New Brunswick

Less than 3 weeks before opening, nature centre loses all of its provincial funding

Cape Jourimain nature park is the most recent tourist attraction along the south eastern edge of New Brunswick to face an uncertain future because of cuts to provincial funding.

Cape Jourimain Nature Centre counted on $50,000 from province

The Cape Jourimain Nature Centre is scheduled to open Friday but its provincial funding was just cut. (CBC)

Cape Jourimain Nature Centre is the most recent tourist attraction along the southeastern edge of New Brunswick to face an uncertain future because of cuts to provincial funding.

The centre in Bayfield is the last stop in New Brunswick before the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island.

It was built, in part, with a stimulus package given to help the community after heavy job losses when the Marine Atlantic ferry crossing was closed and the bridge was opened in 1997.

Susan Purdy, the chair of the board of directors, said the centre only heard recently about the funding cut.

"We received a letter on May 13 indicating to us that the province was no longer going to contribute $50,000 to our operating costs."

Cape Jourimain Nature Centre is scheduled to open Friday. 

Susan Purdy, chairman of the board of directors for the Cape Jourimain Nature Centre, said they heard about the funding cut via a letter on May 13. (CBC)

"At this late date, it's difficult," said Purdy.

She said the centre plans to employ its regular 22 seasonal employees, but their hours may be less than expected, and the centre's restaurant will not open this year.

"At the moment we are doing what we can to plan ahead, but if we get halfway through the season and our books are not balancing, then we're going to have to look where we can save money."

On May 13, less than 3 weeks before opening, the centre received a letter indicating that the province was no longer going to contribute $50,000 to their operating costs. 0:54

Bill Prescott, a fellow board of directors member, said it was "almost like disaster" when they received the news they wouldn't be getting the funding.

"We're a non-profit, so we operate generally close to the zero line. Losing that amount from the province last-minute was a very critical thing for us," Prescott said.

He said they're just trying to survive now. 

"I don't think we can survive if we don't get some more income."

Sally Smart, the operations manager, said the centre receives between 60,000 to 70,000 visitors between late May to early October.

Sally Smart, the operations manager for Cape Jourimain Nature Centre, said the provincial funding helped them stay open.

The $50,000 allowed them to stay open, and losing it means they'll have to find money elsewhere, she said.

"I just hope that everybody understands that we're going to make it through this budget cut and we're still here," Smart said.

Green Party MLA Megan Mitton told the legislature that the spending cut follows other blows to tourism in her riding. 

"The people of this region are feeling abandoned."

Megan Mitton, the Green Party MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar, says the people of her riding feel abandoned after cuts to tourist destinations such as the information centre in Aulac this year. (CBC)

She said a plan to privatize the operation of Murray Beach Provincial Park has many residents in the area concerned, and the closest tourist information centre, which is in Aulac, was closed this year, she said.

"The past government shut down the tourist bureau there, and now [the centre's] funding has been cut, putting it at risk," said Mitton, who represents Memramcook-Tantramar. 

But Purdy said the centre will put a push on for more donations.

"We've survived a lot of licks, we've decided to treat this one as another one."

The nature centre was established after the Confederation Bridge and the disappearance of the ferry service to P.E.I. put people out of work. (Gail Harding/CBC)

On Cape Jourimain's opening day, Tourism Minister Robert Gauvin said the cuts were made on the advice of the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture.

Gauvin added, "If you cut $50,000 and the place is in jeopardy, you have to question the numbers."

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story said Department of Tourism Heritage and Culture would not make anyone available for an interview. In fact, Tourism Minister Robert Gauvin provided a comment, which has been added.
    Jun 03, 2019 1:11 PM AT

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