Date: Mon, 14 Jun 1999
Hello to all who wrote,
Thanks for passing on complaints and suggestions. We appreciate hearing them, and you can be assured that we listen. For the last two years, at the end of the season we have taken all of the comments, complaints and suggestions from both park visitors and park staff and organized ourselves into groups to go over each suggestion to try to deal with it. We hope that you have already seen some positive changes from this process.
You mentioned some issues that seemed to be bothering people, and I'll reply to each as follows:
i) "Park management is reducing the ability to visit an island by removing docks, tent sites, barbeques, plus stone woods stoves and shelters that were solid as a rock and cost a lot of money to build".
We agree that some docks, barbeques, stoves and shelters were removed between the early 90's and 1997. This was in line with the Park Management Plan which was put together with public consultation several years ago. That process is largely finished, with the exception that we continue to look after the natural resources in the National Park, and as the situation changes, or our knowledge of the area changes, it is always possible that we would have to go back out to the public with other changes.
In addition to facilities already removed, the park managment plan called for the removal of facilities on the west end of Endymion Island in 1999. However, we have tried to approach the issue in a different way on Endymion Island. Instead of removing the shelter, we visited the island and came up with some changes which we felt would permit leaving facilities on the island, and at the same time protect the island's natural values. We will monitor the changes, and if they are successful the shelter and other facilities on Endymion will stay there. This approach will be used to manage future visitor/nature issues, assuming we are successful here.
The approach relies on the park and visitors cooperating together to deal with the problem, rather than the park setting rules, and enforcing compliance.
So far we have received quite a few comments saying that what we're doing on Endymion is very good, and should have been done a long time ago, and a few comments saying that we're anti-visitor.
To reiterate, we haven't any plans to remove any more shelters, campsites, stoves, barbeques, etc. at this time.
Here's the campsite picture for the last couple of years.
Endymion (-3) Camelot (+2) Central Grenadier (-1) North Grenadier (+2) East Grenadier (+3) Gordon (-3)
Net: 7 campsites removed, 7 campsites added.
The general feedback I get is that a lot of the campsites aren't used; however, we aren't planning to remove any. In fact, we are upgrading the campsites on Beau Rivage this year, and intend to do the same thing on a couple of other parkislands next year.
2. It's a hundred years too late to turn the park back into a wilderness area"
Agree. However this park still has a role to play in protecting the remaining natural environment of the Thousand Islands.
One example of this, is the return of Great Blue Herons, Osprey, and for the first time this year nesting Bald Eagles to the area. Much of eastern North America is moving back into a more natural state, and along with it we are seeing signs of the return of many of the species previously extirpated from the area.
At the same time, we'll do our best to let park visitors continue to enjoy experiencing the Thousand Islands, in a way that permits both visitors and nature to do well.
One of the reasons that people visit National Parks, rather than other places, is that they trust that someone is looking after the nature in the park, and that it will still be there for them, their children, or their grandchildren in the future. So rather than taking away from the visitor experience, we think that our program of "caring for nature" actually enhances a visit.
2. Rule enforcement-"Who enforces the rules? We hardly saw anyone last summer checking the boats that were staying too long, people running garbage from islands and anchors, and BIG dogs running loose.
I get quite a few letters saying that we are too visible where alcohol compliance is an issue, but not enough compliance for other issues. I also get letters saying we are too "fee oriented" and others saying that we should pay more attention to making ALL boaters pay their fair share.
Concerning the 3 day rule, and garbage, and dogs, you should expect to see better compliance this year. Visitor Attendants have been appointed to individual or groups of islands, and instead of 3 or 4 separate boats visiting islands to deliver services, one person in one boat will deliver a range of services. We hope this will bring compliance back up to a better level. Also, we've warned (through our spring newsletter) that "dogs off leash" regulations will be strictly enforced.
Also, through our "Island Host" program, we have been able to have a 5 or 6 ambassadors out there, letting us know what's going on, and how park visitors are reacting to what we do. They also help with compliance by reporting on serious problems.
If there is a particular problem with compliance, you can help by dropping a note into a self-registration vault, or speaking to an attendant or other park staff.
We're doing our best with what we have.
3. Re: alcohol with a meal.
The law in Ontario is that alcohol can only be consumed in a private, not a public place, and the courts have determined that park docks are public places. So are docks elsewhere at public marinas, provincial parks, Rideau Canal, etc.
Park Warden's are Police Officers. In the course of checking for compliance re: #2 above, they have to carry out their duty (as would an O.P.P. constable) re: #3 above. If they don't, they are negligent.
As you can see, because of the way in which we check compliance using Park Warden's, we inevitably lead to a situation where alcohol compliance becomes an issue. Other public places are not visited as often by police officers and therefore the alcohol in a public place issue doesn't come up as frequently.
Unless the law is changed to permit consumption of alcohol in a public place, or we stop Park Wardens from visiting park islands this situation will continue to exist.
4. "more rules/fee oriented" . Agree that we have placed more emphasis on fees. The money that comes from fees now stays in the park and is used to support the docks, washrooms, etc. that boaters use. Also, we receive a lot of complaints from boaters who pay, about others who don't. We have put an emphasis on trying to ensure that everyone pays their share.
To give you some background about when fees are levied, the general rule for fee collection in Parks Canada is that a fee is collected for those services not generally available to all the citizens of Canada, i.e. a special service consumed by park visitors for eg. No fee is collected for the maintenance or administration of the park in general. I.E. every taxpayer pays to support the park in general, and we only charge for services not available or consumed by the average citizen.
Concerning the "rules oriented" , personally, I'd like to move away from rules, and more towards a "code of ethics for visitors/boaters". Park is trying to work with visitors so that we don't have to do as much compliance, and rather find a set of rules that meets general consensus. Our boater newsletter, along with an emphasis on inviting comments, suggestions and criticism, is a way we have tried to do this.
To summarize, we prefer to have as few rules, and as little requirement for compliance as possible, but this depends on the willingness of the community we are dealing with to agree to rules, and abide by them.
5. Rafting on mooring cans:-new regulation was at the suggestion of our advisors from the National Yacht Club who advised that we should limit the weight of vessels allowed to raft to a buoy; otherwise, as has happened in the past, the first squall that passes takes the rafted vessels together with the mooring buoy away from the anchorage. The concrete anchor system we use is good up to about a 50 to 60 foot vessel, but not adequate for 2 or 3 large houseboats.
6. Re: Someone from Park management would go out of his/her office and have a look at the real world.
We try where possible to do this. Last year we had 4 or 5 public meetings on islands to listen to visitor concerns. We have started a Newsletter available to all boaters, with an invitation to dialogue with us. We have a Website up, with an invitation to e-mail us. We will be circulating information to park islands giving 4 or 5 ways of contacting us. Each park attendant is available for dialogue.
I am available as follows:
Norman_Ruttan@pch.gc.ca Phone: 613-923-1050 Park phone: 613-923-5261
As I said earlier, we appreciate comments, criticisms and suggestions. We circulate these to all staff, along with replies, so that everyone is aware of how we are perceived, and can make changes accordingly.
The previous was in response to a post in the can.rec.boating newsgroup, in addition to queries from other people.