A small group of northerners made the midnight drive from Moonbeam, Ont., to show their disapproval of the closure of 10 provincial parks.
The tiny army consisted of René Brunelle Provincial Park supporters, who travelled 500 kilometers to Sudbury to have their voices heard during a Ministry of Natural Resources meeting taking place at the Ambassador Hotel. Wearing signs reading Save Our Parks, the group respectfully chanted outside before bringing their message to the lobby overlooking the conference room.
The group included Gilles Audet, the mayor of Moonbeam.
Gilbert Peters, a Moonbeam resident and municipal councillor, led the march in Sudbury.
“We are here to let the MNR know we don't want them to close our parks,” he said. “We're not accepting the fact that they're going to close our parks.”
Hotel staff, however, kept the protesters from getting into the meeting space, but those sitting in on the session certainly noticed the “peaceful protest.”
Frank Siebert said the group only wanted to ask decision-makers “a few questions.”
“We weren't going in there to cause a ruckus,” he said. “It's about caring about what is ours and what we might lose. Our parks are in our hearts.”
The group that showed up to protest in person is just a small reflection of the group standing behind the fight.
“We're a small group of people representing a large group of people,” Siebert said.
The Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) recently launched a website to rally support for the ten provincial parks the province has closed.
Our Ontario North is designed to allow those who disapprove of the park closures a voice, sending a message to the relevant cabinet minister expressing their views.
The Facebook page supporting the website had 900 likes within a week, and now sits close to the 2,500 mark.
“We believe now more than ever that it is important for the Government of Ontario to stop and listen to Northern residents and communities,” said Alan Spacek, president of FONOM and mayor of Kapuskasing.
Nine out of 10 parks the MNR stopped overnight service of are located in Northern Ontario. The decisions made by the MNR means savings of about $7.1 million annually, at the expense of 28 full-time jobs and 102 seasonal jobs.
Visit ourontarionorth.org or search OurOntarioNorth on Facebook for more information about supporting the parks no longer maintained.