The Meewasin Valley Authority is making more programming cuts, and its interim CEO is warning it could get worse if a new funding arrangement isn’t made.
Beaver Creek Conservation Area will be closing on weekends and holidays for the fall and winter, starting Oct. 1. The site usually stays open on weekends until after the Christmas bird count, which also isn’t happening in 2017.
Interim CEO Doug Porteous told 650 CKOM Tuesday the decision came as the MVA continues to struggle with a $409,000 budget cut imposed by the province in the spring.
He said the cuts to Beaver Creek could just be the beginning.
“Without some kind of funding support, it could end up with the whole site closed year-long, permanently,” he said.
Porteous noted the decision to close on weekends now will save the MVA $2,500 a month.
“It may not seem like much money, but that’s where we’re at now,” he said.
A locked gate will block vehicle access to the site when it’s closed, and anyone on the land will be trespassing according to Porteous.
When asked why the conservation area would close on weekends, as opposed to two days during the week, Porteous said they need to maintain their school programs.
“We have 105 schools booked … basically they’re paying to keep the site open,” he said.
The MVA announced in May it would be closing their boat launches, wouldn’t be hiring some summer staff and cancelling the annual pelican watch contest.
The decision on the boat launches was reversed after the public began donating to keep them open.
Porteous said they’ll need the public to step up again and advocate for the MVA to their council representatives and local MLAs.
He said the spring budget adjusted provincial legislation mandating funding for the MVA from both the government and University of Saskatchewan. There was a previous agreement to split the organization’s budget between those bodies and the City of Saskatoon.
If more funding isn’t agreed on by April 1, the MVA could face a 60 per cent budget reduction.
“Meewasin, as we know it will cease to exist,” Porteous said.
The interim CEO added he hoped the public and politicians would realize the benefits of the MVA, which has conserved and maintained the South Saskatchewan River valley in and around Saskatoon for decades.
He said for every municipal dollar spent on the organization, $5 is returned to the local economy. For every provincial dollar, he said there is $2 of benefit.
“We have to get everyone to understand that if we want it to continue, we have to fund it.”