Provincial park users and cottagers will pay higher fees, Spruce Woods and St. Ambroise provincial parks will receive a $20 million makeover, and new corporate sponsorships will be sought in a new Manitoba park strategy announced this morning.
Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh said given budget constraints a higher percentage of the cost of operating provincial parks will now come from users, including mining companies that operate in parks. Currently, only 28 per cent of the $36 million in annual operating costs comes from users. That will be raised to about 50 per cent over the next several years.
At the same time, Mackintosh announced a number of new amenities will be added, including more electrical campsites, more bike and walking trails, expansion of Wi-Fi to Falcon Lake and Birds Hill campgrounds, dozens of new shower and washroom facilities, and road upgrades at Hecla-Grindstone, St. Malo, Whiteshell and Assessippi parks.
The redevelopment of Spruce Woods Provincial Park, severely damaged by the 2011 Assiniboine River flood, will be the most expensive ever in Manitoba, Mackintosh said. Work will occur in three phases over several years beginning with repairs to low-lying areas.
There is also a commitment for $20 million in new waste-water treatment plants in parks to protect Lake Winnipeg.
The strategy has an overall price-tag of $100 million, which was previously announced. Today, the province put some flesh on the bones of an earlier commitment.
And the government admitted that it would have to proceed more slowly than it initially intended because of a large lingering budget deficit. So, instead of spending the $100 million over five years as it initially intended, it will now make the improvements over eight years.
The government has also reset some of its priorities. For instance, construction of a tower and interpretive centre at Duff Roblin Provincial Park at St. Norbert will be delayed by at least four years.
At present, cottagers in provincial parks are paying only about 38 per cent of the cost of providing services to them, the government said in announcing that rent and service fee increases to these folks will rise by an average of $2,000 over the next decade.
Right now, cottage owners who live outside of a provincial park or who have a cottage in Riding Mountain National Park pay between 300 and 400 per cent more in fees and services than those who reside inside provincial parks.
Meanwhile, camping fees this year in Manitoba will rise to between $11.55 and $28.35 per night from $10.50 to $26.25 per night.