Residents in the community of Field are struggling to cope with the news that federal budget cuts will be causing some very significant changes with Parks Canada.
Not only has Parks decided to stop grooming 36 kilometres (which is more than half) of ski trails in Yoho National Park, but they have changed the hours at the Field visitor information centre, which will now be closed over the winter and shoulder seasons.
“This is about Parks Canada turning its back on us,” said Chair of the Field Community Council, Craig Chapman.
There are 134 residents in Field, and they rely on the tourism industry to keep the community going. These decisions by Parks Canada place a greater priority with the summer tourists, which they say account for roughly 87 per cent of the visitors to Yoho National Park.
“Suddenly overnight, they’ve announced that we’re no longer a winter destination,” said Chapman.
Residents in Field worry that turning their backs on the winter tourists, most notably the cross country skiers who flock to the area for the 60 km of groomed trails including the Natural Bridge trail, Emerald Lake loop, Field to Emerald Lake trail and Takkakaw Falls Road, will have a negative ripple throughout the town.
Golden residents often make the trip to Field to enjoy the nordic trails at Emerald Lake.
The Kicking Horse Ski Club used to share the grooming responsibility with Yoho National Park. But two years ago the park took over completely, as the club, with an aging base, was having difficulty maintaining the reponsibility.
The news that parks would cease to continue grooming was a shock.
Grooming of the cross country trails in Lake Louise and Banff National Park will not be cut.
The money that will be saved from these cuts, will not make up for the loss of tourism revenue Field will see.
“These are not logical decisions,” said Chapman.
“And nobody is going to accept this. We’re going to keep pushing, and hopefully get these two decisions reversed.”
Member of Parliament David Wilks will be in Field at the Field Community Centre on Monday May 21 from 2 to 3 p.m. to discuss the cuts with the community. Locals have already begun a letter-writing campaign to lobby Environment Minister Peter Kent.
These changes are the result of major cutbacks in parks across the country from the 2012 budget.
Across Canada, 605 Parks Canada employees were given lay-off notices and 1,072 will see their hours reduced.
The Harper government’s budget, which was tabled on March 29, aims to eliminate 19,000 jobs across the various federal government departments and agencies in a bid to save $5.2 billion.