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Manitoba travel spots grapple with litter and parking issues with influx of visitors

Black bear spotted near Pinawa’s suspension bridge
A curious black bear was spotted snooping around a recycling bin near the suspension bridge in Pinawa, Manitoba, early in July.

More Manitobans are choosing to stay in the province to enjoy the summer, but that influx has left communities with overflowing garbage bins, parking concerns and issues with wildlife.

In Pinawa, tubing down the channel in a natural lazy river is a top attraction, drawing thousands of tourists each weekend.

Read more: In-province tourism key to Manitoba success during pandemic, Destination Canada says

Blair Skinner, the mayor of Pinawa, says the area has seen more tourists than ever before.

“We’ve already had a growing number of visitors each year but this year has been more than anybody would have forecast and almost certainly that’s due to the desire of Manitobans to vacation in Manitoba this year,” he said.

“Fifteen-hundred people a day coming in on a hot summer weekend day, our population is 1,500 so that’s a pretty significant influx of people.”

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Visitors going to the Pinawa suspension bridge and to float down the Pinawa Channel parking on the road.
Visitors going to the Pinawa suspension bridge and to float down the Pinawa Channel parking on the road. David Kryschuk

Skinner says council had to start charging for parking this past weekend — $20 per car — because of the increase in the number of cars and vehicles blocking the roadway.

“We hired an events security management company to handle it this past weekend and it went very, very well,” he said.

“It’s the same issues we’ve been having all along but greater. So we’ve had to hire students to spend additional time emptying garbage and recycling and also picking up litter in the tourist areas. We’ve had to add considerably more washroom facilities and the amount of traffic has been a huge increasee, particularly with parking.”

Piles of garbage

Robert Hayes lives in Pinawa and was walking to the bridge when he noticed litter lining the walkway.

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“There was some garbage that was off the trail and we just started picking it up,” he said.

“We came upon the corner to where you step up towards the gazebo and we encountered a smaller, kind of scrawny bear. It startled us and we startled it. It came back and went into the garbage.”

Hayes says there have been more bear sightings in the area this summer.

“A lot of garbage does get left out. It’s an issue with the town and rightfully so. We get an influx of people. Right now it’s a good attraction, the channel is good and the town is a wonderful town. But there is a lot of garbage that ends up in the ditches and, of course, that garbage is going to attract wildlife.”

Riding Mountain National Park was also seeing the issue of litter and wants people to understand when trash is left out, it threatens the health of the animals and the park.

The national park posted on Facebook that garbage has been seen at picnic sites, on trails and beside garbage bins.

“The garbage attracts bears and ruins this place for others. If bears gain access to human food, they become less afraid of people, over time, this puts their life at risk. Help us keep the wildlife wild and the views pristine,” the post read.

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The influx of visitors is happening across the province.

In the Whiteshell Provincial Park, Shaun Harbottle, the owner of Crescent Beach Cottages, says garbage is left frequently by weekend visitors.

“It’s frustrating. It’s normal, people don’t know where to put it. Part of the problem is there’s probably not enough pickup of the garbage throughout the day. It is busy out here. I mean, we are emptying our garbage at the ice cream shop two or three times a day,” he said.

“The other thing we are seeing with infrastructure is people are putting rubber gloves down the toilets or putting baby wipes down the toilets and it’s plugging up the sewer infrastructure as well… People need to be cognizant of it to leave the park better than they found it.”

Read more: Manitoba woman survives run-in with black bear at Riding Mountain National Park — ‘I’m lucky’

Blaine Guenther, the owner of Nopiming Lodge in the Whiteshell, says he’s shocked at how many tourists are coming to the area.

“There’s been a huge, huge influx of people. More than I’ve seen. I’ve owned the lodge for 40 years and I’ve seen a huge influx of people this summer. I’ve never seen it this busy,” he said.

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With the influx of visitors, Guenther says he’s noticed an influx of garbage and issues.

“I would call them inconsiderate guests,” he said.

“Here’s the problem: (Manitoba Parks) doesn’t provide enough staff for this influx of people that are coming in. They’re overwhelmed as it is… If you’re going to leave garbage out you’re going to have a bear problem.”

Manitoba looking to attract travellers
Manitoba looking to attract travellers