Parks free for 2017

Published on January 21, 2016

Joe MacDonald chainsaws through some downed trees. Parks Canada crews are undertaking work in Prince Edward Island National Park along the Bubbling Springs and Farmlands trails to improve public safety and to restore the native Acadian Forest. Crews are cutting standing dead trees, limbing downed trees and taking measures to encourage the growth of existing yellow birch, white birch, poplar and red maple trees.

HEATHER TAWEEL/THE GUARDIAN

Parks Canada is getting Islanders thinking about summer by officially confirming a set of National Park admission policies developed by Prime Minster Justin Trudeau.

"All Parks Canada Discovery Passes purchased in 2016 will be valid for 24 months from the date of purchase," said Barbara MacDonald, external relations manager for Parks Canada on P.E.I.

Also new this year is early booking for campsites at Cavendish and Stanhope camp grounds inside the National Park.

Reservations will now be taken starting Jan. 26 beginning at 8 a.m.

This is in contrast with past years when reservations would only be taken starting in April.

The announcement about Discovery passes, a Canadawide program, also applies to the more specific P.E.I. National Park seasonal pass, says Parks Canada.

MacDonald's announcement is identical to a national press release from Parks Canada issued from Ottawa recently on the same topic. It brings into effect one paragraph from the mandate letter Trudeau gave to MP Catherine McKenna when she was appointed minister of Environment and Climate Change, which is responsible for Parks Canada.

"Make admission for all visitors to National Parks free in 2017, the 150th anniversary of Confederation," said Trudeau to McKenna.

There is no mention in his letter about how to make up for lost revenue.

Parks Canada's website includes some financial data showing that it predicts entrance fees will bring in $61 million across Canada this financial year ending in March, about eight per cent of total forecast expenses.

MacDonald told The Guardian that Parks Canada is working on other parts of Trudeau's mandate, like having children under 18 always get into all National Parks for free, which should come into effect by 2018.

Trudeau also mentioned new citizens getting encouragement to attend National Parks, and MacDonald says Parks Canada is ready.

"A gift to each Canadian citizen during their first year of citizenship, the Cultural Access Pass, provides complimentary admission to more than 1,200 of Canada’s cultural treasures from coast-to-coast," she said.

The cultural pass is a program provided through the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, a national, non-profit organization that helps new citizens integrate into Canadian life.