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Parks Beyond Borders: Biggest-Ever Gift To Parks Canada, World's Blackest Skies For New Zealand, Roads Threaten Parks in Peru and Kenya

Yurt campground Bruce Peninsula National Park

The newly refurbished yurts at Cyprus Lake Campground in Bruce Peninsula National Park were funded with the largest-ever private donation to Parks Canada. The park is on the Georgian Bay in Ontario. Photo by Parks Canada.

Happy Camper Comes to the Rescue of Parks Canada

Though the donation took place four years before Parks Canada’s current news-making round of budget cuts and layoffs, a $1 million gift from a longtime park camping enthusiast has provided a bright spot for Canadian Parks.

Today, Canadians are lamenting new austerity measures that are diminishing park staff and facility hours. In that context, it’s fitting that Marjorie LeDrew’s donation was kept secret until now when the agency and the nation need to hear some good news about one of the world’s great national park systems.

The donation at Bruce Peninsula National Park near Toronto came to light with the dedication of a refurbished yurt campground at Cyprus Lake. The work also benefitted from an additional $2.5 million investment from Parks Canada (for new restrooms, hiking trails, etc.).

An article in the Toronto Star said, “LeDrew’s estate executor, her sister Dorothy Hunter, loved the idea of the yurt campground. ‘The donor was an RVer and really enjoyed camping and connecting people to the camping experience, while at the same time not roughing it too much,’ Burrows said.”

The gift was the largest-ever to Parks Canada and gave Environment Minister Peter Kent something to crow about.

He said, “We have received a tremendous gift from an insightful Canadian citizen, which will be enjoyed and remembered by future generations of visitors to this special place.”

The paper said the improvements included “10 yurts — round luxury tents furnished with beds, woodstoves, and lockable doors, each sitting on a wooden deck. The renovated campground also features hot showers, new toilets and a shared campfire area.”

Recent research has shown a dip in visitation in recent years at the Canadian Parks system. With that in mind, it’s interesting that the longtime camping benefactor credited getting back into RV camping in the parks with helping her cope with her husband's death. The two were passionate RVers when he died.

The Star article by Alyshah Hasham said, “Slowly she managed to rekindle her love of camping with “Loners on Wheels,” a group in Canada and the U.S. that organizes camping trips for singles, mainly widowed or divorced retirees. She founded the Ontario chapter when she retired in 1990 and it’s still going strong.”

LeDrew, a longtime executive assistant whose frugal lifestyle had helped her amass a tidy sum, was 80 when she died in 2008.

News of the gift comes at the perfect time to keep Canada's national parks in mind for summer travel. Bruce Peninsula National Park is on the Georgian Bay and is one of the largest protected areas in southern Ontario. It's part of the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve.

Newest World-Leading Star Gazing Site

While national parks in some places debate whether mountain bikes, pack horses or even hordes of people intrude on the “wilderness experience,” New Zealand’s Aoraki National Park is newly touting a more primordial indicator of wild nature.

Located on the northwestern side of the nation’s South Island, Aoraki National Park and Mackenzie Basin near towering Mount Cook have been named a “Gold Level” International Dark Sky Reserve.

The Reserve encompasses 4,300 square kilometers, or 1,660 square miles of star-studded sky, making it the world’s largest, and perhaps best, place to star gaze.

An article in the New Zealand Herald said tourism boosters were happy and expected a significant increase in visitation. "'It's wonderful finally to have recognition in both national and global terms for this premium asset," said Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter. "It puts the Mackenzie Basin on the map as a destination of international significance and sends a clear message to people that if they want the ultimate dark-sky experience, then this is the place to come.'"

The article in what the website called “New Zealand's leading metropolitan newspaper,” said, “there are 17 International Dark Sky Places worldwide, but only four International Dark Sky Reserves. The other three are at Mont Megantic in Canada, Exmoor National Park in Britain and the NamibRand Nature Reserve in Namibia.”

The paper said, “Outdoor lighting controls were put into place in the area in the early 1980s, which helped to minimise light pollution around the Mt John Observatory, which overlooks the Tekapo township.”

Mount Cooke, says Mackenzie Tourism general manager, “was considered one of the most accessible observatories in the world. ‘The observatory is home to six telescopes, including the country's biggest telescope, which measures 1.8m across and can observe 50 million stars each clear night.’"

A Web site called said, the “announcement coincides with the Third International Starlight Conference, a United Nations-led effort that emphasizes that a star-filled night sky is part of the common heritage of mankind and that protections are necessary to ensure that present and future generations will be able to see the stars. The new IDSR is playing host to the conference and sets a wonderful example for attendees.” bills itself as “the premier internet destination for space, science, health, and technology enthusiasts around the globe.”

Highways in Peru and Kenya Said to Threaten National Parks

A controversial plan to build a highway deep in Peru’s southeastern Amazon jungle region is being strongly opposed by the Environment Ministry’s parks service, says the Peruvian Times, an Internet version of “one of the oldest English-language publishing houses in South America.”

The website quoted the parks service, Sernanp, as saying the proposed Alto Purus Highway would “violate the intangibility and integrity of two national protected areas: the Communal Purus Reserve and the Alto Purus National Park.”

The areas were created to insulate indigenous peoples choosing to live lives voluntarily isolated from larger society, including the Mashco, Mascho-Piros and Curanjeños.

Proponents see the road and rail line route as a key connection between isolated towns and a spur to economic development. Opponents fear for the indigenous people, the resources that would become more accessible (legally and illegally) and the possible expansion of criminal activity.

The website quoted forestry expert and environmentalist Marc Dourojeanni as saying, “There is no doubt that a highway between Iñapari and Purus would be the end of the [national] park, the uncontacted Indians, of its marvelous biological diversity and of its tremendous economic potential for tourism.”

“Indigenous leader Julio Cusurichi said the highway would lead to ‘ethnocide’ of the uncontacted Indians.”

In another interview, he said, “What they are planning is contradictory. While in Madre de Dios they lack resources to fix existing highways and roads in our communities, they are planning to move ahead quickly with a highway that would only support illegal logging and allow the violation of intangible zones.”

Highway will Slice Into Nairobi National Park

In Africa, the Kenyan government has approved the construction of a road that slices through the Nairobi National Park, says a blog based on South Africa’s Getaway Magazine.

The Southern Bypass is likely to cut 150 acres of land from the nearly 29,000-acre, park on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya’s largest city and capital. It's a noteworthy travel destination known as the closest wildlife rich park close to a capital city in Africa. The Black Rhino is a resident.

The blogpost by Adel Groenewald said, construction “has already ruined many acres of the park as well as the Ngong Forest which consists of only 2,000 acres in total... Nairobi National Park is home to over 100 species of mammals and is a sanctuary for the endangered black rhino, but this bypass will put the park at risk of further development, thereby putting the wildlife and their natural habitat in danger.”

Groenewald wrote, “The East African Wildlife Society (EAWLS) has said that an environmental impact assessment licence that was issues last year is being violated by the construction of the road. ‘Failing to respect the integrity of Kenya’s national parks undermines Vision 2030, which expects tourism to be a main driver of economic growth’, said EAWLS director Nigel Hunter.”

The blog touted a petition against the road.



I just worked with the Bruce Peninsula National Park where I visited and stayed in one of their new YURTS.

Here's a blog post with photos and videos about the a great experience [color=#881280; font-family: monospace; white-space: pre-wrap; font-size: medium]href[color=#881280; font-family: monospace; white-space: pre-wrap; font-size: medium]="[/color]"[color=#881280; font-family: monospace; white-space: pre-wrap; font-size: medium]>[/color]YURT camping is.


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