National parks cut cross-country ski trail work
Cuts mean end to ski trails at Prince Albert National Park and Riding Mountain National Park
Cross-country ski trails, a popular recreational activity in several national parks, will no longer be kept up due to budget cuts, officials say.
The affected parks include Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan, and Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba.
"One of the services we've reduced or cut back on or ended for this year is the track setting for the ski trails," Alan Fehr, the park superintendent for Prince Albert National Park, told CBC News Tuesday. "And some of the backcountry camping services, we've cut those as well."
Losing the trails is seen as a blow to enthusiasts of cross-country skiing.
Kevin Robinson, an avid skier and sporting goods store owner, said the trails in the Prince Albert park were exceptional.
"Just the atmosphere itself, skiing on narrow trails through the forest," Robinson reminisced Tuesday. "The access to seeing wildlife and bird life is huge in P.A. national park."
An estimated 140 kilometres of groomed trails will no longer be available.
Fehr said the cost of keeping that many trails in good condition was a challenge.
"We weren't able to maintain the trails at a sufficient standard," he said. "We just didn't have the resources to be able to keep that size of a trail network up to standard."
Fehr added that, with reduced budgets, the national parks are making summer time activities their main priority because that is when visits are at their highest.
The focus on summer does not sit well with Brad Muir, the owner of Sundog Excursions, north of Prince Albert.
"National parks are there, doing their job as wildlife conservation areas and so many other things for 365 days of the year. Not just in the summertime. So I think this is a step backward," Muir said.
There was no information available about how much money the park will save thanks to the cuts.
Robinson said sporting goods stores like his, and hotels near the park will suffer with the loss of winter business.
"[I'm] very disappointed about it. Cross-country has been growing in the province the last few years," he said. "It's going to be a big hit to a lot of families."
Fehr noted that winter visitors are still welcome to snowshoe or cut their own cross-country ski trails.
With files from CBC's Jennifer Quesnel