Following the 2003/04 season, it became apparent that the ministry could not adequately deliver the recreation program with existing levels of funding and staffing ($880,000 with 12 recreation staff, five of which were transitional one-year positions). It was estimated that up to 75% of the user maintained sites were no longer safe, sanitary or environmentally sound, and approximately 30% of the sites managed under partnership agreements were at risk of failing. With further funding reductions planned for 2004/05, it appeared that the recreation program was not sustainable unless additional support was provided.
Consequently, the ministry prepared and submitted a request to Treasury Board for more funding for the recreation program. In the 2004 Throne Speech, government acknowledged that the recreation program was in need of more resources, and committed to providing additional funding and staff to maintain recreation sites and trails, and forest recreation roads. Funding was increased to $2 million for 2004/05 and the number of recreation staff was increased to 19. Additional funding was also committed to maintain road access to high-use recreation sites beginning in 2005/06.
- Supporting agreement holders that are managing sites and trails in order to retain existing agreements;
- Increasing the number of sites and trails managed under partnership agreements (MOF may pay for toilet pumping, hazard tree removal, infrastructure replacement, and materials and supplies);
- Awarding service contracts to manage high-use sites and trails that are not currently under partnership agreements;
- Managing the remaining sites and trails as user maintained; and
- Decommissioning low-use, remote sites and trails.
During the 2004 camping season, a sample of 120 recreation sites managed under partnership agreements and user maintained sites were evaluated as part of the provincial FRPA Effectiveness Evaluation Program. Preliminary results from the evaluation were used to allocate 2005/06 funds to replace infrastructure. Existing policies, procedures and standards for partnership agreements and user maintained sites and trails will be revised and refined based on the final results of the evaluation.
For the 2005/06 camping season, Forest Service recreation sites and trails will continue to be managed under partnership agreements, through service contracts, by ministry staff, or as user maintained. The Ministry of Forests will continue to seek new partners and opportunities to manage additional recreation sites and trails with other parties.