As the busiest park in northwest Ontario, Quetico Provincial Park can largely thank Americans for its popularity. Trevor Gibb, the park’s manager, recently visited Ely to talk about the Canadian canoe destination with the town’s “Tuesday Group.” Covering topics from visitor trends to the threat of mining pollution, Gibb answered questions during the lunchtime meeting.
Although the park is on the other side of the international border, the majority of its visitors paddle in from Ely, the Timberjay reported. “I would argue that Ely isn’t just the American gateway to Quetico, it is primary gateway to all of Quetico,” he said.
In something of a surprise this year, visits to Quetico rose about 13 percent. Gibb attributed that to favorable currency exchange rates and warm weather that last well into fall. But the increase is an anomaly in the past 20 years, when visitation has declined about 20 percent.
The numbers are a mixed blessing for the park, Gibb said, as lower numbers help maintain its wilderness character, but visitor fees also fund much of its management. Its fees, which are much higher than the Boundary Waters, provide about 85 percent of the park’s budget.
When asked about controversial copper-nickel mine proposals in Minnesota, near the Boundary Waters and upstream of part of Quetico, Gibb said he has a mandate to protect the park’s ecological integrity. “In general, if there’s any threat to the quality of the environment in the park, we have to be concerned,” he said, as reported in the Ely Echo.
Gibb also said the park is working to address the threat of invasive species, is considering an online permit system, and has been involved in several search-and-rescue missions recently. He also said that, le the Boundary Waters, the average age of visitors is also increasing, raising concerns about its future use and protection.