'A backwards move': Winnipeg resident slams park pass changes
WINNIPEG -- A Winnipeg resident said new changes to the provincial park permit system could result in her paying hundreds of dollars each year to attend parks.
Marisa Hernandez has enjoyed the parks for many years and goes regularly to hike and cycle. Hernandez, who doesn’t own a vehicle, previously purchased an annual pass, and used rental cars or ride-sharing programs to attend parks.
“Now, because a licence plate is necessary to obtain an annual pass, I can’t go to the parks anymore without paying exorbitant amounts,” she said.
An annual pass for Manitoba parks went up to $44.50 in April, up from $40. The province said the additional $4.50 is a licencing fee to “support enhanced service delivery,” according to a release. Park pass sales can now be purchased online.
Annual passes can have two licence plates attached to them.
Casual passes are also available for $16.50 and are valid for three consecutive days, while a daily pass costs $9.50.
“Every time I go, because I don’t have a car, or a single-vehicle licence plate to present, I have to pay $9.50 each day I come to the park,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez called the decision “a backwards move.”
“I feel like I’m being fined for not owning a car,” she said.
The Wilderness Committee is also speaking out against the increase, saying it puts up barriers to access parks.
“This fee increase will keep Manitobans from getting out into nature, and it shows how disconnected this government is from the critical and growing need to keep people in touch with wilderness,” said wilderness and water campaigner Eric Reder in a statement.
Sarah Guillemard, Minister of Conservation and Climate, responded in a statement saying the province recognizes the new e-licensing system is similar to what was in place previously.
“The new system is very similar to what it was before, with the exception that the passes are no longer transferable to multiple people,” Guillemard wrote. “Now, if you’re going to a park you can buy a seasonal pass, and assign two licence plates to it.”
Guillemard added park permits were part of the first phase of the switch to the e-licensing system to make it easier for park users to access and purchase permits before they head to the park.
A spokesperson for the province said they have been advised that Peg City Car Co-op, a local ridesharing company, has assigned a park pass to all their vehicles in case anyone does not have their own vehicle and wants to participate in a vehicle sharing program.
Hernandez wants the province to address the issue soon. She said she wants to be able to pay for the annual pass, and believes government-issued identification to purchase a pass can be a solution, rather than a car’s licence plate.
“Government-issued ID to obtain a park pass, I’m willing to do that,” Hernandez said. “I have no issue with contributing to the upkeep of the parks. If they feel the need to increase annual park fees like they do in other provinces, so be it, as long as it is being utilized properly.
“But, to make a divide, punishing one set of people who don’t own cars, vis a vis those people who own vehicles, that’s just not right.”
This is a corrected story. It has been edited to add a message from the province saying Peg City Car Co-op has park passes assigned to their vehicles.