7 provincial parks closed due to Ontario MNR budget cuts
Ministry of Natural Resources wants municipalities, community groups to run parks
Budget cuts have forced seven Ontario provincial parks to remain closed as the 2013 camping season begins.
For example, near Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls, campers looking for a site at Caliper Lake Provincial Park were out of luck this Victoria Day weekend. The park is one the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources chose to close.
Bill Thompson, the town's mayor, said his community depends on tourism.
7 Closed Parks
Municipality in brackets.
Caliper Lake (Nestor Falls)
Mississagi (Elliot Lake)
Obatanga (Wawa/White River)
The Shoals (Wawa)
"When we get 7,200 people that are not going to be able to come here anymore because they've been coming to this Caliper Lake park, it's going to have a significant effect on the number of dollars that are being spent within our community," Thompson said.
Thompson said his community already operates a park previously closed by the province. It costs local taxpayers about $50,000. The park was downloaded to the municipality in the 1990s.
The municipality took it over after a First Nations group was unable to run it.
He said Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls can't afford to run another one.
Bruce VanStaalduinen, who speaks for Ontario Parks, said that just because parks are no longer operating, it doesn't mean they can't reopen.
But he said the Ministry of Natural Resources would need help to do so.
"We're still interested in partnerships where we can find them," VanStaalduinen said. "Therefore, we're not knocking the buildings down, or taking the pipes out of the ground just yet."
He noted parks near Sioux Lookout, Ear Falls and Geraldton in northwestern Ontario are all operated now by other groups.
In the case of Caliper Lake Provincial Park, Thompson claimed the province would still own the land and run the park but the town would pay any shortfalls between revenue and expenses.
Thompson said the town would rather just take over the whole park, including the land.
Fushimi Lake, Rene Brunelle and Ivanhoe Lake parks are run by the municipalities of Hearst, Moonbeam and Timmins, respectively.
Cold weather affects 3 parks
Others parks were closed this weekend due to abnormally cold spring weather. Those parks included Quetico, White Lake and Rainbow Falls.
"The snowpack is staying around a long time, ice is on lakes, and we have had delayed openings in a number of parks in the northern part of the province," VanStaalduinen said.
He said Ouimet Canyon, just north of Thunder Bay, will stay closed until May 22, "because there's snow on the roads."
Despite the weather problems, VanStaalduinen said reservations for campsites this summer are at an all-time high.
- A previous version of this story said 10 parks were closed due to budget cuts. In fact, seven were closed due to budget cuts and three due to weather.May 20, 2013 11:08 AM ET