Gates close for good on Upper Clements Wildlife Park

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New development to be announced in two months, says Gaul

Gates close for good on Upper Clements Wildlife Park

By Lawrence Powell

Spectator

NovaNewsNow.com

The wildlife park at Upper Clements is closed and won't re-open in 2010, but the property will be redeveloped into what Upper Clements Parks general manager Gregg Gaul describes as "something new and exciting."

He said the venture will be positive for the region and will make it a true tourism destination. He said it will appeal to all ages and demographics and will be a stand-alone attraction, although the new experience can be bundled with the experiences at the theme park and picnic park. A key aspect of the re-developed property will be the ability to capitalize on the tourism shoulder seasons in the spring and fall, he said. “We have decided to redevelop the Wildlife Park area into an attraction that will appeal to a wider audience and extend the park season significantly,” Gaul said.

If all goes well, Gaul said the new development could be up and running on a small scale by the fall of 2010. "But really, we're talking about 2011," he said.

Gaul said the conceptual plan for the new development is nearly complete but must go through the rigors of a feasibility study before an announcement concerning the nature of the venture can be made. "We know what we want to do," said Gaul, adding that logistics must still be nailed down and that can only be done when the feasibility study is in hand.

However, Gaul said the new development will be sustainable and a revenue generator, unlike the wildlife park that was a revenue drain. “We are no longer able to operate a facility that is not financially viable,” he said.

The new development is expected to double the six jobs generated by the wildlife park and because it will be sustainable, and even a revenue generator, the ripple effect will impact the theme park on the other side of Highway 1, making upkeep and maintenance more viable and future expansion or additions more probable.

While he said he was unable to reveal the nature of the new development at this time, Gaul said he hopes to be able to make an announcement within the next two months. He said the Hanse Society, which operates the not-for- profit trio of parks, has retained the services of Economic Planning Group of Canada to work on the development concept. Gaul said the company is well respected for its tourism expertise across the country and that the concept was not something the Hanse Society came up with on the spur of the moment. He said the idea has been in the works for several years and the society was waiting for the right time to implement it. "It's been on our radar screen for a couple of years now," Gaul said. "It's a well-thought-out concept."

The right time turned out to be now, said Gaul. “Our lease with the provincial Department of Natural Resources for the Wildlife Park is at an end and we feel now is the time to try something new and exciting on that site," he said. "We will be finalizing our redevelopment plans for the area in the next couple of months.”

Gaul said the former wildlife park is a natural site for redevelopment because it includes a lot of existing infrastructure such as a sewage system and sewage lagoon, a water system complete with a water tower, parking, roads, perimeter fencing, and buildings. "It has good start-up infrastructure," Gaul said. "That makes it attractive."

The Hanse Society has owned Upper Clements Parks since 2007 and is responsible for ensuring its financial success. In a recent media release from the parks, the society said the Department of Natural Resources is supportive of the redevelopment initiative and is responsible for ensuring the animals in the Wildlife Park are cared for until new homes are secured.

Gaul said the animals are scheduled to be out of the park by November.

Bert Vissers, manager of the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park, told the CBC that staff there will do their best to find homes for all the animals currently at Upper Clements Park. "I don't foresee at this point in time that any of the animals will have to be euthanized," he said.

The birds of prey, such as the Bald Eagles, Great Horned Owls and Barn Owls will be sent to an animal distributor in Quebec. David Seltzer, a spokesman for DNR, told CBC those animals must remain in captivity because their wings are permanently injured.

Seltzer said the cougars and deer will also be sent to the Quebec animal distributor and Nova Scotia will get a credit for the animals should the province want similar ones in the future.

The transition is expected to cost about $18,000 and will be paid by DNR, the CBC said.

Organizations: Hanse Society, Department of Natural Resources, CBC Economic Planning Group of Canada

Geographic location: Upper Clements Wildlife Park, Quebec, Nova Scotia

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