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Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Partial backdown by Ontario government to keep three northern provincial parks open in pilot project not satisfactory to retired Ministry of Natural Resources senior parks supervisor
Although a partial backdown by the Ontario government on provincial parks closure in Northeastern Ontario was greeted with optimism by several mayors, a retired senior parks supervisor with the Ministry of Natural Resources is not satisfied with the deal, and says so in a letter to Michael Gravelle, the minister.After the provincial government announced the closure of several parks, there was an incredible backlash to the decision from politicians and citizens across Northeastern Ontario, with a display of unity that resulted in the government making a deal in a two-year pilot project.
The project includes Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park near Chapleau, Rene Brunelle Provincial Park near Moonbeam and Fushimi Provincial Park near Hearst.
A ministry news release states that under the two-year pilot project, it will work with the Town of Hearst, the Township of Moonbeam and the City of Timmins with the goal of increasing the parks' revenues and visitation rates.
It is interesting to note that the respective municipalities involved in the agreement will be responsible for covering any financial losses incurred during the pilot period.
In his letter to Mr. Gravelle, Malcolm MacDonald, who at one time was a parks supervisor at Chapleau, urges him "to show us you have a little credibility and respect -- drop downloading on municipalities" along with other requests.
However, in a ministry news release, Alan Spacek, mayor of Kapuskasing and president of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municialities says he is "optimistic" the project will succeed and is "grateful" for the new relationship, thanking Mr. Gravelle for having a "conversation" on the future of the parks.
Gilles Audet, mayor of the Township of Moonbeam and Roger Sigouin, mayor of Hearst, pretty well echo Mr. Spacek's comments in the ministry news release.
In his letter, Mr. MacDonald, writes: "You (Mr. Gravelle) and your parks staff have yet to admit you made a mistake announcing the closure of Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park. There are approximately 38 parks in the province with lower visitation and revenue than Ivanhoe and with capital expenditure requirements. Yet you and your staff fingered Ivanhoe for closure ahead of these other parks and for no apparent reason,"
Mr. MacDonald provided me with a copy of his letter to Mr. Gravelle.
He further asserts that a review of the Ivanhoe Lake situation (and likely the other parks) came only after the minister was faced with "an unanticipated. highly organized and emotional very effective backlash from the campers in northeastern Ontario against your decision" adding that it was "an attempt to cover up the lack of consultation by your ministry with user groups and neighbouring communities impacted by your decision."
Mr. MacDonald reminds the minister. that "In response to your consent for a 'review' we put forth a group of camper citizens to work with your staff. Instead of a review, we were presented a document by your staff telling us what you wanted and how the parks would be operated, if we wanted them to remain open,
"This quickly became the Terms for Parks Pilot Project setting out exactly what you wanted, including very tight timelines in which to 'negotiate'. We came to the table to negotiate in good faith. Your staff came to the table and set out the one and only way the parks were going to stay open."
"You and your ministry get everything they want at no risk and all the campers and community partners get are the risks for two years of camping," Mr. MacDonald wrote.
Meanwhile, here is how you can reserve campsites for 2013.
Beginning on Jan. 28, 2013, campsites can be reserved online 24 hours a day or by calling the park reservation line at 1-888-ONT-PARK between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily. Fushimi Lake operates on a first come-first served basis; reservations are not accepted.
There are more than 330 provincial parks in Ontario, over 100 of which will continue as operating parks that provide various visitor services.
As part of the pilot, more seasonal campsites will be offered at the three parks. Applications for seasonal sites at these parks will be accepted between Jan. 18 and Feb. 1, 2013.
For complete updates on this continuing story, you can join the Friends of Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park on Facebook. Thanks to Malcolm MacDonald, and his daughter Kristy for their assistance. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org