easier to see them all as there are more parks becoming less attractive to explore due to funding cuts, lay offs and poor decisions.
I am discovering during my cross Canada research road trips over the years that our parks system is under a cloud of uncertainty. I am feeling a bit… no… I am scared for the future of our smaller provincial and national parks. Instead of making a decision on selected parks on how to effectively maintain them within a shrinking budget our governments are waffling, flip-flopping and hoping the problem will just go away.
Some parks across the country are under going some major changes. There are parks which are being leased out to groups to maintain. There are parks being successfully run by the private sector. There are parks maintained successfully by environmental, community and adventure groups. And there are parks operated by our provincial and national governments. It is the smaller government parks which worry me the most. The forgotten parks – the runt in the litter of parks, the often neglected and malnourished local park which gets lost in the paper work.
Take the Grand Lake Provincial Park in New Brunswick, Canada. Provincial funding cuts closed down the campground and sent staff home. The park was then leased out to a “friend” of the government to maintain. The public could still access the sandy beach. But over time who wanted too… not many it seems. The park is in disarray. There is peeling paint on buildings already falling a part, the sewer system is collapsing, the grounds are over grown and hidden throughout the park is garbage. The lack of supervision and pride in the park was an open invitation to vandals. Now, a once great park is a “ghost town” compared to its “hay days” (meaning good times in the past).
To me this makes little common sense since our parks system, our wildlife and our natural scenery throughout Canada is a top economic engine fueling our travel and adventure tourism industries and communities. They are worth saving for financial, mental and physical well being reasons.
An article by Jo-Ann Fellows in the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal states that a proposal was made to auction off the troubled parks to groups to operate for profit. It makes some sense since there are so many nature groups who would be more than happy to assume some of these parks and operate them for profit. Yikes… parks for profit… is that a dirty word? I use to think so. But I am slowly being swayed after seeing the sad truths and alternatives. When the choice for a park is neglect or pride in ownership… private ownership may be the best answer in these slow economic times.
Heck… look at the big picture… and you will see that many of our smaller communities survive because of the revenues generated being near a good maintained park. If the government won’t maintain a park effectively then find somebody who will? Saving our parks will create jobs in our communities for young and old. In some communities having some sort of ownership with the park will rekindle a community pride once lost in a dark past.
It is our natural environments and wildlife which, in many cases, attracts high volumes of international travelers to our country. Go ahead just ask one. Ask a person visiting from Germany what attracted them to Canada and many will say the backcountry and natural scenery. Ask a person visiting from Japan and many will tell you the opportunity to view wildlife like bears & whales was their hot button. International travelers are an important segment to our tourism industry. Let us not forget that international travelers tend to stay longer and spend more.
Let us also remind you that there are many communities in Canada who play large with word association. Take a look at communities like Churchill, Manitoba. What do you think when you hear Churchill? I think polar bears and beluga whales. Apparently many of us do. What images appear when I mention Tofino, British Columbia? Many dream of sandy beaches, whale watching tours and surfing.
What do people think when they hear lakes and rivers in Ontario, Canada. Canoeists and kayakers dream of Algonquin, Woodland Caribou and/or Quetico Parks. The outfitter plans for fly-in lodges, wilderness resorts and camping outposts fishing for trout, northern pike, perch, whitefish and/or salmon. And here at home many Canadian families plan for a camping trip or a water skiing adventure on their favorite lake.
The spotlight of parks changes too with our seasons. People around the globe associate Canada’s mountain parks in the winter with world class skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, heli-skiing, catt skiing and xc skiing. Throughout Northern Canada the Aurora Borealis and dog sledding get allot of press and attention.
Do you see a pattern here. Wildlife, nature and our backcountry adventures go hand and hand with our parks. Our parks go hand in hand with the Canadian tourism industry. All we ask is that the brain trust make a decision already and lets get started taking care of our parks for future generations. Public and private – make them both work. We just may be the only country around in the future with a safe wilderness backcountry to share.
To view the hundreds of parks and trails we have explored in Canada visit our Canada eh Travel & Adventure Website Network at www.CanadaEH.net !