BY RON THIESSEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF CPAWS MANITOBA
This letter to the editor piece was written in response to the ‘Online bookings ruin camping‘ letter published in the Winnipeg Free Press on April 7, 2022.
I read with great empathy Howard Doerksen’s letter recalling when spontaneous “find a spot, pay at the park” camping trips were possible, as opposed to the current requirement of making Manitoba campground reservations through a Texas company months in advance.
The fact is we no longer have enough camping facilities and parks to serve our growing population. Our parks and protected natural spaces provide much-needed physical and mental health benefits through their recreational and rejuvenating opportunities. Nonetheless, we’ve seen dramatic cuts to operational capacities and improvements.
To add insult to injury, the province’s response to the exploding visitation to our natural spaces during the pandemic saw almost no expansion to park services. And while our communities still struggle financially during COVID-19, campsite fees became three times higher at St. Ambroise Provincial Park after a private company was awarded a 21-year contract to manage what used to be a public service.
To make matters even worse, the Manitoba Protected Areas Initiative is progressing at the speed of a sloth, despite its mandate of securing adequate protection of our landscapes. Manitoba grew its parks and protected spaces by more than 20,000 square kilometres from 2010 to 2015. Since then, a meager 177 square kilometres has been added to the network.
As Manitoba’s executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, I will have eager eyes on this week’s provincial budget. We’ll see if our government has heard the message from almost 2,500 Manitobans who have called on them to invest more in camping and recreation opportunities while greatly accelerating the sleepy pace of the Manitoba Protected Areas Initiative.
Ron Thiessen, Executive Director of CPAWS Manitoba
Tell the province we need more parks – not less. It’s time to invest in park services and give Manitobans more opportunities to enjoy nature. Write a letter to help Defend Manitoba Parks today.