In 2012, as a result of the recent federal budget reduction exercise, Parks Canada made a unilateral policy decision without any public consultation to designate a majority of Canada’s national parks three-season parks instead of four season parks. The impacts of this decision have been wide-spread and unfortunate. Winter services from our national parks were eliminated. Staff were reduced, the grooming of cross-country ski trails were eliminated, winter facilities were no longer maintained. Across Canada, winter services were reduced in all but three national parks.
The following are important aspects of this policy shift that we are asking Parks Canada to specifically assess and take action on:
- Parks Canada has created a policy shift, without consultation with Canadians, that is not consistent with how Canadians use and value our national parks in winter. Recommendation: Reverse the decision to establish three season national parks. Establish a consultative process with Canadians across the country and with local stakeholders to determine how best to re-establish winter services in each national park.
- Canada is a country that is distinctly northern, has snow, and has a rich and long tradition of cross-country skiing, watching wildlife, snowshoeing, and various winter events and activities in our national parks throughout the winter months. Recommendation: That we use this distinct geographic and market positioning as part of how we promote the Fourth Season (winter) as a time for healthy exercise and lifestyle, winter tourism, appreciation of Canada’s nature and wildness in winter, and active community celebrations of our national parks in winter. The benefits will include new revenues, new marketing opportunities, and a sustainable educational program.
- Our national parks are iconic Canadian places for healthy outdoor activity, self-propelled forms of winter activity and recreation (skiing, snowshoeing, skijoring). Recommendation: Establish a core level of park staff and associated operating funds to create, deliver and market winter recreational services, education, interpretation, and winter science and environmental monitoring. Invite this core group of park staff to collaborate with local community tourism businesses and organizations to explore unique ways that each national park can partner to create and deliver these services with community partners. Empower each park manager to establish appropriate funding, staffing with which to establish collaborative strategies with external partners.
- Our annual park admission fees include access to trails, facilities, and winter services that Parks Canada has been providing to us. Access to these winter services was included within the calculation of admission fees to each national park for which each park user pays. Recommendation: Continue to include the costs to provide winter services within park admission fees. Additional revenues in winter should be used to help offset budgetary deficits.
- It is very important to recognize that winter visitors are very different from summer park visitors. They are people who love winter sports, skiing, snowshoeing, or wildlife viewing. They are some of the strongest supporters of our national parks, and include urban enthusiasts, as well as many residents from surrounding communities next to national parks who frequent winter trails. They advocate for each national park. Winter visitors come in smaller numbers and they come for very different experiences than summer visitors. Recommendation: Because winter offers Parks Canada a different opportunity to market winter as a distinct season, collect revenues, acknowledge local supporters and advocates, and partner with local tourism businesses to offer "the quintessential winter experience in Canada", include winter as a distinct season of programming and activities for all national parks.
Response requested: We ask that the CEO for Parks Canada Alan Latourelle, each national park Superintendent, and the Minister of Environment respond to the above petition and the five actions we have identified in consultation with Canadians. We ask that this consultation and revised decision-making be conducted before June 1, 2013, and that Parks Canada communicate their decisions publicly.
For more information about our concerns, and to be aware of a national weekend of advocacy, celebration of winter from coast to coast to coast, please visit the Facebook Event:
Celes Davar, Manitoba tourism operator and national park visitor
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