Newspaper Knocks Parks Canada Payment Plan
Editor's Note: The following editorial appeared in The Guardian, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (PEI).
The Tourism Industry Association of P.E.I. (TAIPEI) has come up with an interesting fee proposal for entry to P.E.I.'s national park: replacing the flat fee with a fee based on length of stay. Parks Canada should give the idea some thought. It would be more flexible, and wouldn't leave visitors with the feeling they're being gouged.
The designated national parks across this country showcase Canada's diverse landscape and character. From the majestic mountains of Banff, Alberta, and the awesome beauty of Gros Morne in Newfoundland and Labrador to the expanse of white sand beaches and red cliffs of P.E.I.'s national park, Canada has much to boast about.
It's Parks Canada's responsibility to oversee the maintenance and operation of these parks. With a five-year freeze on fees coming to an end, Parks Canada recently announced it will hold public consultations on their proposed fee adjustments. If the adjustments are approved, they'll become effective for the upcoming visitor season. Among the proposals: a family of four wanting to enter P.E.I.'s national park would pay $20.58 this year, up from $19.60. Season passes would increase to $102.90 from $98. And early bird rates for Islanders would offer a 45% discount rather than a 50% discount off a season's pass to the park. There would also be additional fees for special events and private functions.
An argument can be made that the fee hikes are justified after the five-year freeze, but is it advisable to hike prices at a time when the economy is still struggling?
Islanders should take this opportunity to learn more about the rate changes and have their say before Parks Canada makes its decision. And if Islanders support TAIPEI's suggestion of a pay-as-you-leave fee, they should make a point of communicating that, too. It's a reasonable suggestion, and it's one that potentially could attract even more people to the park.
Why not charge visitors for the time they spend at the park? That's common policy in many parking facilities. Why wouldn't it work at the national park?
As it is now, according to Don Cudmore, executive director of TAIPEI, many cars at the gates simply turn around and go home rather than enter the park. Is it because of the flat fee? That would be understandable. The current policy is inflexible and doesn't accommodate the unique needs of visitors. A family of four could pay their $20 to get into the park, and 45 minutes later, have to leave if a child gets sick, for example. Other visitors may want to go for a short swim on a sunny afternoon and then move on. By posting a fee schedule at the gate and allowing people to enter without paying upfront, the park is giving visitors the flexibility to come and stay as long as they want, and pay only for their length of stay.
That seems fair, and arguably it could increase the number of visitors to P.E.I.'s national park. Parks Canada should weigh the merits of this. After all, an increased number of visitors would translate into more revenue.