Ontario announces upgrades to newly designated provincial park in Muskoka region

The Ontario government has announced plans to transform a 5,000-acre park in the Muskoka region to include campsites and year-round recreational activities.

In a news release issued Thursday, the province said Bigwind Lake Provincial Park, located about a half hour east of the Town of Bracebridge and nearly 200 kilometres north of Toronto, is set to undergo upgrades to offer overnight and electrified campgrounds, back country camping, and recreational activities including cross-country skiing, canoeing and hiking.

The province is also expected to add 250 campsites and up to 25 new cabins to the Ontario Parks system, according to the announcement.

Having grown up camping in Ontario Parks with my dad, I know just how special it is to have access to the great outdoors,” said Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks David Piccini in a statement Thursday.

This will be the first new operating provincial park in almost two generations, and with the demand on our parks system on the rise, our government understands the importance of investing in Ontario Parks, which is the largest provider of outdoor recreational experiences in the province.”

Bigwind is currently classified as a non-operating provincial park, the province noted, which offers low-intensity, self-guided recreational opportunities like hiking. The new upgrades will include staff, maintained facilities and campsites.

Residents and tourists will soon have access to another truly beautiful and quintessential provincial park,” said Graydon Smith, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry and MPP, Parry Sound–Muskoka.

Bigwind will become the 116th operating provincial park in Ontario, according to the province.

The province said based on estimated visitation, it expects to bring in roughly $16 million each year to Bracebridge and its surrounding areas once the revamped park opens.

Bracebridge’s vibrant community and landscape attracts visitors to experience it for themselves, and these new features will help to further strengthen our tourism and hospitality sectors, provide a space for people to connect with nature, and align with our commitment of encouraging long-term economic growth,” said Bracebridge mayor Rick Maloney.

Construction on the park site is expected to start in fall, but the province has not said when it will open.

The new site is also set to have a visitor centre and offer electric vehicle charging stations and electrified campsites, the release noted.

Ontarians can also have a say in the park’s design features by answering an online survey that will be open until Aug. 6.

Over the coming months, the government will engage Indigenous communities, local municipalities, stakeholders and the public on the proposed new operating park,” the release said.

Story by CBC/Radio-Canada