At a time when Manitobans are heading to provincial parks in massive numbers to escape pandemic boredom, the government has set up a fund to improve them.
On Thursday, Premier Brian Pallister announced a $20-million endowment fund to be managed by the Winnipeg Foundation.
"I've never seen as many people at Beaudry Park, and a number of our other parks, as I have in this past year with COVID," said the premier during a news conference held at the park.
"Our parks have helped in many ways to help Manitobans get through stress, the anxiety, the mental health issues that are real through this COVID pandemic."
The principal amount of the fund would remain intact for perpetuity and generate about $1 million annually to pay for development of trails and boardwalks to restoring habitat, enhancing campgrounds and maintaining roads.
Private donations could be matched by the fund, Pallister said.
"This latest fund collaboration means we can all continue to see improvements in our provincial park system and share in the great outdoor opportunities Manitoba parks present," Rick Frost, the foundation's chief executive officer, said in a statement.
The fund is an exciting initiative, Conservation Minister Sarah Guillemard said, adding the annual funding isn't intended to replace government funding.
"Our parks are not for sale and our government is pleased to invest in long-term sustainability in our provincial parks which will ensure they remain treasured public assets for all Manitobans," she said.
The fund is a positive first step for the provincial government in recognizing the importance of parks and the need for additional investment in services, but it must do more, said Ron Thiessen of the Manitoba chapter of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
"Manitobans need more campsites, trails and opportunities to enjoy nature," he said. "Unfortunately, the government has not yet committed to any targets for expanding park services. We are disappointed that today’s announcement did not include a commitment to establish new parks and protected areas as this is desperately needed to meet growing public demand, to conserve threatened species and to mitigate the impacts of climate change."
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