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Manager says new campsite additions could make park self-sufficient
The whole idea of a project underway is to stop the panhandling in the wild.
Johnny Huntington, manager of Two Rivers Wildlife Park, said they are working on a massive project that for the first time would see the park be self-sufficient with guaranteed income year-round, but the province has turned them down.
Huntington said they haven’t received any operational funding for the park in the past three years.
“We are trying to support ourselves,” he said. “That’s where this project is aimed to take us. We think it would have allowed us to be self-sufficient and we would have been able to stop bugging everyone for money all the time.”
Huntington said they currently have 75 campsites, and 38 are seasonal. People with seasonal sites pay $250 a month year-round.
The project includes adding another 39 sites — 17 to be seasonal sites — four winterized cabins and a recreation cabin.
Huntington said most weekends throughout the summer their campsites are booked and there’s a waiting list. All 38 seasonal sites are booked solid, with another 40-50 on a waiting list.
“Right off the bat that would have generated an extra $52,000 a year for the park,” he said.
“That would have been guaranteed income through the winter. That wouldn’t have included all the extra money we could make from the additional regular camping sites and winterized cabins.”
The winterized cabins would allow them to extend their tourism season, offering snow-shoeing, weekend sleigh rides, wildlife trails, sledding and skating on the pond.
The project also includes waterfront development and two desperately needed owl cages, including for their snowy owl and a barred owl with an injured wing that was rescued in Antigonish this year.
Huntington said for this $318,545 project they received $160,000 from the federal government through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, $25,000 from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and $10,000 from Clearwater. The park is contributing $58,545, which includes labour, some materials, equipment costs and fuel. Huntington said they needed $65,000 from the province in order to be able to complete the project but were turned down.
In 1996, the Two Rivers Development Association — a non-profit charity — took over the wildlife park from the province.
Over the years the association received funding from the province for operational expenses. The last leasing agreement provided the park with $80,000 in funding annually for six years. The last three years the park has been operating under a letter of authority for the use of Crown land but did not receive operational funds.
Huntington said the CBRM provided operational funding of about $35,000 annually since 1996, but it also stopped three years ago.
“We haven’t received any operational funding from anyone in the last three years.”
Huntington said they rely on money raised hosting major events such as their Fright Night, which this year continues Oct. 25-26.
Huntington said in the past all three levels of government have been good to them.
“We don’t get operational funding from the CBRM anymore but if we apply for funding for an event or project, recreation has been good to us in that way.”
About the park
- The Two Rivers Wildlife Park includes 50 species and 100 animals of native and non-native animals, a campground with seasonal sites, a petting zoo, hiking and cross-country ski trails, wagon and sleigh rides, a u-fish pond, and a playground
- People can help the park by visiting, adopting an animal or attending any of the many events such as their summer Acoustic Roots Music Festival and annual Fright Night, which continues Oct. 25 and 26.
- The park can be reached by calling 902-727-2483.
As well, Huntington said various departments of the province have assisted them over the years, including last year with Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage providing funding for the playground to enhance the experience for visitors.
“We still have a good working relationship with the province as far as the animals — they are excellent to help out in that way,” he said.
“The money we need now is a one-time request, so we won’t have to bother them for operational funds anymore. We are hoping they’ll reconsider.”
Lisa Jarrett, a communications adviser with the Department of Lands and Forestry, said they value the work of Two Rivers Wildlife Park and their contribution to the community.
“Department staff will be reaching out to the Two Rivers Development Association to better understand their needs and how we can help,” said Jarrett through email.