This past weekend, visitors to Thunder Bay’s Chippewa Park’s Wildlife Exhibit had a rare opportunity to see the resident animals in their splendid winter coats. Thick and shiny coats out on display, the animals were showcased in their natural environment. The most favourite of the children was the artic fox almost invisible against the snow although the two timber wolves also gained a lot of attention. Caribou, Elk and white tailed deer were also on display. No one needed to hide in the shade like they generally do throughout the summer months. As a holdover from Valentines day many visitors reported pairs of birds cuddled up against each other. Operated by the City of Thunder Bay Parks Department, the Wildlife Exhibit was opened up to the public throughout the Family Day Weekend. The Friends of Chippewa Park staffed the Visitor Centre offering hot chocolate, tea and coffee and a bit of warmth to the visitors on Sunday and Monday.
The Wildlife Exhibit will remain open each Saturday and Sunday for the rest of the winter – weather permitting of course and as long as the walkways are suitable for walking.
In the meantime the City has commenced its development of a long range plan for Chippewa Park, including the Wildlife Exhibit. The consultants hired for the Visioning Exercise were at the Park on Monday as well as at Prince Arthur’s Landing asking people for their views on the future of the park and the various components within it. This is part of an eight month process which will culminate in a plan that will guide future investments in the physical infrastructure of the park, how it is programmed and what are the staffing and marketing requirements to enable it to properly serve residents and tourists.
The Consulting Team met with a range of stakeholders, the Board of The Friends of Chippewa Park, and engaged in consultations with a number of Aboriginal groups including the Fort William First Nation during the past week. An online survey will be available in March so that interested citizens can record their views on the park. They heard a range of ideas, from expanding the number of cabins at the tourist camp, to refurbishing the historical carousel and putting it into its own building at Chippewa Park (and never moving it elsewhere) to developing a major water park adjacent to the beach. Many insisted that a solution be found that will enable the main beach to remain open and safe all summer long. More trails, more organized programming and entertainment and retention of the large picnic fields were put forward. Many expressed support for maintaining and expanding the Wildlife Exhibit with a focus on providing education to ensure that the public understands that it is not a zoo but a sanctuary for animals that would not be able to survive in the wild.
They will return to Thunder Bay in the late spring, reporting back on what they heard and providing draft recommendations for consideration by the community. They hope to have a final report to the City by the end of the summer.