Nfld. & Labrador

Gros Morne gets federal cash for campgrounds, Trout River salmon

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced $4.2-million for a number of projects within the national park on Friday morning.

$4.2 million announced for fixing 3 campgrounds, helping ailing salmon river, and boosting local tourism group

MP Gudie Hutchings and Minister Catherine McKenna were on hand at the park for Friday's funding announcement. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

Three campgrounds in Gros Morne National Park, along with an ailing salmon population and a tourism group, are benefiting from federal cash announced on Friday.

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna announced $4.2-million in funding for several different projects, in front of a large contingent of Parks Canada staff and others at the park's Visitor's Centre.

Of that money, $626,000 is going toward a project hoping to reverse a troubling decline in the Trout River salmon stock. At the last official count two years ago, only 13 adult salmon were spotted, putting the fish close to the point of no return.

"When you're down around 13 adult salmon that could actually spawn, it causes a lot of concern for most people," said Trevor Rendell, the superintendent of Gros Morne National Park.

"We're at a critical point in time, and the funding couldn't have come at a better time for us."

The eponymous waterway in Trout River only saw 13 adult salmon return to spawn at the last official count two years ago. (Parks Canada)

The project's goal is to boost that baker's dozen to between 55 and 90 adult fish, Rendell said.

In its planning phase for this year, park staff will work with researchers from Memorial University's Bonne Bay Marine Centre to raise salmon in captivity and release them into Trout River over the next few seasons, a methodology that has worked for other salmon rivers.

Similar projects are also underway at three national parks in the Maritimes: Fundy, Cape Breton Highlands and Kouchibouguac.

Community buy in

While Rendell couldn't point definitively to any one factor that caused trouble for the Trout River salmon in the first place, he said poaching has been a problem in the past.

"We're putting that behind us. We're looking forward in a positive light," he said.

Trevor Rendell is the superintendent of Gros Morne National Park. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

There is "absolutely" community buy-in for the project, he said, adding council is involved and students from the local school, Jakeman All Grade, will be helping to release the adult fish into the river.

"We believe we can make an impact, we believe we can revitalize that fish population," said Rendell.

The mayor of Trout River agreed that his community is on board to bring the salmon back from the brink.

"We're going to try to rebuild the salmon stocks, and I think it's good for everybody," said Horace Crocker.

"The town is willing to help out Parks Canada."

Cash for camping

Crocker had another reason to smile at the announcement: the Trout River Parks Canada campground is one of three campgrounds that will receive the bulk of Friday's funding, to the tune of $2.6 million.

While the campground itself is in OK shape, said Crocker, the day use area and campground are "deplorable."

"It was put there years and years ago, haven't been anything done with it since. So now, it's going to get a kick, and it's good for the locals and tourism," he said.

Horace Crocker, the mayor of Trout River, says his community wants to help restore the salmon population. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

The Lomond and Shallow Bay campgrounds will also get upgrades to their day use areas, kitchens and washrooms, similar to recent renovations at the Berry Hill and Green Point campgrounds. 

The beginning stages of work for that are expected to begin this summer. 

"My view is, if we want people to be really committed to protecting nature, we need them to be out in nature," said Minister McKenna, also pointing to the mental health benefits of spending time outdoors.

The Shallow Bay campground is one of the three campgrounds getting new infrastructure for its day use area, kitchen and washroom. (Parks Canada)

The Gros Morne Institute for Sustainable Tourism also received close to $1-million, to create a training program for local tourism operators, with a focus on culinary tourism.

"The environment and the economy go together. This investment here will help with tourism, it'll help increase the offering," said McKenna.

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