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PostPosted: March 9th, 2021, 4:20 pm 
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It recently came to my attention that as of April 2020, a flat-rate price was adopted for the backcountry in some parks, namely the Temagami cluster of parks (Lady-Evelyn Smoothwater, Solace, Makobe-Grays, Obabika, Sturgeon River) and The Massasagua, where a backcountry site now costs $32.50/night regardless of party size. Instead of paying ~$9/person (except Algonquin which is $11 I believe), it's now this flat rate.

I contacted the park super who confirmed this:
"Ontario Parks is moving from the current per-person-per-night fee to a flat-per-campsite fee model for backcountry camping. By doing so we are streamlining the backcountry fee structure across the province and making it consistent with our car camping fee model."

This wording also gives the impression that this pricing is going to be phased in across OP--not just in these parks. I got this impression elsewhere in our discussion as well.

So if you're a soloist, you're effectively paying almost quadruple the normal rate for a party of 1 (or triple where the rate is $11). If you're a group of larger than four, you profit. Why is this policy penalizing soloists? Some people are loners, some are lonely. Why should they be punished? We paddlers are, for the most part, not rich. I hoped to go to one of these parks on a 7-10 days solo this year but now I'm not sure if it's financially justifiable.

Yes, a soloist is occupying a site that could have been occupied by multiple rate payers, but this flat rate now approaches the cost of a front-country/car camping campsite with all the staffing and infrastructure involved in maintaining those facilities (e.g. washrooms, paved roads, significant staffing requirements, signage). Does that seem fair when a backcountry site may have no infrastructure at all, and given how little funding there is for maintenance of routes from the province? I realize there are some costs in maintaining backcountry routes, but they can't be close to the costs of campground sites.

Pricing should be tiered to make it financially accessible for all. At least into groups, if not by person like it was (and still is in other parks). For instance, a group up to 2 people, up to 4, up to 9. I could tolerate paying the 2-person fee on my own, but this flat rate is exorbitant for soloists.

I asked where public input could be sent about this. The Temagami super passed me along to the manager of operations for OP Northeast to discuss further. He gave the same rationale and said that public feedback could be sent to him.

I intend to campaign against this policy but before I do (and before I provide this person's contact info), I would really appreciate CCR members' feedback and thoughts on this. This policy seems needless and unjustified to me.

Am I missing some other considerations or do you agree that this policy is unfair and unwarranted?

Jon


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PostPosted: March 9th, 2021, 5:00 pm 
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Hey Jon,
This was discussed last year on this thread I believe.

https://www.myccr.com/phpbbforum/viewto ... mping+fees

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PostPosted: March 9th, 2021, 6:17 pm 
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That's crazy... Out here (AB) its $12 per person but alot of cases its zero. The National parks are still a per person - about $10 I believe.
I most like paddling Saskatchewan - no fees there either (at least where I go)

Heck, even the prestigious Bowron circuit in BC is only $60 pp for up to 2 weeks.

Ontario is getting stranger if your fees and taxes start to eclipse that of BC...

I had my eye on WCPP but certainly not if they slap a fee structure like what you describe


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PostPosted: March 9th, 2021, 6:25 pm 
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Just read the other thread too. Looks like a money grab to me. Being a curmudgen, I have never payed for a night of canoe camping in my life. At those rates, on a multi-day trip, people from Southern Ontario would be better off driving up here for Crown Land routes. What kind of numbers is the first on-line petition showing now? In my experience, on-line petitions have no impact on politicians.

Perhaps some local sympathetic MPP's might yield some results, but I doubt it.


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PostPosted: March 9th, 2021, 8:18 pm 
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While I don't like the cost and the impact it has on solo campers, I can see why it's happening from more than just a cash grab perspective. Essentially, a flat-rate fee eases the burden on Park Wardens and creates a consistent revenue stream for an organization that is striving to be self-sufficient (97% of OP operating costs come from user fees, 3% from taxation, with a goal of being 100% self-sufficient).

I suspect there's a significant number of people who are abusing the "honour" system that's involved in having people self-report how many people are in their party when booking and paying for a reservation. E.g: I make a reservation and pay the rate for one person and then take 9 instead, so my $99/night group trip becomes $11/night. While it is theoretically possible for Park Wardens to enforce this, its virtually impossible logistically due to lack of staffing and the size of the patrol areas covered by PWs. It's difficult for gate attendants (who have no legislative authority) to address it, as they would either have to call a front country PW to address the issue before the party launches or a PW team has to chase the party into the backcountry - not very efficient nor practical.

If this suspicion is correct, there's no way of addressing the issue without increasing user fees to some degree. Ontario Parks needs the revenue for legitimate purposes, so instances of individuals/groups abusing the system hurt us all. Ontario Parks already runs a skeleton crew of Park Wardens (~400 seasonal PWs responsible for over 300 PPs). A PW on North Tea Lake told me there's four of them responsible for the entire northwest corner of the park, from the Nipissing River at the Western boundary to the Brent access and all the lakes in between. It's simply impossible for them to adequately address this problem with that few staff, and hiring more PWs to the tune of $15,000 (pay for a 16 week contract, not including training costs which are substantial) would have a significant impact on user fees as well.

Being familiar with the academic literature on the topic of funding parks and protected areas, Ontario Parks striving for self-sufficiency has pros and cons. The upside of this model is that it keeps the organization from being a victim of the political happenings of the province. IE: No government can cut the budget of an agency that doesn't receive a provincially funded budget in the first place. Further, it means that only those who use the system pay for its services, which is seen as fair if you don't consider the environmental benefits associated with protecting lands and the economic benefits associated with the tourism economy in areas near popular parks. The downside is obvious, if the agency is acting like a corporate entity, maximizing profitability becomes the first objective and the supplementary (albeit raison d'être) goals of the organization like environmental protection and the provision of recreation opportunities often take a side seat.

Overall, I don't like the changes but I understand why they're happening. I'll still solo camp in provincial parks because I believe the agency still serves to protect valuable environmental and recreational resources, however I worry about the ramifications this will have on other recreational resources like crown land and non-operational parks. Between this, the issues with reservation competition, and the growing occurrence of bad-etiquette campers, there will surely be an impact on other areas. I don't think this is a cash grab as much as it is creating efficiencies in the system, although the end result on the solo user isn't much different.

I didn't intend for this to become a ramble and I hope it doesn't read that way. Access to sustainable recreation is both an academic and a personal passion of mine, of which this is a pressing debate. Despite my background in researching similar topics, I wish to end by saying that this is by no means only way this issue can be looked at. If there's another way to have a self-sufficient parks org. (which is invaluable if done right) while still keeping fees for solo travellers reasonable, I would be ecstatic to learn it and would support it wholeheartedly.


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PostPosted: March 9th, 2021, 9:08 pm 
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Let me repost something I posted in this thread that I think is very relevant here - the point being that somebody at the top thinks that every park can be run exactly like Algonquin.

I wrote:
Generally, I have the feeling that someone new at Ontario Parks has taken it upon themselves to "streamline the Ontario Parks user experience", or something along those lines, under the assumption that every park can be run like Algonquin or Killbear. I have noticed with the new reservation system a general trend to making things more centralized. They're pushing e-gift cards (really? who actually buys those?) quite hard. They've cancelled contracts with local retailers who, until 2019, were able to fill out an old paper permit at their location. I had that happen to me last year at Algonquin access #15 by Kingscote Lake - I was told I need to call the park or book online - and this is in an area with no cellular service. This tells me someone is making decisions and pushing them through without fully considering all the effects it may have on such a large and complex system. You can't make a same day reservation after 2PM online or over the phone either, which coupled with the disappearance of non-reservable sites, has made it very difficult to do a road trip and just go to whatever park the road takes you to. I'll miss that.

Of course, the success of such a system should be measured by the user experience, given that this is, for all intents and purposes, a government service (although fully self funded). I have a suspicion though, that it is instead being measured by revenue, which during this pandemic, will present a very biased picture of how happy people are with the "new" way of doing things.

Anyway, that's my rant and my opinion. Don't take it the wrong way, I do think we have one of the finest park systems in the world in Ontario (if a bit pricey), but it's not without its problems. The only way to improve it is to write the parks directly, have a fireside chat with a superintendent, or better yet, write your MPP.

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PostPosted: March 9th, 2021, 9:34 pm 
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Jfpaddler wrote:
While I don't like the cost and the impact it has on solo campers, I can see why it's happening from more than just a cash grab perspective. Essentially, a flat-rate fee eases the burden on Park Wardens and creates a consistent revenue stream for an organization that is striving to be self-sufficient (97% of OP operating costs come from user fees, 3% from taxation, with a goal of being 100% self-sufficient).

I suspect there's a significant number of people who are abusing the "honour" system that's involved in having people self-report how many people are in their party when booking and paying for a reservation. E.g: I make a reservation and pay the rate for one person and then take 9 instead, so my $99/night group trip becomes $11/night. While it is theoretically possible for Park Wardens to enforce this, its virtually impossible logistically due to lack of staffing and the size of the patrol areas covered by PWs. It's difficult for gate attendants (who have no legislative authority) to address it, as they would either have to call a front country PW to address the issue before the party launches or a PW team has to chase the party into the backcountry - not very efficient nor practical.

If this suspicion is correct, there's no way of addressing the issue without increasing user fees to some degree. Ontario Parks needs the revenue for legitimate purposes, so instances of individuals/groups abusing the system hurt us all. Ontario Parks already runs a skeleton crew of Park Wardens (~400 seasonal PWs responsible for over 300 PPs). A PW on North Tea Lake told me there's four of them responsible for the entire northwest corner of the park, from the Nipissing River at the Western boundary to the Brent access and all the lakes in between. It's simply impossible for them to adequately address this problem with that few staff, and hiring more PWs to the tune of $15,000 (pay for a 16 week contract, not including training costs which are substantial) would have a significant impact on user fees as well.

Being familiar with the academic literature on the topic of funding parks and protected areas, Ontario Parks striving for self-sufficiency has pros and cons. The upside of this model is that it keeps the organization from being a victim of the political happenings of the province. IE: No government can cut the budget of an agency that doesn't receive a provincially funded budget in the first place. Further, it means that only those who use the system pay for its services, which is seen as fair if you don't consider the environmental benefits associated with protecting lands and the economic benefits associated with the tourism economy in areas near popular parks. The downside is obvious, if the agency is acting like a corporate entity, maximizing profitability becomes the first objective and the supplementary (albeit raison d'être) goals of the organization like environmental protection and the provision of recreation opportunities often take a side seat.

Overall, I don't like the changes but I understand why they're happening. I'll still solo camp in provincial parks because I believe the agency still serves to protect valuable environmental and recreational resources, however I worry about the ramifications this will have on other recreational resources like crown land and non-operational parks. Between this, the issues with reservation competition, and the growing occurrence of bad-etiquette campers, there will surely be an impact on other areas. I don't think this is a cash grab as much as it is creating efficiencies in the system, although the end result on the solo user isn't much different.

I didn't intend for this to become a ramble and I hope it doesn't read that way. Access to sustainable recreation is both an academic and a personal passion of mine, of which this is a pressing debate. Despite my background in researching similar topics, I wish to end by saying that this is by no means only way this issue can be looked at. If there's another way to have a self-sufficient parks org. (which is invaluable if done right) while still keeping fees for solo travellers reasonable, I would be ecstatic to learn it and would support it wholeheartedly.


Nonsense!

A flat-rate fee that increases costs for groups of 1-3 travelers while reducing the costs for groups of 4-9 travelers does nothing to ease the burden on Park Wardens and does nothing to guarantee a net positive to your bottom line. The impact large groups have on the park is drastically greater than the impact of a solo or tandem traveler. All the garbage, environmental impact, damage, noise, and behavior issues that comes with a larger group is being subsidized by the solo and tandem traveler. This policy will just encourage more erosion and abuses to our parks. Let's save a buck a cram everyone into one site! This further idea that the park system is overrun by campers who book 1 permit and sneak in 9 campers is Red Herring. The campers that cheat the system will always cheat the system. Just bump the permits fees across the board. Raise them all $5 or $10. That will far more reliably and fairly generate revenue.

Also this is entirely politically motivated and follows the current governments mandate. Ontario Parks IS a victim of a political happening. Too late for a change in fees structure to prevent it from being a victim of the political happening.


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PostPosted: March 9th, 2021, 11:03 pm 
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Couldn't agree more with you Martin. I had a conversation with a park ranger in Temagami last summer about this (while he was asking if my father and I had our permits) While he didn't so much as disagree with the new fee structure, he did say that he could "clearly understand" how it was unfair to solo and pair campers. I asked him if he thought this would lead to more solo paddlers simply taking their chances and not getting permits. He shrugged....
Maybe that's why he was checking if we had ours.

I'm with you on your campaign efforts Jon


Last edited by Canoe Daddy on March 9th, 2021, 11:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: March 9th, 2021, 11:04 pm 
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MartinG wrote:
Jfpaddler wrote:
While I don't like the cost and the impact it has on solo campers, I can see why it's happening from more than just a cash grab perspective. Essentially, a flat-rate fee eases the burden on Park Wardens and creates a consistent revenue stream for an organization that is striving to be self-sufficient (97% of OP operating costs come from user fees, 3% from taxation, with a goal of being 100% self-sufficient).

I suspect there's a significant number of people who are abusing the "honour" system that's involved in having people self-report how many people are in their party when booking and paying for a reservation. E.g: I make a reservation and pay the rate for one person and then take 9 instead, so my $99/night group trip becomes $11/night. While it is theoretically possible for Park Wardens to enforce this, its virtually impossible logistically due to lack of staffing and the size of the patrol areas covered by PWs. It's difficult for gate attendants (who have no legislative authority) to address it, as they would either have to call a front country PW to address the issue before the party launches or a PW team has to chase the party into the backcountry - not very efficient nor practical.

If this suspicion is correct, there's no way of addressing the issue without increasing user fees to some degree. Ontario Parks needs the revenue for legitimate purposes, so instances of individuals/groups abusing the system hurt us all. Ontario Parks already runs a skeleton crew of Park Wardens (~400 seasonal PWs responsible for over 300 PPs). A PW on North Tea Lake told me there's four of them responsible for the entire northwest corner of the park, from the Nipissing River at the Western boundary to the Brent access and all the lakes in between. It's simply impossible for them to adequately address this problem with that few staff, and hiring more PWs to the tune of $15,000 (pay for a 16 week contract, not including training costs which are substantial) would have a significant impact on user fees as well.

Being familiar with the academic literature on the topic of funding parks and protected areas, Ontario Parks striving for self-sufficiency has pros and cons. The upside of this model is that it keeps the organization from being a victim of the political happenings of the province. IE: No government can cut the budget of an agency that doesn't receive a provincially funded budget in the first place. Further, it means that only those who use the system pay for its services, which is seen as fair if you don't consider the environmental benefits associated with protecting lands and the economic benefits associated with the tourism economy in areas near popular parks. The downside is obvious, if the agency is acting like a corporate entity, maximizing profitability becomes the first objective and the supplementary (albeit raison d'être) goals of the organization like environmental protection and the provision of recreation opportunities often take a side seat.

Overall, I don't like the changes but I understand why they're happening. I'll still solo camp in provincial parks because I believe the agency still serves to protect valuable environmental and recreational resources, however I worry about the ramifications this will have on other recreational resources like crown land and non-operational parks. Between this, the issues with reservation competition, and the growing occurrence of bad-etiquette campers, there will surely be an impact on other areas. I don't think this is a cash grab as much as it is creating efficiencies in the system, although the end result on the solo user isn't much different.

I didn't intend for this to become a ramble and I hope it doesn't read that way. Access to sustainable recreation is both an academic and a personal passion of mine, of which this is a pressing debate. Despite my background in researching similar topics, I wish to end by saying that this is by no means only way this issue can be looked at. If there's another way to have a self-sufficient parks org. (which is invaluable if done right) while still keeping fees for solo travellers reasonable, I would be ecstatic to learn it and would support it wholeheartedly.


Nonsense!

A flat-rate fee that increases costs for groups of 1-3 travelers while reducing the costs for groups of 4-9 travelers does nothing to ease the burden on Park Wardens and does nothing to guarantee a net positive to your bottom line. The impact large groups have on the park is drastically greater than the impact of a solo or tandem traveler. All the garbage, environmental impact, damage, noise, and behavior issues that comes with a larger group is being subsidized by the solo and tandem traveler. This policy will just encourage more erosion and abuses to our parks. Let's save a buck a cram everyone into one site! This further idea that the park system is overrun by campers who book 1 permit and sneak in 9 campers is Red Herring. The campers that cheat the system will always cheat the system. Just bump the permits fees across the board. Raise them all $5 or $10. That will far more reliably and fairly generate revenue.

Also this is entirely politically motivated and follows the current governments mandate. Ontario Parks IS a victim of a political happening. Too late for a change in fees structure to prevent it from being a victim of the political happening.


I see your points and do not disagree on some, others I might. This is bearing in mind that we’re ultimately on the same team. As I mentioned, I don’t like the costs on solo travellers caused by this policy either. I simply don’t believe this is a only a malicious cash-grab that serves no other function to the organization. To add, I don’t think this policy is practical beyond the busy parks like Killarney, Algonquin, the Mass, Frontenac, and Kawartha Highlands. This works at primarily front country parks that have some junior-backcountry paddle in sites like Bon Echo, Grundy. Rolling this out at places like Quetico and other wilderness class parks is bizarre and impractical. I’d support this policy wholeheartedly if it were reserved to the busy natural environments and not in the wilderness class.

Out of curiosity, what makes you so sure that it isn’t common for people to play the system by sneaking people on to permits when it is so easy to do with very little chance of being caught? While COVID accelerated the progression, Ontario Parks has and will continue to reduce the need to obtain physical permits at the access point, one of the few ‘lines of defence’ at monitoring who is and isn’t entering the park. For this reason alone a flat rate fee of some kind (although less than what’s proposed) makes sense, same as it does for car camping.

Like it or not, the push for self sufficiency has been a work in progress for years, well beyond the current government. This has been a work in progress since the agency adopted the corporate model in the 90s.


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PostPosted: March 10th, 2021, 7:19 am 
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Thanks Rab, I was shocked to not find anything...must've searched the wrong keywords.

Same here Rob...have rarely ever camped in paid parks. The cost already made me just go to crown land instead. Now with this, if I go to Temagami, I'll likely just paddle in the crown land around Lady E where I was considering paying for once. So the policy will lose them my money.

Jfpaddler, this policy could have a similar butterfly effect that increases the rate of cheating the system. Now instead of lying about party size, maybe people try to get through their trip with no permit at all because it's unaffordable. There's still a very small chance of being caught. I'm guessing they've realized that they have more small parties of 1-2 than they do of 5+, so they figure it'll bring them closer to self-sufficiency---but it's unfair for it to be on the backs of soloists.

Martin, I thought the same about the impact of large groups...didn't want to generalize but I have to agree. Going to a campsite after you or me solo vs. a site that's just had a big group on it...it tends to be pretty apparent.

My impression is that this "two-year trial" is just a way of getting us used to it before they roll it out province-wide and that would be unacceptable.

Thanks for the feedback all--apologies for the duplicate thread but it's good we're talking about it again. I'm confident in moving forward in a campaign against this now.

If anyone is looking, email the minister here: minister.mecp@ontario.ca
Find and email your MPP here: https://www.ola.org/en/members/current/ ... nformation
Sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/jeff-yurek-min ... in-ontario

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PostPosted: March 10th, 2021, 8:41 am 
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Jonathan Kelly wrote:
Jfpaddler, this policy could have a similar butterfly effect that increases the rate of cheating the system. Now instead of lying about party size, maybe people try to get through their trip with no permit at all because it's unaffordable. There's still a very small chance of being caught.


Fine for unlawfully occupying campsite is $125.00. Why would a solo paddler pay $42 a night in permit fees. Thanks! Here's another question, is it even legal to raise the prices of a service from $10.43/night to $42/night in one year? Sounds like Price Gouging. With such a drastic increase shouldn't the government take action to protect consumers from the government! :lol:

More contacts:

The individual directing this rollout:
Greg Wake, operations and development office, Ontario Parks. 705 927- 2861 greg.wake@ontario.ca

The Minister in Charge
Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. 416-314-6790 jeff.yurek@pc.ola.org

If you are located in Elgin-Middlesex-London and disagree with this policy remember Jeff Yurek at election time.


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PostPosted: March 10th, 2021, 9:45 am 
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Last year I assembled a petition and sent it to the appropriate minister on this subject. No response.

I then called the MPP who acts as the minsters assistant (somewhere around Peterborough). The instructions were to communicate directly to the MNR via an 800 number. It was the same number I've called before, and received no response.

The next step was to visit my local MPP. The woman I spoke to had no particular knowledge of back-country camping, and didn't want any. She preferred to talk about her trailer. I finally got her to fill out a form, which she said she would send to the MNR. But she allowed that they may not answer. She would call me if they did. I'm still waiting.

Over several years I have occasionally received sub-standard treatment at the hands of the MNR, and written to the office to protest. No response.

I too have concluded that new blood has arrived at the MNR. My guess is that it probably arrived in the form of a desk jockey with a fresh MBA, having no experience with or interest in back-country or solo tripping. Apparently all they see is dollars.

In my view the new fees are exorbitant and extortionist and will effectively bar solo trippers from an activity that is widely known to be good for both physical and mental health, as well as being healing for the soul.

I agree that that we're seeing is the thin edge of the wedge, and that the government will be true to its nature and think it has a new cash cow. This will extend throughout the parks system in short order. Perhaps another petition is in order.


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PostPosted: March 10th, 2021, 10:01 am 
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Ontario Parks is no longer under the MNRF. Parks are under Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

Its been this way for 2 years I believe.


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PostPosted: March 10th, 2021, 10:52 am 
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Jf & Martin
Interesting points of view.

As a former Ontarian I do miss the forests/paddling of the area but if those prices are the norm I'll stay where I'm at.

I've never been to the more northern areas of Tamagami, Quetico etc. Are they really that busy that this needs to be done?
I'm thinking a double edge sword situation could occur in that if the users are costed out of using the park (and going to crown land instead) then you eventually will lose the park due to decreased visitors and in the end less $.

I don't see any of the other provinces doing this but I imagine you do have more visitors to the parks just because of the higher population density


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PostPosted: March 10th, 2021, 11:37 am 
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I received replies last year from several emails wrt this but they did seem to be of the canned response variety... and no follow ups of any sort indicating that the matter hadn't received any attention higher up on the political ladder. Possibly the attitude in Queen's Park is "Don't bother us about these insignificant trifles now, there are bigger things going on that need our full and undivided attention"... maybe.

My gut tells me that with the pandemic difficulties and the overspending that's been necessary to overcome that, the Ontario government finds itself in a very bad debt situation looking forward... which jeopardizes the sustainability of parks services and operations since these run on money. This "streamlining" may an attempt to automate the services to the extent that it will cost less to operate the parks the new way. Taken further it might mean privatization of parks but there would probably be such an outcry province-wide, no politician would consider it.

Since Ontario becoming "Open For Business" with the Ford government, it seems logical that money is at stake here... making more money from parks and reducing their costs, have become the dominant issues that will define everything else below.

Ah well, there are always non-operating parks... and crown land canoe routes.

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