Posted on: April 23, 2018 |
The following message was delivered at the AGM last week by Hon. Rochelle Squires, Minister of Sustainable Development.
As the Minister of Sustainable Development I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you here at the 2018 Whiteshell Cottagers Association Annual General Meeting. For me, Whiteshell Provincial Park is a special place that my family and I have come to enjoy and share in many wonderful experiences together over the years. I believe that the park is also a special place for you and your families. Given this, we share a common vision and a collective goal to conserve and protect the park’s lakes, wildlife and spectacular landscapes for many generations to come.
As I mentioned to you in my letter that accompanied your lease and service fee invoices this past January, myself and our government realizes the importance of cottages and the cottage lifestyle that you cherish in the park. To maintain our shared positive park experiences into the future, it is important that we maintain an open dialogue and continue to work together to ensure that the Whiteshell remains a special place for us all. In working to achieve this, both staff and I are to continue providing regular department messages in the Association’s Whiteshell Echo Newsletter. These updates are intended to provide cottagers with current information on the department’s management and development activities in the park and maintain positive communications between the department and cottagers. Building off of this communication, my department is to also maintain open, transparent engagement with the Whiteshell Cottagers Association in relation to the ongoing address of future matters involving parks administration and operation, capital investment and lease and service fees.
Our department’s priority parks mandate includes our ongoing collaborative engagement with the Manitoba Provincial Park Cabin Owners Association (MPPCOA) towards achieving our shared goal of a fair and sustainable model for the future collection of cottage lease and service fees. Our government first instituted a 2 year moratorium on lease and service fee increases for provincial park cottages in July 2016. As you now know, this moratorium has been extended for an additional 2 years, from July 2018 to July 2020. During this extended timeframe, staff will continue to meaningfully engage all provincial park cottagers to ensure that we work towards achieving our shared future goal for this important mandate item.
As this year’s cottage season gets underway, I am pleased to be able to provide you with updates on a number of department initiatives in the park that will be of interest to Whiteshell cottagers. Department investment in repairs and redevelopments are still ongoing following 2016 flood events in much of the Whiteshell. Road gravelling is to occur this spring/summer on many of the damaged cottage roads in the south Whiteshell. Repairs will be completed to the McGillivray Falls trail and bridge allowing for public use into this coming summer season.
I am aware of cottagers’ ongoing concerns with seasonal water levels on the Winnipeg River. We continue to work with the Lake of The Woods Control Board and Manitoba Hydro to ensure all users’ interests are considered. Manitoba Hydro recently advised my department that flows on the Winnipeg River are currently below average for this time of year, with only average flows expected for this spring season based on current snowpack in the river’s watershed area.
Similarly, I am also aware of cottagers’ concerns with water levels on Falcon Lake. My department and Manitoba Infrastructure will conduct a public information session in Falcon Lake this summer seeking cottager and public input regarding water levels and the future development of the lake. It is intended that this process will help determine an optimum operating range of lake levels on Falcon Lake. With this lake levels information in hand my department will then begin dredging work on the Falcon Lake boathouse channels later this summer.
We continue to support and work with Trails Manitoba and the South Whiteshell Trails Association in relation to the Trans-Canada Trail corridor within the Whiteshell. The partnership we share with this group has assisted in much of the trail development, maintenance and improvements to all of the Trans Canada Trail portions within the south Whiteshell. Currently bike trails have been developed in the McGillivray Falls area and future development is being entertained.
Now, I have some updates on new initiatives and planned events in the park for this coming summer. Government’s Budget 2018 recently announced further significant investment in Whiteshell Provincial Park including $1.6 million to design and construct a new waste-water lagoon servicing the South Whiteshell area. Investment will also be made in a new washroom and shower building and upgrades to the water treatment system at Big Whiteshell Lake campground. It is intended that work on these projects will begin this fiscal year.
June 9 & 10 will once again be Family Fishing Weekend across the province and in the park, where no fishing licence is required during that weekend.
As usual, department staff are busy preparing special events and interpretive programming for the upcoming summer season, on the July long weekend and Parks Day Weekend.
The Parks Day Weekend takes place annually on the third weekend in July. Highlights on summer events and schedules for the Whiteshell will be posted online, and I encourage you to visit our website at www.manitobaparks.com.
Again, I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you here tonight and I am excited about working with the Whiteshell Cottagers Association on future initiatives in Whiteshell Provincial Park.
Have a safe and enjoyable summer!