What most cross-country skiers have taken for granted for many years was ripped out of their wintery grasp in the late fall of 2012. A rumour surfaced that Parks Canada was cutting back on its usual winter services, including ski trail maintenance, in most of Canada’s national parks. As media revelations became more pronounced, the rumours more or less confirmed that federal government budget cuts were taking their toll on national parks. Winter in the parks was going to be cancelled!
This disturbing news galvanized local Saskatoon Nordic skier Dave McGrane, who loves to take his family skiing in Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert National Park. He got a petition going, rousing cross-country skiers to request Parks Canada to reverse their withdrawal of ski trail grooming in PANP. The petition attracted 2585 signatures. According to Dave, about 60% were Saskatoon supporters, which gives us some idea of how popular skiing in PANP is for Saskatoon residents!
As a result of the petition and letters, emails, calls, and negotiations by other concerned park users and local groups, the Park Superintendent agreed to allow local volunteers organized by the Waskesiu Chamber of Commerce to use Parks equipment to re-start grooming ski trails. It was a remarkable but welcome development to at least restore some of what had been on the chopping block; remarkable in the sense of permitting volunteers to provide a park service using parks equipment! Currently, the PANP trail report shows a total of 50 kilometres of groomed ski trails.
But the battle is not over. The Occupy Movement has inspired a winter incarnation, aptly and naturally called Occupy Winter! It’s a movement to pressure Parks Canada and the Federal Minister of the Environment to restore funding so that all national parks can continue to be four seasons destinations. This recent initiative had its kick-off event this past weekend (Jan. 19-20) in Manitoba’s Riding Mountain National Park. The “Occupy Winter – We ♥ our Fourth Season” event was organized by Celes Davar who operates Earth Rhythms – an ecotourism company located close to Riding Mountain.
Celes has also started a petition with a national appeal focusing on the parks providing services for winter visitors. He presents several cogent arguments on why this is important for Canada’s image and for the economy. Celes is an out-of-the-box thinker and his petition presents several creative suggestions on how the funding roadblocks could be overcome to allow four seasons visitation to continue in our National Parks. The link to his on-line petition is below. It is well worth signing if you are a lover of the fourth season!