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Parks Canada cuts in action: Keji closed for the season

By Jennifer Smith, Outreach Coordinator, CPAWS Nova Scotia

After having experienced Nova Scotia in all seasons, I must say that autumn is when Nova Scotia is at its best. In the Acadian forests, fiery reds blend with vivid oranges and yellows, creating a magnificent show against the deep green conifer trees and bright blue lakes and ocean. And there are no better places to enjoy the fall foliage than in Nova Scotia’s parks. This year, however, one of Nova Scotia’s National Parks is no longer open during this prime season. As of this past Thanksgiving until Victoria Day weekend in May, Kejimkujik National Park is closed for the season.

Pictured: Jennifer (right), her husband Eliott, and their friends departing from Jake's Landing for some backcountry canoe camping in Keji

Earlier this year, the federal government announced wide-ranging cuts to Parks Canada. This has resulted in the elimination of hundreds of jobs, while scientific and ecological monitoring capacity has been reduced across the country. Up until now, these cuts may not have affected most people in Nova Scotia directly. With Keji’s seasonal closure, the first tangible effects of these budget cuts are now being felt, and Nova Scotians are not happy.

The seasonal closure of Keji is being called a partial closure. Camping is not allowed, but the park is open for day use activities from sunrise to sunset. With little to no backcountry access, these activities will be severely restricted, as all the roads off the main park road are closed, and even the main road will only be open for the first two kilometres starting November 1st. Once it snows, this road will only be plowed up until the Visitor Centre, which is closed along with all other visitor services including restrooms.

Nova Scotians are understandably upset by this. A park that they are used to visiting year-round is now closed for seven months of the year. The magnificence of fall colours in the backcountry, the billions of stars in the sky while winter camping in Keji’s popular yurts, and spring fishing trips by canoe, all without the hoard of insects that can plague the summer months, are among the many activities that will be missed by locals and travellers alike. I will miss them as well.

One avid camper who has been visiting Keji her entire life is so unhappy about the closure that she started an online petition. Kathy Perrier, a manager at a Halifax-area hotel, has been camping and canoeing in Keji for thirty years and like many Nova Scotians, she loves Keji because it allows her to get in touch with nature without having to travel too far. With over 5,500 signatures, Kathy’s petition has generated an enormous response. Many have used this petition as a forum to express their dismay at the closure, and I’d like to share with you some of what real people are saying about Keji’s seasonal closure.

My family and I are gravely disappointed at the closing of Keji National Park. Keji is: a sacred space for the Mi'kmaq First Nation; a part of our national identity; a gathering space; a learning space for our schools and universities, for individuals and communities alike; a fitness and recreation space that promotes health and well-being; a living observatory for citizens and scientists alike; an increasingly rare peaceful retreat in a busy world. The cutbacks are unacceptable.” - Anonymous, NS

Keji is not just a national treasure but it also brings tourists and the potential for economic development to an area that desperately needs it.” - Liam O'Leary, ON

The majesty of Keji's snowy woods, the awesome silence on a ski trail, the icy vista of the great lake with its islands, the comradeship around a campfire at Merrymeeting Bay - all this to be lost just to save a trivial amount. Clearly someone has to get their priorities straight.” - David Tinker, NS

Lost jobs and lost opportunities in an area that can ill afford either. Local families who now have to move away to seek other employment. Poor policy choice.” - Jane Nicholson, NS

Canadians are intrinsically a year-round out-of-doors people. Our national pride and dignity historically comes from living and thriving within the elements, in all seasons. The continual urbanization of our country removes us from the elements but our national parks provide us a way back. The diverse ecologies preserved in our national parks change and adapt with the seasons. Unless people are given the opportunities to participate in these ecological changes we too will become closed and diminished like the governmental decision to close the parks that can open us up and help us learn, from the foundations of nature, how truly magnificent this nation is.” - Scott and Dina Dickson, NS

A few years ago friends drove me to Kejimkujik Park after a big snow storm. We went cross country skiing, had a snow ball fight, built a snowman and had Hamburger stew for dinner that we warmed in one of the cabins. It was one of the best experiences in my life. I grew up in NY and moved to SC 16 yrs ago. That day was a winter wonderland of memories I will never forget.” - Anonymous, SC

How does one close nature?” - Etienne Rouly, NS

We at CPAWS have been vocal in speaking out against the harm caused by cuts to Parks Canada. The closure of Kejimkujik National Park for much of the year is only the tip of the iceberg. You can help too by taking a moment to write a quick note to the Minister of the Environment and the MPs for southwestern Nova Scotia to let them know how you feel about this closure.

Take action here!