Expand, don't close, Chippewa wildlife park, friends group says
Thunder Bay budget calls for the exhibit to close May 1 in order to cut costs
The Friends Of Chippewa Park are taking issue with a Thunder Bay budget proposal that calls for the closure of the park's wildlife exhibit.
City administration is proposing shuttering the wildlife component, which would save an estimated $83,400 yearly, according to budget documents, although money would have to be spent to decommission it.
Food fails to lure missing bald eagle back to broken enclosure in Thunder Bay, Ont.
"I was a little bit surprised," Lorraine Lortie-Krawczuk, the president of the non-profit park stewardship group told CBC News on Wednesday.
"Mostly because we are in the middle of a visioning exercise [for the park] ... so to me it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to be in the middle of this exercise and then make decisions about the park before we get the final report."
It's not the first time the wildlife exhibit — which, according to the friends group, has been open since 1924 — has been targeted for closure during municipal budget talks.
Instead of focusing on scrapping it, Lortie-Krawczuk said the city should be expanding it.
"What we're proposing is that the city turn it into more of a conservation and rehabilitation sanctuary for animals," she said, adding that the exhibit already fulfills that role to some extent, as animals housed there have been either brought from other sanctuaries or born in captivity.
"To expand those facilities and put on an educational component, really get people to understand how these animals live, what their habitat is like, I think would be a great opportunity for tourism and for [residents]," she said.
Petition created to defer decision
Lortie-Krawczuk said upgrades she would like to see include guided tours, increased staffing and improvements to the facilities for the animals.
City manager Norm Gale told CBC News on Tuesday that proposed cuts like this are due to the city trying to restrain spending.
"We're in constraint," he said. "We're looking at a tough budget year, as we always do, and we make difficult decisions."
Lortie-Krawczuk said the friends group has created a petition to defer a decision on the exhibit for a year, until the ongoing plan for Chippewa is completed. She added that they will present the petition to city council.
"I really believe that if we had more guided programming, if we had more educational components, we would definitely see a big jump in the number of people that come out there," she said, adding that would increase the park's revenue.