TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Swimmers and sunbathers crowd the beach at Wasagaming in Riding Mountain National Park during summer.
Riding Mountain National Park has been hit by the federal government’s civil service cuts but a park official says summer visitors will likely notice little change.
"People who traditionally come here in July and August should see very little effect," park superintendent Robert Sheldon said during an interview on Wednesday.
More than 1,000 Parks Canada staff were told this week that their jobs are at risk with more than 600 positions eliminated entirely.
As a result, the Union of National Employees warned that Canadians could expect fewer services and shorter seasons at national parks and historic sites.
The Conservative budget aims to eliminate 19,000 jobs to save $5.2 billion in the next three years.
Some employees will be able to apply for open positions elsewhere in government or have the option to retire.
About 140 full-time and part-time staff worked at Riding Mountain during the peak summer season, with about 70 of those being full time.
Fifteen staff were affected by the cuts. That included the loss of eight full-time positions, although some of those employees may find work elsewhere in Parks Canada.
The remaining seven positions may be handled by shortening season employment or by making full-time positions seasonal.
Vacant positions were also eliminated.
Sheldon didn’t go into specific job descriptions because it would identify individual employees.
About 280,000 people visit Riding Mountain each year.
Those who visit during the summer won’t notice much by way of service cuts.
"Services should be more or less as they were, and businesses in the Wasagaming townsite are going to continue their normal operating season," Sheldon said.
No changes are expected for the cottage and cabin season, either to length of the season or services.
Also, the Wasagaming campground hours already vary according to demand and that won’t change.
However, starting this fall, there will be changes for less busy "shoulder seasons" — Victoria Day to Canada Day, and Labour Day to Thanksgiving.
During those times, the visitor centre will run five days per week — Thursday through Monday — instead of the current seven days per week. It will remain open seven days per week during the peak season, July through August.
It’s winter that will be impacted most.
"People will see far less emphasis on the winter season and a more increased emphasis on summer, and also spring and fall to a point," Sheldon said.
Essentially, there will be less staff on duty during winter than there was in the past.
Highway maintenance, including plowing, salting and sanding within the park during winter — that is, along Highway 10 and Highway 19 — will continue.
But visitor information services will be limited to the administration office during the regular business week.
Sheldon said that, with fewer staff, there will be "limited visitor safety services" for back country users such as skiers during winter months.
"We will still have year-round staff who have that training," Sheldon said. "It’s just a question of the number of staff that we have available."
In winter, visitor safety services can include making sure visitors have a trip plan, know where they’re going and can contact authorities if needed.
Park staff will continue to work with RCMP and search and rescue groups to offer that service.
Conservation work, such as monitoring wildlife and resource protection, will also see reductions.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 3, 2012