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February 27, 1997
(Tourism, Culture and Recreation)


Parks Properties Offering Business Opportunities in Rural Newfoundland

Sandra Kelly, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, at a news conference today, announced government's new direction for provincial parks and reserves. The new parks' plan will involve making 21 parks, and seven natural and scenic attractions available to private sector enterprises, community groups and associations interested in securing these business opportunities in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

"These properties are good properties which offer business opportunities in rural regions of the province," Ms. Kelly said. "Government does not need to play as large a role in the recreational camping industry as it did in the 1970s. Markets and vacation needs have changed, and a stronger private sector has emerged."

The parks' properties being made available: Backside Pond, Bellevue Beach, Beothuck, Catamaran, David Smallwood, Duley Lake, Fitzgerald's Pond, Flatwater Pond, Gushue's Pond, Grand Codroy, Indian River, Jack's Pond, Jipujijkuei Kuespem, Jonathan's Pond, Marine Drive, Northern Bay Sands, Piccadilly Head, River of Ponds, Sop's Arm, Square Pond, and Windmill Bight. The natural and scenic attractions being made available: Eastport North, Middle Cove, Pearson's Peak, Point au Mal, Point la Haye, Salmon Cove Sands, and Topsail Beach.

"Government will continue to own and operate a streamlined set of parks," Ms. Kelly said. "The new system will maintain the three keystone parks, 10 camping parks, and seven natural and scenic attractions which are representative of all regions of the province and which offer wilderness and nature interpretation in direct support of the province's tourism strategy."

Government is providing an opportunity for private sector ownership and employee take-over of the properties. All proposals will be evaluated with preference given to proposals demonstrating compatible use of the land.

"Business groups have been encouraging increased private sector opportunities in tourism. In its recent budget submission, Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador for example, has called for parks to be privatized." Ms. Kelly said. "This new parks system will provide a more balanced approach by government in fulfilling the needs of today's parks users."

The parks to remain within the provincial parks system include: Barachois Pond, Blow Me Down, Butter Pot, Dildo Run, Frenchman's Cove, J.T. Cheeseman, La Manche, Lockston Path, Notre Dame, Pinware River, Pistolet Bay, Sandbanks, and Sir Richard Squires Memorial. The natural and scenic attractions to comprise the new parks system include: The Arches, Cataracts, Chance Cove, Codroy Valley, Deadman■s Bay, Dungeon, and Gooseberry Cove.

Government is developing a comprehensive package of options for the 92 seasonal staff, four temporary staff, and seven permanent staff persons impacted by this initiative. Government is working toward reassigning many of these persons back within the current parks system. Government will also be encouraging employee take-over of the parks properties.

Contact: Laura Cochrane, Director of Communications, (709) 729- 0928.


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BACKGROUNDER
Parks Properties Offering Business Opportunities in Rural Newfoundland

  • Park visitation within the province reached its peak in the late 1970s. Despite an increase in tourism in Newfoundland and Labrador, park visitation has since declined. Considering the changes in demographics over the last two decades, particularly an aging population and a smaller family size, it is unlikely that this peak will recur. In 1994, Newfoundland and Labrador had approximately 100 more campsites that it did in the late 1970s. The current system is comprised of 50 properties: three keystone parks, 34 parks and 13 natural and scenic attractions.

    The traditional view of parks as primarily camping grounds has changed. Parks were considered areas situated along the Trans Canada Highway and later the more remote coastal areas of the province that provided accommodations and picnicking opportunities for the motoring public. Today, parks fulfill many roles: protecting natural heritage; providing high quality outdoor recreation opportunities; fostering environmental education/heritage appreciation; and encouraging tourism. As early as the 1980s, little importance was given to preserving special areas for their inherent natural values. Park preservation came to fruition in 1986 with the transfer to the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Program to the Parks Division.

    In addressing the changing nature of the market as well as other issues relating to operational funding, maintenance, capital upgrading and a need to streamline resources, Cabinet established an internal Task Force on Parks in 1992. It consisted of representatives from (the then) Tourism and Culture, Treasury Board, and Cabinet Secretariat. The main objective of the task force was to examine the role of each park and develop a master plan for the parks and reserves system. The end result would be a system that would incorporate planning, developing, operating, and managing the parks in such a way that they meet the needs of the users and comply with government priorities.

    The task force evaluated the current park system, identified its strengths and weaknesses, and made recommendations for improvement. Based on the recommendations of the task force, improvements to the system in 1995 included: parks classification; extended seasons for selected parks; a revised Wilderness and Ecological Reserves program; and the closure of 29 provincial parks.

    Market needs and vacation needs have changed, and a stronger private sector has emerged. Indicative of the success of the 1995 privatization initiative is the fact that ten of the 12 private parks opened in 1995 are currently operating as private parks .

    Adhering to market needs, the new provincial parks system will offer a more diverse range of outdoor recreational and educational experiences. In accordance with the Strategic economic Plan of 1992, the reorganized parks system introduced the extension of the operating season of selected provincial parks in response to tourism demand.

    Market research has revealed that 80% of the current park visits are for the purposes of day trips, picnics, swimming, hiking, fishing, and beachcombing. These activities differ significantly from the parks■ traditional purposes of camping. This information, coupled with input from staff, other interest groups, and users, is the basis for the new direction for parks in Newfoundland and Labrador. Parks division will play two key role in the future - serve the people and protect nature. To address these two strategic directions, a provincial parks program and a separate wilderness-ecological reserves program was developed. The name of the parks division itself was changed to ■Parks and Natural Areas Division■ to reflect the new, dual focus.

    The remaining provincial parks, together with the current and future private parks, will have the capacity to absorb displaced campers. It is not anticipated, therefore, that this direction will have a negative impact on users of the parks during the Cabot Celebration year.

1997 02 27 3:00 p.m.

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