Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Enjoy winter? Sorry, that's not in the budget

  • Print

At Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota, the South Unit visitor centre is open 362 days a year, closing only for Christmas, New Year's and American Thanksgiving.

At Rocky Mountain National Park on the snowy slopes of northern Colorado, the Beaver Meadows visitor station only closes for Christmas Day. At Utah's Bryce Canyon National Park, where the scenic road sits above 2,400 metres, the sole visitor centre is open every day of the year.

None of these parks can be described as popular winter destinations. Theodore Roosevelt's main draw is badlands that aren't visible below winter snows. High-altitude Bryce Canyon is often just as frigid. And despite its close proximity to Denver, much of Rocky Mountain National Park is impassable.

Yet the U.S. National Park Service remains committed to offering winter services at most of its parks, in spite of more than $400 million worth of budget cuts over the past decade.

In Riding Mountain National Park, in supposedly winter-hardy Manitoba, the visitor centre isn't open for more than six months of the year, from the day after Thanksgiving until the shortly before the Victoria Day long weekend.

This was the case even before Parks Canada faced $29.2 million worth of cuts, as the philosophy on this side of the border is winter is no time to enjoy natural areas or at least learn a little bit about them.

Cuts this year have merely further clawed back winter services at Riding Mountain, formerly prized by cross-country skiers for its 218-kilometre network of ski, snowshoe and skate-ski trails. As reported earlier this week, there will be no ski-trail grooming at Riding Mountain this winter, and also no skating trail, skating rink or visitor-safety services, with the RCMP picking up the slack for the latter.

According to Parks Canada vice president Bill Fisher, these changes have everything to do with budget cuts and nothing to do with his agency's philosophy. Parks Canada is simply being pragmatic by aligning services with peak-period use, Fisher suggested in an interview.

To give him the benefit of the doubt, there's no ideal way to deal with budget cuts. But people who love parks tend to be idealists, not pragmatists.

Cutting winter services to parks because people don't use parks during the winter seems like circular reasoning when winter services in Canadian parks were not exactly fantastic in the first place.

It's upsetting enough to see the U.S. offer more in the way of basic services than Canada does, given our supposed embrace of winter. Cutting back further on winter services will only reduce local tourism, harm the economies of small communities near parks and at Riding Mountain, and deprive people of one of the cheapest and most accessible means of engaging in a healthy winter recreation.

According to Fisher, the wider implications of winter-service cuts on the economy of rural areas or the health of citizens are beyond the scope of Parks Canada.

He is correct. Our overall well-being is in the hands of elected officials in Ottawa.


ELA closure unlikely to affect paddlers

In a related bit of news, the environmental-science community was saddened, if not surprised, to hear of Ottawa's decision to end four decades of whole-ecosystem research in the Experimental Lakes Area southeast of Kenora, Ont.

From a naturalist's perspective, this is lamentable. The work conducted at the ELA over the past four decades has proven invaluable toward protecting freshwater lakes and drainage basins around the world.

With ELA research slated to wind down this fall, canoeists who paddle through the interconnected chain of lakes -- only a handful of which have ever been manipulated by scientists -- may worry about the fate of the surrounding recreational area.

In the short-term, nothing will happen: Most of what constitutes the ELA is Crown land, encompassing both unincorporated wilderness and official protected areas, including Winnange Lake Provincial Park, Eagle-Dogtooth Provincial Waterway and the Dryberry Lake Conservation Reserve. Paddlers will still be able to visit the area and the most spectacular lakes in the region -- Teggau, Hawkcliff and Highwind among them -- will remain protected from development.

In the longer term, however, there will be questions about the fate of the ELA field station at Boundary Lake and the well-maintained gravel road that provides access to the facility. Right now, most of this road is off limits to most motorists. In time, Ontario must decide whether to open it up to other users or close it for good.

And while it would be preferable to keep the ELA field station open as a research facility, it happens to sit at a spectacular site with tremendous tourism potential. Expect a debate about its fate if Ottawa follows through on its ELA shutdown plans.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 26, 2012 C14

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Trouba talks about injury and potential for Jets

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Goslings with some size head for cover Wednesday afternoon on Commerce Drive in Tuxedo Business Park - See Bryksa 30 Goose Challenge- Day 12- May 16, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Geese fight as a male defends his nesting site at the duck pond at St Vital Park Thursday morning- See Bryksa’s Goose a Day Photo- Day 08- May 10, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott and the winner of the 2014 Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award.

Bartley’s work has also appeared on CBC Radio and Citytv as well as in publications such as The Guardian, explore magazine and National Geographic Traveler. He sits on the board of PEN Canada, which promotes freedom of expression.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google