Thousands sign parks petition – by Benjamin Aubé (Timmins Daily Press – October 26, 2012)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – The surprise decision by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) to shut down camping at a number of provincial parks in northeastern Ontario has not gone unnoticed.

In fact, it’s government officials who are now being surprised by the massive swell of support offered by groups such as Friends of Ivanhoe, urging the province to re-consider the ban.

On Friday, members of Friends of Ivanhoe met with the media at MPP Gilles Bisson’s (NDP – Timmins-James Bay) office on Wilson St. with more than 6,300 signatures in hand. The petitions were circulated and posted in various locations, from Timmins to Hearst, since the government’s decision was announced in September by Natural Resources Minister Michael Gravelle.

“I spoke to Mr. Gravelle on Monday,” said Bisson. “One of the things he talked about was that he couldn’t believe how many people have been really worked up over this, so I think he’s been taken a bit aback. I think it puts us in the position to hopefully change his mind.”

Bisson said that, while he was surprised by the sheer number of signatures, the swift reaction of Northerners didn’t come as a shock.

He added that Gravelle would not guarantee anything in their meetings, but that there was a feeling of willingness to compromise.

“I get the sense that if we keep up the pressure and keep doing what you’ve been doing, I think we’re in the ballgame,” he said. “We all accept that (the provincial government) has to balance the budget, everybody understands that, but there’s certainly better ways to do that than closing provincial parks.

“We can increase the number of campers, we can extend the season, we can look at staffing levels; there’s different things we can do to save money that would allow the government to balance its budget, and give (people) a place to go camping.”

Former MNR senior parks supervisor Malcolm MacDonald is heading the charge to get the government to rethink its position on the parks. He is among the hundreds of locals who have been doing research and writing letters to officials to try to get their voice heard.

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