Saskatchewan

Waskimo Festival cancelled this year due to damage to bird habitat

The Waskimo Festival will not be taking place in Regina this year due to concern about damage to the east shore line and bird habitat.

Festival was to take place during Family Day on Wascana Lake

The Waskimo Winter Festival will not be held in 2020, due to degrading shore line which has impacted waterfowl habitat. (CBC News)

The popular Waskimo Winter Festival which held its last three events on Wascana Lake in Regina will not take place in 2020 due to shore line degradation.

The festival had been held on the ice near the Conexus Arts Centre — an area the Saskatchewan government said is near a federally designated migratory bird sanctuary. 

"Shoreline degradation caused by the ice surface location directly impacted nesting habitat, food and protection for waterfowl," said Jonathan Tremblay, director of communications for the Ministry of Government Relations, in an emailed statement. 

"For Waskimo to continue using the ice surface in the Wascana marsh area, they would be required to apply for permits under the Aquatic Habitat Protection Program and the Migratory Bird Convention Act, both of which outline concerns with alterations to habitat."

Tremblay said the Provincial Capital Commission also offered help in the form of an on-land ice surface on the west side of Broad Street at no cost, plus $5,000 for facility rental costs.

"We are sad to see the event cancelled by the organizers, but we certainly look forward to working with them on an environmentally sustainable solution in future years," Tremblay's email said.

It was decided that the festival would be cancelled after the Waskimo board met with the government multiple times about the shore line concerns, said Jeremy Parnes, chair of the Waskimo Winter Festival committee.

"This is just the reality of having that many people on the ice at that time," Parnes said. "We are truly saddened that we are not able to do it this year."

The Regina Police Service participating in the outhouse races on the Wascana Lake ice in their "Popo potty" during the Waskimo festival in 2018. (CBC News)

Parnes said without the ice, there wouldn't be events like the skating competition and outhouse races, which would make the event a shadow of itself, so it was cancelled.

It's unclear if the festival can be moved or held in another area, Parnes said, but added the board is considering the options available.

"We're a passionate group. We don't give up easy and we don't take no for an answer," Parnes said. "So that bodes really well for our positive possibilities in 2021."

Waskimo Winter Festival was scheduled for Family Day on Feb. 17.

With files from Radio-Canada's Emmanuelle Poisson

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