The Ontario government may have underestimated the level of outrage caused by the recent decision to cut overnight camping in several provincial parks.
That’s the sense Timmins–James Bay Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Gilles Bisson is getting in his talks with government officials on the issue.
Bisson was speaking to reporters Oct. 26 after he accepted a bundle of petitions with more than 6,000 names of Northerners upset with the parks decision that was announced by the McGuinty Liberals on Sept. 27, the Timmins Times reported
Bisson said he has been in discussion with Natural Resources Minister Michael Gravelle to see if the government might be willing to change its mind on the parks issue.
“He is continuing his discussions with his people within the ministry. He’s looking to see if there is a way he can meet us. He doesn’t think he can meet everything we want, … he thinks there might be a compromise, but no guarantees is what he has told me,” Bisson said Friday.
STILL IN THE BALLGAME
“I get a sense that if we keep up the pressure and we do what you guys have been doing, I think we’re in the ball game. I think there is a way here for the government to meet its objective,” Bisson said.
“We all accept that you have to balance the budget. Everybody understands that but there’s certainly better ways of doing it than closing provincial parks,” said Bisson, adding that such things as extending the camping season and opening up more spots for a season’s pass are being discussed as options.
The petitions were presented to Bisson by Carole Moland, a member of the Facebook group known as Friends of Ivanhoe Lake Provincial Park. She said the group had collected roughly 6,300 names.
“And close to 5,000 of those were collected in just the last 10 days,” she said.
Moland said the petitioners are from a broad area stretching from Timmins to Hearst. She added that petitions are still being signed in 57 locations across Northeastern Ontario. She more and more names are being submitted every hour.
Moland added that an e-mail campaign is also underway, mostly through Facebook pages and also through the Ontario Environmental Registry at www.ebr.gov.on.ca (reference No.011-6751).
“People are upset,” said Moland, adding that most people she has talked to cannot understand why the government decided to close camping as a cost saving measure.
Moland said people are already wondering about next spring and summer and how they will go camping, saying some people have decided they will just go out and find a piece of crown land and set up their camp.
“There is an issue with that too,” said Malcolm MacDonald, another member of the Friends of Ivanhoe group and a former provincial park supervisor.
MacDonald said this squatter-style approach to camping will increase incidents of unauthorized occupation on the land, unauthorized dumping, unauthorized sewage dumps and a much higher risk of forest fires.
MacDonald said this would result in “huge costs” not only for fighting a forest fire, but also in searching out campers, evacuating fire zones and rescuing campers.
“You have to understand too that a provincial park is controlled, it’s safe, it’s a great place to bring kids,” said activist Eric Moland, another member of the Friends of Ivanhoe.
He said campers with young children likely don’t want to camp on crown land, saying the situations that occur with other campers and possible conflicts make it unsafe for youngsters.