News Manitoba

Park fees are back in Manitoba

Greg Vandermeulen

People who use Manitoba's parks will have to dig into their wallets once again.

From 2009-11, the provincial government waived the cost of park passes, allowing free entrance to the park system.

This year the fee is back, with an annual pass costing $30. That's up from $28 in 2008, representing an annual increase of about two per cent based on the last three years.

Vehicle permits will cost $8 for a three-day stay, or $4 for a one day pass.

Conservation minister Dave Chomiak said the price of the passes still makes parks accessible.

"Manitoba's camping, cabin and reservation fees are among the most affordable in the country," said Chomiak. "Our plan will keep our parks affordable and help expand and improve them for everyone."

That's the opposite of what the government said when they brought in the free passes in 2009. "In tough economic times, families may look for recreation closer to home, so we would like to encourage all Manitobans and visitors to Manitoba to enjoy and explore our provincial parks," they said.

"The province will continue to offer free park entry to provide affordable options for tourism and recreation at home and encourage Manitobans to explore their own backyard," then conservation minister Bill Blaikie said in 2011.

Chomiak said usage of provincial parks is on the rise. "In other places, we've seen parks actually close with the downturn in the economy," said Chomiak. "In our province, we want every Manitoban to be able to enjoy our beautiful parks and all that they have to offer for generations."

New and recent capital improvements to Manitoba parks include: the recently opened new campground at Winnipeg Beach, several new campground expansions including one at Birds Hill Provincial Park and a boardwalk expansion at Grand Beach, new snow-trail grooming equipment in the South Whiteshell, Birds Hill and Grand Beach areas, and water and waste-water facilities in several parks.

Others have new washroom and shower facilities as well as improvements to trails.

Although a number of provincial parks were affected first by flooding and later by dry conditions, Manitoba parks saw more than five million visitors in 2011. More than 64,000 camping reservations were made through the online and phone parks reservation service, an increase of 2.4 per cent over 2010.

All park users, including campers, cottagers and commercial operators, will be required to purchase and display a provincial park vehicle permit. Permits will be available at all campgrounds and district offices, as well as most business locations where fishing and hunting licences are sold.