Tourism advocates, and a small northwestern Ontario municipality near Kenora, are celebrating a deal to re-open a shuttered provincial park.
The town of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls will operate Caliper Lake Park after reaching an agreement with the province.
Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls mayor Bill Thompson said the town has been negotiating the transfer with the MNR for about two years.
He said it will likely cost his municipality about $35,000 annually to run Caliper Lake.
“There seems to be quite a bit of interest in the communities that we keep it going, and they seem in favour of it,” he said. “They all believe that it's a beneficial piece of infrastructure to have.”
The only local industry is tourism, and the park plays a big role, he added. The town also operates Sioux Narrows Provincial Park.
“Sioux Narrows and Nestor Falls is really … a tourist town. That is what we depend on. Having a piece of infrastructure like the provincial park closed down was just not acceptable to us.”
Parks a magnet for tourists
Sunset Country Travel Association's Gerry Cariou applauded the move, but said he wants any future cuts in provincial services applied equitably.
“I would hope that that would be something that's not just isolated to northwestern Ontario, which seems to be the case,” he said. “Like the example I gave with the travel information centres at Fort Frances and the Manitoba border. We were kind of singled out there.”
Cariou said, so far, he hasn’t heard any concerns about the future of the provincial parks in northwestern Ontario.
"Parks are demand generators, they are [the] reason people will travel to northwestern Ontario,” he said. “Having another one open up is a good thing. It is something that does bring tourists here when you have more parks to offer, combined with the private sector."
Cariou said he's not surprised the province is looking at transferring some costs from parks to municipalities, however Natural Resources Minister David Oriazetti said the MNR's intent is not to continue downloading provincial parks onto nearby municipalities.
He noted the parks that are staffed and offer services usually don't recover their costs.