New $20M fund aims to protect Manitoba's provincial parks in perpetuity
Endowment fund, managed by Winnipeg Foundation, expected to generate as much as $1M annually
A promise by the province to to protect and improve Manitoba parks was met with scrutiny on Thursday for the way the government hopes to capitalize on private funds.
Premier Brian Pallister and Conservation and Climate Minister Sarah Guillemard announced a $20-million endowment fund to be managed by the Winnipeg Foundation.
Expected to generate as much as $1 million annually, the fund encourages private and philanthropic contributions.
The money will help offset the costs of enhancing and sustaining provincial parks, including things like maintaining and expanding trails, boardwalks, campgrounds, shelters, playground equipment, docks and boat launches, the province said.
But it will also be used for road maintenance, machinery and operational equipment.
Pallister was asked during a morning news conference if an endowment fund with private donations is sloughing off what a government should normally be doing in its annual budget.
"This is public property, and the public has the right to have a chance to invest in their own facilities and enhance them and strengthen them," the premier said, adding that an aging Manitoba population means almost half of the budget goes to funding health care.
"I know that the public wants to support the parks network and they have the chance to do that. I think that's good news for everybody."
Pallister emphasized that the public would have a say in determining project priorities and how the money will be distributed.
"So there will be some opportunities there for public engagement, and that's important because after all, these parks are for public engagement," he said.
Guillemard said the value of the provincial parks has never been as clear as it is now, as people look to get away and relax amid COVID-19 restrictions and stress.
"Our province saw record numbers of campground reservations during the staggered opening of bookings in the past couple of weeks as we doubled the number of booking from last year," she said at Thursday's announcement in Beaudry Park, along the Assiniboine River west of Winnipeg.
"Within the current reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, our provincial parks serve a very real and immediate need in providing peaceful sanctuary and needed respite for Manitobans by allowing us all to reconnect with nature.
"This announcement is a wonderful way to celebrate Earth Day."