'Jewel of our province': Manitoba parks strategy may have private investment, third-party management of campgrounds
WINNIPEG -- Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government is eyeing improvements to provincial parks through possible investments from the private sector and third-party management of some campgrounds.
The initiative was outlined by the Premier in a recent mandate letter to Conservation and Climate Minister Sarah Guillemard.
“On the parks issue specifically, our parks infrastructure issues haven’t been discussed for half a century,” Pallister told reporters Wednesday. “It’s long overdue that we talk about and that we act on the recommendations that can lead to better services and better reinvestment in, what is to me, a jewel of our province – our provincial parks.”
Guillemard said the government is struggling to keep up with maintenance in parks due to budget constraints and has been working with stakeholders, municipalities and neighbouring communities to get feedback on the future of parks.
"All of that is going to play in to how we're going to move forward in our parks strategy,” said Guillemard. “That may include third-party management of different areas."
"I think they can likely do it better than government can and if they propose a great idea that works for all users, then that is something that we would have to consider moving forward with."
The minister said it's still early, but so far those conversations have been focused on campgrounds.
“That’s really where most users are drawn to,” said Guillemard. “If people come forward with proposals and it falls well within what our policies and our vision for what parks should be, including protecting our spaces so that they’re green for years to come, we would have to consider all proposals that would come forward.”
It comes on the heels of a plan by the Alberta government to close or partially close 20 parks and remove 164 recreation areas and other parks unless third parties such as municipalities agree to run them.
The Chickadee trailhead in Birds Hill Provincial Park. (source: Josh Crabb/ CTV News Winnipeg)
Wilderness Committee director Eric Reder said Manitoba's strategy should be focused on protecting public spaces.
"Any government that decides they need to take a step back from that responsibility and instead work on cutting red tape, or trying to find somebody to give them money instead of taking on responsibility of protecting parks and nature, they're going in the wrong direction,” he said.
The idea of private investment in parks isn’t sitting well with Mike Treacy.
"I just don't know what to think of that,” said Treacy, following a ski at Birds Hill Provincial Park. “I don't see a problem with the way they've done it right now, really. I've never had an issue. You just go out and enjoy the parks."
"I guess they're trying to save money, that's the only thing I can figure out."
Treacy skis, kayaks and cycles in provincial parks. When asked what could be improved, he said more camping spots would be beneficial, but had no other items on his wish list.
"They seem to be well-run,” said Treacy.