Getting your Ducks in a row

Aside from being the highest point in Manitoba, Duck Mountain Provincial Park is also one of the most beautiful areas of the province.

For those who’ve never been, the park is located between Dauphin and Swan River, north of Riding Mountain National Park, and it’s one of our province’s gems. The park lands rise high above the surrounding prairie, and are home to largely coniferous forest that serve as critical habitat to the area’s wildlife. There are also numerous lakes with excellent fishing for trout, walleye and other species. An angler could spend a week there and fish two different lakes a day without ever leaving the park boundary or fishing the same lake twice.

The park is home to three lodges, several private cottages, some provincial campgrounds, and largely nothing else. “Nothing else” isn’t quite fair. There are boat launches, docks, trails, washrooms and other typical provincial park facilities like that, but no towns or shops or anything like that.

Ok great, but what’s the point? The point is the lodges. We recently paid a visit to Duck Mountain to visit with a couple of the lodge owners and to meet with some government staff about a few items of relevance to the park. But aside from the specific issues at hand, being there underscored just how important those lodges are to the park. If you want to buy anything in the park, whether it be milk and bread or gasoline or a park pass to legally bring your vehicle onto that patch of earth, you have to visit a lodge. If you want a license to take advantage of the world class fishing or hunting in the park, you’ll either have to leave the park to go get one, or you’ll buy it from one of the lodges. If you get a flat tire on the road, have a question about a provincial campground after-hours when the campground office is closed, or want directions or a hot meal, you’ll more than likely visit one of the lodges. Never mind the fact that the lodges serve as a destination for many travellers – in short, the reason paying customers (who don’t want to camp) are coming to the park at all.

The story is much the same in other parks across Manitoba. These facilities are true assets to the parks and should be supported as such. And it’s not just the government who we encourage to see things that way. We encourage the travelling public to think about that too. The next time you visit a store, stay in a cabin, or rent a boat from a private resort located in a provincial park, think about what the park would be without it. Would it be as appealing a place to visit? Would there be as much to do? Would it be as convenient?

These facilities are private businesses but they’re also public assets. Is the government doing lodge owners a favour by allowing them to do business in the parks, or really, is it the other way around?