Every year, between 75,000 and 100,000 people come into contact with one of Manitoba's friendly park interpreters. These professionals connect park visitors with natural and cultural history by designing engaging programs for school groups, ensuring people's safety on hikes, answering natural history questions in interpretive centres, delivering large-scale amphitheatre programs, and sharing stories around the campfire. They spark imagination, connection, and inspiration. Study after study around the world has shown that interpretation boosts the economy, decreases damage to sensitive resources, and gives visitors life-long connections to place.
It is amazing to think that there are only 21 provincial park interpreters in Manitoba, covering only 9 of Manitoba's 86 provincial parks, and none of them are year-round positions with benefits. Despite this, park interpreters are able to meaningfully connect with tens of thousands of park visitors each year.
Even though the benefits of having park interpreters is enormous, and the cost is so low, the current government is considering gutting the program in April's budget*. At the same time, the government envisions itself as "The Parks Province," listing numerous objectives that need interpreters to achieve**.
We hope to hear announced in the new budget that the interpretive program not be cut, but instead will be doubled in the coming year, and that the Manitoba Government will support and value interpretation and its place in “Building The Parks Province.”
After all, as William H. Carr wisely said, "Not having an interpreter in your park is like inviting a guest to your house, opening the door, and then disappearing."
*The Winnipeg Free Press, in an interview with Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh, states: The cuts will be announced in next month's budget [April]. "We may have to have some skinnier interpretive programming for a couple of years," he said, citing one area under review. (http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/province-to-perk-up-its-parks-196659101.html?story=Province%2520to%2520perk%2520up%2520its%2520parks)
**Manitoba just released its Building The Parks Province: Manitoba’s Parks Strategy, in which it outlines many ways to improve parks. A strong and vibrant interpretive program is the only way Manitoba can reach the goals outlined in the strategy and its stated goal to become “The Parks Province.” You can see it at: http://www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/parksstrategy/index.html