Sledding, skating and snowshoeing are just a few of the outdoor activities the Two Rivers Wildlife Park is promoting as part of a busy winter schedule of activities that aim to prove the park can be fun no matter what the time of year.
Those ongoing efforts to make the popular summer destination a four-season tourism attraction were recently boosted by a provincial and federally sponsored program with similar objectives.
The program offers wage subsidies and skills development including a 50 per cent wage subsidy that Two Rivers Wildlife Park used for three employees over a four-week period.
The subsidy allowed the park to continue its development of winter programming, which included a Winter Light-Up event, snowshoeing trails, and the winterization of four new cabins.
Rosemary MacLean was one of the employees to benefit from the wage subsidy. She said it meant no layoffs and a chance for them to help attract visitors to the park at one of its best times of year.
“The winter here is a great time to look at the animals,” said MacLean, speaking on behalf of the park.
“They are absolutely beautiful at this time of year in their winter coats and most of them are out and about now because they like the cooler weather. In the summer it is so warm and they have so much area that a lot of them are not up and about.”
MacLean said the park has always been well used in the summer but increased traffic over the winter months is something they’ve been noticing of late.
“Our gate is up a bit and our visitors count is up. It’s all weather related here,” she said.
During breaks in snowstorms, she said, the petting zoo and wildlife trails are popular. Snowshoe rentals also bring in lots of outdoor enthusiasts.
Once the cabins are completed, more visitors year round are expected for overnight stays to take advantage of previously noted programs and the increasingly popular observatory that offers nighttime views of the stars.
“We are hoping we can offer a little package probably, like a couple of nights and have a wagon ride, or use our observatory for a night — skating coasting and all of that,” MacLean said.
“We are just trying to get some more traffic flow through the winter.”
The tourism extension program also gives tourism operators the opportunity to participate in the program through online skills training modules and MacLean and others at the wildlife park plan to sign on.
The modules are for careers like bartending event coordination, heritage interpretations, and food and beverage service.
Front desk agents, reservation sales agents, and others modules are offered, as well.
The online training is available free of charge, but interested operators need to sign up by March 31, 2020.
The Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS) and the Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council (NSTHRC) are working with regional industry partners to bring these program to tourism operators.
Toolkits to improve human resources practices, deliver service excellence training, and provide access to apply to a wage subsidy for those operating outside the traditional tourism season are all available.
Regional partners for the program on Cape Breton Island are the Cape Breton Partnership and Destination Cape Breton.
Operators interested in participating in the program or those who would like more information should call the Cape Breton Partnership at 902-562-0122 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.