Jennifer Vey explains why so many people are fighting so hard to reverse Premier McNeil’s decision to slash staffing at Porters Lake Provincial Park from 10 to 4.
By Jennifer Vey
A short time ago the government announced that Porters Lake Provincial Park (PLPP) would be changed from a full service park to a self serve park. The staffing levels will be reduced from 10 to 4 employees.
The feedback against this decision was unanimous from our community. After the announcement, the community was determined to keep PLPP as a full service park. This would require staff be kept at previous levels.
We fought this decision by assembling a strong team of community leaders and of passionate community members, all coming together from near and far. Many people dedicated hours to research and writing. We built the Facebook group Friends of Porters Lake Provincial Park to share our memories of the park and to raise awareness. Everyone we have talked to on the Eastern Shore is united against the decision to change PLPP to a self serve park for all of the reasons we have outlined in the past.
Sadly, I have learned that at times facts, figures, and community opinion mean nothing in the political realm. In short, after this process of researching and community building, I felt defeated. In our meeting with DNR, I felt our position was solidly defended, however, there were no concessions, no compromises. After the meeting there was no further contact from any officials. I left feeling like the meeting was little more than a formality. I see how the government process makes people feel small, pushes people away, and does not help with the revitalization of the province.
What have we learned since this decision to change PLPP was made?
- The numbers don’t add up when compared to similar parks. The numbers weren’t the only reason our park was targeted. Another reason is PLPP is considered to be a “secondary park”. There are other reasons we are not aware of.
- Out of 120 parks there were only 20 parks that were campground parks and only 7 had cuts.
- PLPP had some of the deepest cuts and we don’t know why these cuts weren’t spread out fairly
- We think the presence of staff acted as a deterrent. The government does not see this as a safety concern.
- Economic impact isn’t something the government considers when making these decisions.
- Tourism isn’t a consideration for this government and neither is rural development.
What have the Friends of PLPP accomplished? LOTS!
- We can be proud that we have been united against this decision and that we had a very fast acting community.
- We researched the facts and presented the impact of this decision from all angles.
- We made passionate comments detailing the errors of this decision.
- We wrote, signed, asked others to sign petitions in a short period of time.
- We met with DNR to discuss our dissatisfaction with this decision.
- We attracted media attention.
- We did this all on our own - the community took this initiative
It is amazing what a rural community can do with passion, inspiration, and the facts to back them up. The Eastern Shore has the entrepreneurial spirit that rural communities need to survive as outlined in ONE NS (Ivany Report). Sadly, it is also amazing what a rural community can lose without the backing of politicians. We can lose jobs, recreation opportunities, tourism opportunities, the feeling of safety in our own community, and in the end, a park that isn’t given proper care it deserves.
The good news is; what was done can be undone. The budget is now set, but how the funds are distributed can be changed. We are not unreasonable, we recognize cuts need to be made. However, these cuts need to be justifiable and fair. Decisions should be made by following the province’s own guidelines set forth through One NS (Ivany Report) and The Path We Share. Decisions need to be made with community involvement and employee dialogue, along with careful study of the impact of these decisions from all angles.
The Eastern Shore will remember what is being done by this Liberal government. Make your officials accountable before the next election. Let them know this is unacceptable. The park opens on May 15. There is still time.
Keep PLPP Safe!!
Use hashtag: #KeepPLPPSafe
Jennifer Vey is a resident of Porters Lake and holds a Bachelor Degree of Recreation Management. She is also one of the organizers of FB group Friends of Porters Lake Provincial Park.