As local residents, small businesses, and leisure travellers within the entire parkland region of southern Manitoba, the recently announced staff reductions in Riding Mountain National Park and resulting cuts to winter services, science and research initiatives and monitoring projects, and education programs will directly and adversely affect our communities and businesses in the fall, winter, and spring months in several ways:
1. Small businesses are the life-blood of rural Manitoba in the winter months. By shifting to a "closed for the winter message" to our key markets in Winnipeg, Brandon, and Regina, these park staff and service reductions will contribute to a direct negative message that the park is closed, which will counter-act the many community, local tour operator, and accommodations' marketing initiatives that have been promoting this area as the best location for nature, wildlife and winter experiences in southern Manitoba (visitor guides, marketing programs, cooperative ad programs, various web promotions) for the last several years. Thousands of travellers have visited and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past years adding revenues to the park, to local businesses, and to the local economy (gas, food, rentals, accommodations, purchasing time share for winter use, recreational services) in several communities surrounding the park all fall and winter long.
2. This is one of the most beautiful times of the year, when services including a core set of groomed ski trails in various habitats, designated locations for winter use, and various ski events are expected. These recreational activities have been developed over time, and are part of the justification for recent increases in park admission fees.
3. While acknowledging the need to re-evaluate government expenditures, the lack of consultation with local residents and businesses to find acceptable solutions in this situation will result in negative financial consequences that are not supported by many local businesses, residents, communities, and local organizations.
4. The role of national park staff as key collaborators in sharing information about winter wildlife through science, education, and informal communication with local residents is a critical ingredient in how local school students, teachers, organizations, landowners, and residents learn about and support this park.
5. The science projects and environmental monitoring of winter movements of elk, wolves, coyotes and other wildlife are part of the way that information is shared with visitors to the only national park and rural resort location in southern Manitoba. This information is used to support various recreational uses and tourism packages sold into the travel trade and marketplaces.
For further insights and local feedback about what local people are saying and communicating about the impacts of these cuts, join the Community Advocacy for Riding Mountain Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/CommunityAdvocacyForRidingMountain