The province is more than doubling fees for cabin and cottage owners in Manitoba provincial parks as part of a new strategy to raise revenue and modernize parks, officials announced Friday.

People who own cabins or cottages in provincial parks will see a major increase in the cost of services from the province in 2013.

Average annual fees will nearly triple, according to provincial officials. The average cottager is currently paying about $280 a year for fees. That number will raise to $738 under the province’s new plan.

Officials said the changes will be phased in over five years for owners to adjust to the new rates, while money will be spent modernizing the parks.

Provincial officials said cottage owners will pay on average, $2,000 per year over a ten year period.

"We’re also going to cap the rent increases at $3,000 to ensure that it doesn’t exceed the property taxes in municipalities," Manitoba's conservation minister Gord Mackintosh said Friday.

"We want to ensure that everyone will be able to keep their cottage. This fee increase must not be a barrier to that dream of cottage life."

Bob Kent lives at Brereton Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park and pays $1,300 a year, which he says basically covers snow clearing.

Kent says opening up the parks with more activities and business opportunities is a mixed blessing since the Brereton Lake area is already congested. "I just don't think it's money well spent for the cottage owners. It may be money well spent for the campground people."

Provincial officials said they’re currently subsidizing services for cottage and cabin owners. 

It costs $26 million more to operate parks annually than receives from user fees.

Last year, servicing cottages in provincial parks cost the province $4.5 million, but it only received about $1.7 million in revenue from cottage owners.

The new changes are expected to bring in $4.5 million in revenue each year.

Provincial officials noted cabins in Riding Mountain National Park, a federally-operated park, pay significantly more for services than those who live in nearby provincial parks.

Camping costs also going up

Camping and cabin costs will go up by a few dollars per site. In 2012, nightly camping cost between $10.50 and $26.25. In 2013, costs will rise slightly to $11.44 to $28.35.

The cost of renting yurts and the province’s less expensive family cabins will also rise by a few dollars for the 2013 season.

The public, including cottage owners, can comment on the rate hikes on the province’s conservation website before June 1.

Parks to be modernized

The news came as part of a $100 million funding announcement to modernize its provincial parks.

Changes announced Friday by Mackintosh, called for more modern washrooms, electrical outlets for campsites, Wi-Fi at campsites and better beaches.

Several provincial parks will also see their washroom and showers modernized.

 Officials have earmarked $20 million to improve water and waste treatment plants that rely on Lake Winnipeg water.

The province said another $20 million will go to renewing Spruce Woods and St. Ambroise Provincial Parks, that were badly damaged during the 2011 flood.

In 2012, Manitoba saw a record number of visitors to its parks, with 5.5 million people stopping by at least one of its provincial parks.