The Manitoba government is creating a $20-million endowment fund for provincial parks intended to support park improvements and programming “in perpetuity.”
The fund, which will be managed by The Winnipeg Foundation, is expected to generate as much as $1 million annually. The money won’t replace existing provincial park funding Conservation and Climate Minister Sarah Guillemard said.
“Manitoba saw record volumes of campground reservations during the staggered opening of bookings this year, which demonstrates the interest and the attachment Manitobans have to their provincial parks,” said Guillemard in a government release.
“The preservation of our parks is a key component of our Made-in-Manitoba Climate and Green Plan, and this substantial investment will help ensure important park improvements and programming can continue well into the future.”
The province’s online booking system for campsites, cabins, yurts, and group-use areas has recently come under fire from users reporting long-waits and glitches.
Bookings took place in three phases, starting in early April, and each time many looking to reserve took to social media to complain about the process.
A provincial spokesperson told Global News that Manitoba’s online reservation system saw “a large volume of people” logging in and trying to book a spot when they opened, with 27,337 reservations being made by that afternoon — more than double the 13,316 reservations that were made by the same time last year.
Premier Brian Pallister said Manitobans will be able to donate to the fund, with province matching one dollar for every two dollars donated through other sources.
“Our provincial parks are precious assets that can never been taken granted. The natural beauty and recreational opportunities found in our parks has provided solace and relief for many Manitobans throughout the pandemic,” said Pallister in the release.
“Our government is making this investment in the future of our provincial parks today because their value – and their importance – has never been more apparent.”
The province says the fund will be used to pay for a variety of projects, including:
- development and maintenance of trails and boardwalks;
- improvements to amphitheatres, shelters, playground equipment, docks and launches;
- park road maintenance;
- habitat restoration and enhancement;
- historical assets and cultural sites;
- infrastructure to support programming;
- machinery and operational equipment;
- municipal servicing infrastructure;
- campground enhancements; and
- interpretive infrastructure to support programming.
While the announcement was welcome news for the Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the organization’s executive director said he was disappointed by a lack of specific plans promised by government.
“Manitobans need more campsites, trails and opportunities to enjoy nature. Unfortunately, the government has not yet committed to any specific targets for expanding park services,” said executive director, Ron Thiessen in an email to Global News.
“We are disappointed that today’s announcement did not include a commitment to establish new parks and protected areas as this is desperately needed to meet growing public demand, to conserve threatened species and to mitigate the impacts of climate change.”
According to provincial data, there are 4,051 campsites available for reservations at 46 campgrounds across Manitoba, and additional sites can also be booked in person at campgrounds that are not part of the province’s online booking service.
There are also 75 yurts in 10 campgrounds, 34 cabins in two campgrounds, and 91 group-use sites in Manitoba, according to the province.