Ontario Government Unveils Plans for New All-Season Provincial Park
The expansion will include overnight and electrified campgrounds, backcountry camping options, and a variety of four-season activities such as cross-country skiing, canoeing, and hiking. With the completion of the project, the park will see the addition of 250 campground campsites and up to 25 new cabins, contributing to the growth of the Ontario Parks system.
Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, David Piccini, expressed his enthusiasm for the project, highlighting the personal significance of camping in Ontario Parks during his childhood. "Having grown up camping in Ontario Parks with my dad, I know just how special it is to have access to the great outdoors," he said. Minister Piccini emphasized the importance of investing in Ontario Parks, acknowledging the rising demand for outdoor recreational experiences and recognizing the organization as the largest provider of such experiences in the province.
He further added, "This will be the first new operating provincial park in almost two generations, and with the demand on our parks system on the rise, our government understands the importance of investing in Ontario Parks."
Bigwind Lake Provincial Park, currently categorized as a non-operating provincial park, provides limited self-guided recreational opportunities like hiking and nature appreciation. However, it lacks staff, maintained facilities, and campsites. The proposed transformation of the park aims to create a fully serviced and visitor-oriented environment. Modern buildings, a visitor center, electric vehicle charging stations, and electrified campsites are among the planned amenities that cater to the expectations of contemporary campers and park-goers. The park's design will prioritize environmental sustainability, incorporating low-energy buildings, easily accessible biking and walking routes, and wildlife-friendly planning and design, ensuring its preservation as a valuable part of the natural landscape for generations to come.
Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry and MPP for Parry Sound–Muskoka, Graydon Smith, acknowledged the significance of the region's provincial parks, stating, "Parry Sound–Muskoka is home to some of Ontario's most popular provincial parks. Today's announcement reaffirms our government's commitment to protecting these special places." Minister Smith expressed his confidence that Bigwind Lake Provincial Park will become a beloved destination, complementing the existing parks in the area and attracting residents and tourists alike.
In the coming months, the government plans to engage Indigenous communities, local municipalities, stakeholders, and the public in discussions regarding the proposed changes to the park. Until August 6, individuals also have the opportunity to provide feedback on the park's design features. Construction on Bigwind Lake Provincial Park is scheduled to commence in the fall of 2024.
Mayor Rick Maloney of the Town of Bracebridge expressed excitement over the new park, emphasizing the positive impact it will have on the community. "The Town of Bracebridge is committed to community health and well-being, and we are thrilled that the new park will add new amenities, including campsites and roofed accommodations to Bigwind Lake Provincial Park, operationalizing the space for visitors year-round," he stated. Mayor Maloney believes that these additions will strengthen the tourism and hospitality sectors, facilitate a deeper connection with nature, and align with the town's commitment to long-term economic growth.
The creation of a new operating provincial park is part of the Ontario government's broader initiative to build stronger and healthier communities, expand recreational opportunities for families, and preserve and enhance the natural beauty of the province.