Winter at Riding Mountain National Park

News December 1, 2012

druwe_ridingmtstart11Winter at Riding Mountain National Park
Original article: Friends of Riding Mountain National Park

Parks Canada preserves more than 200 national parks and historic sites across the country – places that shape our identity and heritage as Canadians. Unfortunately, these Canadian institutions are now in jeopardy. This spring the Harper Conservatives cut the budgets to Canada’s national parks and historic sites by $29 million. This has resulted in services and programs being cut across the entire country.

How does this affect Riding Mountain National Park? Basically, the Park has been given a three (3) season designation, meaning that when visitation is at its highest (July and August), staffing will be at its highest levels and facilities will be fully operational. During shoulder season and off-season, resources will be reduced and services limited. The Park’s Visitor Centre, which was open seven days a week from the May long weekend to Thanksgiving is now only open five days a week in the spring (May long weekend to Canada Day) and the fall (Labour Day to Thanksgiving). Technical staff and researchers have had their positions cut and terms of employment reduced. Outreach programs have also been cut and the protection of the Park’s wildlife has been severely hampered.

What does this mean for the Park’s winter season? Most noticeably, Park staff will no longer maintain its 153 kilometre winter trail system (142.1 km of groomed cross-country ski trails / 10.9 km of skate-ski trails). The very popular skating rink and skate trails behind the Park’s Visitor Centre have been eliminated. Parks Canada winter interpretive programs have also been cut and emergency services may not be available to those using the Park.

On the positive side, Riding Mountain National Park staff will continue to plough the highways in the Park and roads in the Wasagaming townsite, as well as the boat coves for ice fishermen to access Clear Lake. Cairns Cabin, a popular destination for winter camper will also continue, with reservations being booked through the Park’s Administration Building. Ungroomed trails are also available to skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts.

But what about groomed trails for those not wanting to break trail through deep snow? Dedicated skiers and volunteer groups from around the Park have been forced to step up and maintain some of the ski trails in Riding Mountain National Park. Volunteer agreements are still being finalized with Parks Canada, but groomed ski trails will be available in the Dauphin, McCreary, Rossburn and Moose Lake areas, as well as the Wasagaming Campground. Volunteers and groups like the Friends of RMNP organization are working with Riding Mountain National Park staff to ensure that there are still ski trails, snowshoe trails and events happening to bring people to the Park this winter and to remind visitors that this area is unique in Manitoba and that the programs and services offered at Riding Mountain National Park are important to the communities and businesses in the Parkland region.

It must be stated that the volunteers and groups that are working with Riding Mountain National Park this winter are doing so out of their love for the Park and their communities – all would prefer to have Parks Canada employees back at work, doing the jobs that they once did. Check out the Community Advocacy for Riding Mountain facebook page to keep up to date on the movement to have Ottawa reverse their cuts to Parks Canada or drop by the Friends Learning Centre (154 Columbine Street, Wasagaming) to sign our petition. If you would like to make a donation to help support the winter activities at Riding Mountain National Park, please contact the Friends office 204-848-4037 or email Tax receipts will be issued for donations over $10.00.

More information on the winter activities and ski trails at Riding Mountain National Park will be posted here Facebook page and on the Friends website as it becomes available.