Saskatoon

Future funding uncertain for Meewasin Valley Authority following provincial budget

Saskatchewan is reviewing funding to the Meewasin Valley Authority and Wascana Centre and the minister of parks says everything is on the table, including the possibility of ending provincial grants to those parks.

Provincial government funds 20 per cent of Meewasin's budget

The Meewasin Valley Authority trails along Spadina Crescent East. (CBC News)

Following the provincial government's funding cut to five urban parks in Saskatchewan, the Meewasin Valley Authority in Saskatoon is hoping they're not the next one to get chopped.

In Wednesday's budget the province said it was terminating grants to five urban parks in Saskatchewan, saving the province $540,000. The parks affected are in Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Prince Albert, the Battlefords and Weyburn.

Mark Docherty, the minister responsible for parks, said provincial funding for Saskatoon's Meewasin Valley and Regina's Wascana Centre is under review.

This is the first we've heard about potential cuts.- Lloyd Isaak

"Both parks are being reviewed," Docherty said. "But right now, their funding is stable."

He added that one option is ending provincial funding altogether for those parks.

"Stop paying," Docherty said, stressing the province would not close the parks.

The possibility of a funding cut, however, caught Meewasin's CEO Lloyd Isaak by surprise.

"This is the first we've heard about potential cuts. We've been working with the ministry since December 2014 about a review of our statutory funding model in keeping step with growth," Isaak said Wednesday. "So today, hearing that all those options are on the table is a bit of a surprise and certainly something we'll have to try and work through."
Saskatoon's Meewasin Valley Authority (CBC)

Currently the province funds about 20 per cent of Meewasin's budget. The City of Saskatoon, the University of Saskatchewan and donations cover the rest. In 2015 the park had a total budget of $4.5 million.

Future unknown

Isaak said that over the past several years, with the amount of growth in Saskatoon, the park's annual budget has been stretched thin. He said the board will have to take a hard look at their vision for the park's future if they lose provincial funding.

"I don't know what the future holds in terms of the funding model and the work Meewasin does," Isaak said. "Certainly it's something I believe has a great deal of value and the river valley is our biggest identifier for the quality of life in Saskatoon."

Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison, who is on the Meewasin Valley Authority board of directors, said he did not want to react hastily to the news of a review.

He said if provincial money is cut, the authority will have to put together a business plan so that the park is viable into the future.

Recently, the Meewasin has worked on preserving the northeast swale, which is just outside of the city limits. The park also has a program to expand and improve its network of river valley trails.
The Meewasin Valley Authority has been working to conserve the northeast swale outside of Saskatoon as the city continues to plan for growth. (Meewasin Valley Authority)

A public meeting is set for Friday to discuss plans to expand a portion of the Meewasin trails by widening the path.

Corrections

  • A previous story stated that the Saskatchewan government provides 45 per cent of Meewasin Valley's total budget. In fact, it is approximately 20 per cent.
    Jun 03, 2016 3:18 PM CT

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