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Canadian Parks Infrastructure Needing Repair

April 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Parks Canada is warning that deteriorating heritage buildings, visitor centers and other assets in Canada’s national parks and historic sites are at “significant risk” and in desperate need of repair.

The federal government is boosting some user fees in 2013 to cover increasing operating costs and to help address the infrastructure backlog, at the same time it cuts millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs from the agency, The Windsor (Ont.) Star reported.

The eroding infrastructure also means Canadians can expect temporary closures of facilities and highways, and reduced levels of service in national parks across the country, according to a new Parks Canada report on its plans and priorities.

Parks Canada – which administers 44 national parks, 167 historic sites and four national marine conservation areas – will also establish two new national parks by 2015 (in Nunavut and Labrador). But it must do so with significantly fewer resources. The 2012 federal budget cut Parks Canada’s funding by $29.2 million over three years, resulting in potentially 600 job losses across the parks system.

The more immediate needs, however, appear to be crumbling facilities and roads, as Parks Canada’s $15 billion assets are aging and in growing need of repair.

Approximately one-third of cultural resource assets (including historic buildings and fortifications) are in “poor condition,” according to the report, while one-third of Parks Canada visitor facilities – which help improve visitor experiences and generate revenue – are also currently in poor condition.

“The rate of deterioration of these assets is increasing,” says the report. “These treasured parts of Canadian history are at significant risk.”

Moreover, more than half of the agency’s assets are dams, highways and bridges – of which more than 50% are also classified as being in poor condition.

The report notes that “actual asset failures are becoming more frequent,” a problem illustrated by the recent collapse of sections of the Cabot Trail, it said.

Parks Canada is also “challenged” to maintain or improve ecological integrity in national parks and meet its legal requirements for species at risk, the report says, due to such things as invasive species and habitat loss.

Andrew Campbell, Parks Canada’s vice president of visitor experience, stressed that while infrastructure in poor condition requires repairs, the facilities are safe for Canadians to use and enjoy.

Last month’s federal budget announced $19 million for upgrades to highways and bridges in national parks, he noted, and the agency is hopeful it will receive additional long-term funding from the government’s renewed, multibillion-dollar Building Canada Plan.

“We’re really hopeful in what is in this year’s budget in the fact that the government has identified the need for investment in federal infrastructure,” Campbell said. “We’re extremely optimistic at Parks Canada that’s going to help address some of our needs.”

Visits to national parks, conservation areas and historic sites has dropped nearly 20% over the last 15 years. Campbell said the reduction in visitors is partly due to what he called the “nature deficit disorder,” but said the agency is doing its best to reconnect Canadians with their parks.

But the union representing most of Parks Canada’s workers said visitor experiences will likely further erode due to ongoing funding and job cuts.

Eddie Kennedy, national executive vice president of the Union of National Employees, said Parks Canada’s crumbling infrastructure is no surprise and may only worsen as the federal government’s budget cuts sink in.

“This is the accumulation of years and years of not being funded to the amount that they should have been funded to maintain the assets,” Kennedy said. “The cuts in the (2012) federal budget are going to compound that.”

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Parks Canada Eyeing Fee Hike as Services Drop

January 23, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Cash-strapped Parks Canada is stuck between a rock — or is that Rockies? — and a hard place.

The federal agency is currently consulting the public on a long list of proposed fee hikes for the country’s national parks and historic sites, pointing out that the rates have been frozen since 2008 and costs are on the rise, The Canadian Press reported.

But at the same time as fees are going up, many services are in decline following $55 million in announced budget cuts and the resultant 600 jobs lost across the system.

Over the weekend, so-called “Occupy Winter” protesters gathered in some national parks across the country to demand a return of winter services that were abruptly shut down this year. Visitors are left to guide themselves at some historic sites, and visiting seasons have been shortened.

The agency is now looking to contract out some of its operations, including three hot springs in the Rockies and a golf course in Cape Breton.

“As Canadians, we own these parks, they’re national treasures, and we need to ensure that the government really provides the appropriate resources to Parks Canada … so that protection is prioritized and it remains accessible to everybody,” said Eric Hebert-Daly, national executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

To make matters even more complicated, parliamentarians — including Conservatives — have been putting their own pressure on the agency after hearing from unhappy constituents.

In eastern Ontario, Parks Canada’s proposal to substantially increase the user fees along the Rideau Canal and Trent-Severn Waterway was greeted with a backlash.

The agency has already backed down from its proposal only two weeks into the consultation, restoring the concept of a day pass or season’s pass at more discounted rates.

“If you make it too expensive, people won’t use it, and it’ll be self-defeating in terms of raising more revenue,” said Conservative MP Gord Brown, whose riding includes large swaths of the Rideau Canal.

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Former Secretary Leaves $1M to Parks Canada

June 11, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

An avid camper and lover of the outdoors, Marjorie LeDrew wanted to get more Canadians to visit national parks. That’s why she bequeathed $1 million to Parks Canada, the largest private donation to the national parks system in its 101-year history.

According to a report by the Globe and Mail, Toronto, Parks Canada opened a new yurt campground on Saturday on the shores of Cyprus Lake in Bruce Peninsula National Park. The new campground and renovation to the nearby parking lot and trails were made possible with LeDrew’s donation, along with $2.5 million provided by the federal government.

“We have received a tremendous gift from an insightful Canadian citizen, which will be enjoyed and remembered by future generations of visitors to this special place,” Environment Minister Peter Kent said.

LeDrew’s sister and estate representative, Dorothy Hunter said: “She just wanted to get more Canadians camping and I think she would be very pleased with how this turned out.”

LeDrew died in 2008 in Bracebridge, Ont., at age 80. Since then, Hunter has been working with Parks Canada to build the campground with 10 yurts – tent-like structures that are mounted on a wooden deck floor – and a common space with hot showers and campfires, but details of her sister’s donation were kept under wraps until the result could be unveiled Saturday.

“They are ideal for older visitors who might not want to rough it out any more but still enjoy the outdoors, but also people who are new to camping and need a way to ease into the whole experience,” said Frank Burrows, park superintendent for Bruce National Park. “We think it really works with what Marjorie was trying to do … encourage more people to enjoy our national parks.”

LeDrew worked for Canadian Industries Ltd. for 39 years as a secretary and moved from Montreal to Toronto with the firm. “She was frugal and this [camping] was really important to her,” Ms. Hunter said. “I think she was happiest around the camp fire.”

Hunter said her sister was interested in the outdoors from an early age, but it was as an adult that LeDrew really took to camping. “She and her husband would go together every weekend in the RV or camping,” Hunter said.

After her husband passed away, LeDrew founded Loners on Wheels, a camping club for singles in Ontario in 1990, that is still going strong.

“I didn’t even know where all she went or what her favorite park is because she would come from work and take straight off for camping,” Hunter said.

While LeDrew had never visited Bruce Peninsula, Hunter said she believed her sister would approve of her decision to work to make the national park more accessible to recreational vehicles. “That’s how she got around, so I think other zoomers would also appreciate that change to this park.”

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Canadian Parks Reaching Out to New Campers

April 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

footer-op-logo Millions of Canadians living in urban jungles haven’t camped. Many are newcomers to Canada, whose childhood in rural  Pakistan or big-city China most certainly didn’t include woodland hikes or canoe trips.

Ontario Parks and Parks Canada are trying to change that through Learn to Camp programs, according to CANOE Inc.

The Ontario Parks one was tested last fall in Samuel de Champlain park, near North Bay, by a diverse group with roots in Kazakhstan, India, Rwanda and the Ukraine.

It will be repeated there this summer, and a pilot program will be introduced at three parks in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Darlington, Sibbald Point and Bronte Creek.

Over the course of a day and a half, people will learn how to set up a campsite, about stoves and campfires, food preparation and storage, and campsite safety and cleanliness, and how to have fun in the park.header-yellow

They’ll will be provided with a campsite, most major equipment (tent, stove, dining shelter), and have full use of the site.

The program is open to anyone, but the main target this year is GTA residents. For details, including costs, visit www.OntarioParks.com/learntocamp.

Parks Canada will target families with young children and new Canadians living in urban centres. It’s taking a three-pronged approach.

lfflA virtual camping component on Parks Canada’s website, www.parkscanada.gc.ca. Online tools will provide information such as new-camper-friendly campgrounds, potential activities, and instructional diagrams and videos.

Staged camping events, including an overnight urban camping event June 18-19 at national heritage sites across the country. Participants will be offered regular on-site programs, interpretive activities, camping workshops and camping-related activities such as hiking, campfire sing-a-longs and star gazing. The main focus will be on Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec and Halifax.

Three Ontario sites have been chosen:

  • Fort George National Historic Site of Canada, Niagara-on-the-Lake.
  • Woodside National Historic Site of Canada in Kitchener, boyhood home of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s longest-serving prime minister.
  • Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada a UNESCO World Heritage Site between Ottawa and Kingston.

On-site activities in national parks to help first-time campers. These will include overnight events, simple workshops at both individual and group campgrounds, and informative brochures. Families will be provided with all meals, all equipment except sleeping bags, and, in some cases, transportation.

In the fall, Parks Canada also offers what’s described as an all-inclusive camping experience in Georgian Bay Islands National Park.

It allows a family to try camping without have to buy and transport all the gear, and even provides raised cots for parents who may not be keen on sleeping on the ground.

The program includes dinner on Friday night, parking in Honey Harbour and boat transportation to Beausoleil Island, canoe, kayaks and safety equipment, and access to park staff who are on site at all times.

For information on fees and other details, phone the park at (705) 526-9804, or visit www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/on/georg/courriel-email.aspx.

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Parks Canada Not at Fault in 1995 Bear Attack

November 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Canadian federal government was not at fault for injuries sustained by two young Australian men who were mauled by a bear at Lake Louise campground 15 years ago, a judge has ruled.

In a written decision released Tuesday (Nov. 2), Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Ged Hawco said there was no breach of duty by Parks Canada and dismissed the claim by Andrew Brodie and Owen Hereford, The Vancouver Sun reported.

“While I have tremendous sympathy for their horrific encounter, I am satisfied that Parks Canada was not negligent and did not breach its duty of care towards them, as wardens of the park could not reasonably have foreseen a risk of injury to them at the time.”

Court heard Brodie, 36, and Hereford, 37, came to Canada on Sept. 17, 1995, to work at ski resorts in Western Canada – just eight days before the attack.

On Sept. 24, they drove to Lake Louise and failed to get accommodation in the youth hostel, so they went to the campground.

It was at 3:30 the next morning when a bear tore into their tent and began biting Brodie’s arm, causing him to scream that he was going to die. Hereford then kicked at the bear, which turned on him.

Brodie then tried to distract the bear, which again turned on him and was only subdued when he smashed a rock into the animal’s face. That gave the men an opportunity to run away and finally seek refuge on a bus.

Both men suffered serious injuries, but Brodie was the worst with many puncture wounds and claw marks to his knees, feet and buttocks. He spent six months recovering, two of them in hospital.

The men argued at trial there was insufficient warning of grizzly bears in the area, in particular lack of signage at the campground, after five other bear encounters in the Lake Louise area in recent weeks.

But the judge said the warnings given were appropriate and noted the men had been given and read material related to potential bear encounters.

“In my respectful opinion, the warnings given were appropriate,” said Hawco. “There is some risk to campers in any campsite in Banff National Park that they will encounter a bear. In this case, it was the considered view of the park wardens, after a number of meetings and discussions, immediately prior to this incident, that there was no foreseeable risk of injury to a camper so long as there was no food or garbage in the camper’s tent.”

The judge said had he found Parks Canada breached its duty of care to the men, he would have awarded $40,000 in general damages to Brodie and $30,000 to Hereford. He also would have given just $7,527 in loss of income to Hereford, who had sought more than $1 million.

Neither of the men could be reached for comment.

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