WEST CARLETON — When COVID-19 hit last year, Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority’s (MVCA) six conservation areas became more than a leisurely place for people to walk their dog or stretch their legs in the fresh air. 

Visitors began to seek out these areas as places of refuge and comfort at a time when the world seemed anything but normal.  A record 75,000 visitors passed through MVCA’s conservation areas in 2020 and, if the first few weeks of 2021 is any indication, that trend will continue this year.

An aerial view of Morris Island.
The Morris island Conservation Area has seen a huge increase in visitors in 2020. Screengrab

“MVCA is committed to keeping its conservation areas open and safe so visitors the can continue to reap the physical and mental health benefits of stepping into nature,” MVCA community relations coordinator Shannon Gutoskie released in a statement today (Jan. 20). “As such, an increase in visitors translates into an increase in operations to maintain property standards and meet public health guidelines.”

Following an annual review of all fees, the MVCA board of directors approved an increase to the site fee at Morris Island Conservation Area (MICA) to $6 per vehicle, which hadn’t changed in four years.

“MVCA is pleased we are able to keep our conservation areas open for public enjoyment,” MVCA’s operations supervisor Ross Fergusson said. “All of the fees collected at our properties help us protect and maintain these natural spaces.  By paying a site fee, visitors directly contribute to facilities such as washrooms, beautification of the sites, trails and ground maintenance as well as bridges and boardwalks.”

Site fees at all other conservation areas remain the same, with the new Carp River Conservation Area continuing to be free of charge. Annual passes, which are the most cost-effective option, can be purchased online for $47 + HST.

MVCA was established in 1968 by area municipalities to protect and manage shared watershed resources for mutual benefit.  Today, MVCA is governed by a Board consisting of 17 members appointed by area municipalities and delivers services in accordance with the Conservation Authorities Act.