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Riding Mountain National Park “sans” ski is fine by me

True to my Canadian heritage, I love winter.  As soon as the first snowfall hits, I look forward to the crystal white blanket that covers my neighbourhood, the rosy cheeks sported by all, and the opportunity to snowshoe, skate, sled and of course ski! Skiing is probably my most enjoyable winter hobby and every year I look forward to night skiing on local hills and my big annual ski trip. With all this being said, is it really necessary to promote a downhill ski resort in a national park?

I’m not sure if you’ve heard but Parks Canada is proposing amending the current Riding Mountain National Park Management Plan for Mount Agassiz to allow the re-development and re-opening of a downhill ski hill. And not just any downhill ski area… this one has been closed for over a decade. This is yet another example of the resurgence of this worrisome trend of inappropriate commercial development in our national parks.

Some are welcoming the decision because it will potentially bring back dollars into the park and the surrounding communities, and make use of the current decrepit abandoned facilities. Others, including myself, are questioning whether this re-development is really in the best interest of our parks, the animals that call it home, and its ecological integrity.

The term “re-development” seems a bit of a stretch to me. According to the feasibility study commissioned by Parks Canada, the park would require extensive infrastructure and re-building all without much promise of a financially viable outcome. A list of “to-do” items include new ski lifts, new guest services facilities, septic fields and holding tanks, new filtration systems and much more. The only thing that seems to be good is the parking lot. When I look at this list, it intuitively seems to go far beyond National Parks Policy, which only permits activities requiring a minimum of built facilities.

Riding Mountain National Park, as it is today, offers a variety of activities and opportunities for enjoyment. There is no need to put more stress on this region and the wildlife within it by re-opening a downhill ski resort.  The park is home to Clear Lake, a beautiful place to swim and bathe on the beach.  It is also known as an excellent park for birding. In the wintertime, enjoy skating, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and sleigh rides. Parks Canada even hosts great activities including GPS Adventures and Murder Mystery Winter Campfires. A quick visit to Parks Canada’s website reveals that the park already has plenty to offer with much less impact on its ecological integrity than rebuilding a downhill ski resort. Take a look!

For me, proceeding with this amendment means opening the door to other “exceptions” in our national parks. It means allowing further commercial developments in our parks and forgetting the true essence as to why we create national parks: to preserve, protect and restore special natural places for future generations.

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Pictures courtesy of Travel Manitoba via Creative Commons.