Lumina Borealis cancelled after audit shows St. Lawrence Parks Commission projects bleeding money

Click to play video 'St. Lawrence Commission loses close to 1 million dollars on newly launched projects' St. Lawrence Commission loses close to 1 million dollars on newly launched projects
Lumina Borealis and Skywood Eco Adventure Park have lost nearly 1 million dollars of Ontario tax payers money – Sep 5, 2019

Two projects brought forward by the St. Lawrence Parks Commission have lost almost $1 million since they began in 2016.

An internal audit of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission completed last year showed that Lumina Borealis, a winter event held at Fort Henry, lost nearly $685,900 over three seasons, and Skywood Eco Adventure, a ropes and zip-line excursion in Mallorytown, lost over $276,000 over two seasons.

READ MORE: Fort Henry rings in the winter season with Lumina Borealis

Breakdown of the losses:

Skywood Eco Adventures:

  • 2017-2018: $118,117
  • 2018-2019: $158,140

Lumina Borealis:

  • 2016-2017: $279,000
  • 2017 – 2018: $308,000
  • 2018/2019: $98,878

According to Bob Runciman, chair of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, Lumina Borealis has been cut from the organization’s docket.

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“I think the enthusiasm got ahead of logic in many respects,” Runciman told Global News.

Runciman became the chair of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission in January of this year. He attributed the Lumina Borealis’ failure to overestimating the event’s potential market.

“You’re looking at a limited population base to draw upon and I think serious questions about the long-term implications were not looked at closely enough by the people making the decisions to bring it to Kingston and to Fort Henry,” Runciman said.

WATCH: Lumina Borealis opens at Fort Henry

Click to play video 'Lumina Borealis opens at Fort Henry' Lumina Borealis opens at Fort Henry
Lumina Borealis opens at Fort Henry – Dec 5, 2018

Runciman did say that there are no plans yet to close Skywood Eco Adventure.

I think there have been some operating decisions there as well that have impeded its ability to draw customers,” Runciman said.

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The former Senator and long-time MPP for Leeds-Grenville said that overall, marketing for the park has been limited. The park itself is hidden from view and has limited signage, and there seems to have been minimal effort to promote the park to potential customers.

READ MORE: Former senator Bob Runciman to begin new position with St. Lawrence Parks Commission

But, he says, the board is not ready to give up on the significant investment made in the zip-line park.

As for what to do with Fort Henry in the winter, Runciman says the board is currently working on ideas for a new event that won’t be such a burden on taxpayers. He believes with a new board chair, a new CEO and new auditors, the commission will be able to avoid mistakes made in the past.

In 2017, St. Lawrence Parks Commission CEO Darren Dagleish left suddenly. The board never commented on the reason for his departure, but Dagleish now heads Fort Edmonton in Alberta.

Fort Henry is now headed by Hollee Kew, a chartered accountant, who took over in late 2018. Kew was not available to comment for this story.