Tourism minister calls for national parks to be permanently free
'We want to ensure that we either have free access going forward, or we stay status quo'
Minister of Tourism Heath MacDonald is calling on Parks Canada and the federal government to implement free admission to national parks permanently.
"We want to ensure that we either have free access going forward, or we stay status quo, because we're seeing the benefits right now right across the province," said MacDonald.
To celebrate Canada 150, the federal government offered visitors free admission to national parks across the country as part of its 2016 budget. MacDonald wants to see this budgetary expense covered for good.
"People are visiting the national parks, Islanders are visiting the national parks, the campgrounds are extremely busy. So we're seeing that success and I'm sure some of it's related to free access."
MacDonald said the province plans on approaching the federal government to see what their thoughts are regarding permanent free admission.
"I know there's been some chatter through different tourism groups out there saying, "This is great. How can we keep this going into the future?'"
Visitors coming to P.E.I 'in droves'
People are utilizing national parks more than any other year, MacDonald said.
"When you drive through Brackley, and they're painting lines on the grass so people can park, that says it," he said.
"We're doing something right. We're a premier destination. People could go to Quebec, or Ontario or B.C., but they're coming to P.E.I. in droves."
Response from Parks Canada
The federal government's free admission initiative resulted in record visitation numbers, according to Parks Canada.
"Nationally, from January to July, visitation is up by 12 per cent, compared to that same time frame last year. This includes visits to national parks and national historic sites and national marine conservation areas," said Parks Canada in a statement emailed to CBC News.
For 2017 and beyond, in accordance with the 2016 federal budget, Parks Canada plans on making national parks and historic sites more accessible with free admission to people under 17.
The federal government provided $83.3 million in funding over five years to Parks Canada to replace revenue that would normally be collected through admission fees.
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With files from Steve Bruce