Meewasin Valley Authority unsure of future

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Meewasin Valley Authority uncertain of future after announcement of funding review.

In just over a week, the Meewasin Interpretive Centre in Saskatoon will close to the public. Even though the announcement was made two weeks ago, the Meewasin Valley Authority’s (MVA) CEO says they still don’t know what the organization’s future will hold.

“The closure of the centre is a way for us to balance this year’s budget, but certainly the future is uncertain for us at this point,” Lloyd Isaak told Global News.

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    READ MORE: Saskatoon’s Meewasin Valley Centre to close in July

    The closure is perhaps the most dramatic evidence of what the MVA says has been years of dwindling funding.

    It was created in 1979 to manage the South Saskatchewan River valley in the Saskatoon region. But the MVA says funding from the province, the city and the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) has not kept pace with inflation.

    Then in the most recent provincial budget came news that their funding is under review.

    It led to the announcement that on July 1 the interpretative centre would close. Over the years, more than 400,000 people have toured the centre to learn about the valley’s history and natural environment.

    The MVA has been steward of the river valley since 1979

    Brent McGillivray / Global News

    “The closure of the centre is really indicative of a bigger problem,” Isaak said.

    “Meewasin is in some financial difficulty as a result of static funding, we really need our funding partners to take another look at the funding formula and determine what might be financially sustainable for us to do the things expected of us.”

    Isaak said the MVA has gotten pretty good at fund raising – in fact a third of their budget comes from their own fundraising efforts. But it’s reached the point where they need more.

    “What we need is ongoing predictable and stable funding that’s responsive to the programs that we need, so we can apply for these grants and have the staff in place, and keep the lights on so we can plan for our future,” he said.

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    For example, the MVA is in the process of applying for a federal Canada 150 grant, which could pump up to half-a-million-dollars into widening and fixing the most heavily used portion of the MVA trail.

    “It all helps,” said Isaac. But the MVA says its funding has dwindled to about a third of what it used to be, when inflation is factored in.

    And use of MVA facilities just keeps going up. Its 56 kilometers of trails along the river valley are used by an estimated one-million people per year. And besides the interpretative centre, it maintains the Beaver Creek Conservation Area, Cranberry Flats Conservation Area, Fred Heal Canoe Launch, the Cameco-Meewasin skating rink, and the Riverworks Weir, among others.

    “This river valley separate us from any other place in the world, we’re very fortunate to have this rich cultural heritage and this rich natural heritage, and Meewasin eats, sleeps and breathes this as an entity that manages this on behalf of our three participating parties,” Isaak said.

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    He’s hoping the provincial review will lead to a more solid financial footing for the organization.

    “We are certainly on the brink of some significant change here, we know the province is looking for transformational change, and we’re looking for getting an understanding of what their vision is for Meewasin,“ he said.

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