First regional park, 20 years later

March 29, 2016

When someone tells me there is park somewhere near where I will be house sitting or travelling, my heart sings.

Parks are these amazing places where people play cricket as they do Hampstead Heath in field after field in North London, UK where I house sat two black cats last summer, three doors down from where the Quakers meet.

Or around Kootney Lake near Nelson, BC  where the salmon swim upstream in Goldstream Park every fall. Or outside of Whitehorse, Yukon, where the buffalo roam.

There is Yellowstone Park in Montana, USA where tales are told of how the Native Americans rounded the bison up and corralled them on the plains before killing them to use every part of them for food, utensils, blankets and on and on. In Boulder, Colorado, you can hike up the Rocky Mountain sides at the end of residential streets in parks.o

In southern Saskatchewan, there are the rolling badlands and among the parks south of Moose Jaw, is Thomson Lake Regional Park:

Gravelbourg Gazette

November 2, 1982

First regional park, 20 years later

by Tanya Lester

Thomson Lake Regional Park, the province s first regional park, is thriving since it began twenty years ago as a sandy beach.

According to Leo Piche, the park s administrator, 110,000 to 120,000 people visited the 2,300 acre park this summer. Judging from these figures, it appears the park is fulfilling its mandate to provide this area s residents with a summer recreational facility. Prior to the park s development, this was the only district in Saskatchewan where people did not have a lake to go to within a 100 mile radius.

Over the years, Mr. Piche said I million dollars, through provincial and municipal grants as well as service club donations, has been sunk into Thomson Lake Regional Park s sandy beach, lake, metric Olympic size swimming pool, change houses, golf course, clubhouse, toilets, showers, powered camp sites, picnic areas, boat launch and docking, playground equipment, and cottage subdivision.

Although due to the change in the provincial government the Thomson Lake Regional Park Authority is still waiting for its annual provincial grant, the park was the site of much activity this past summer.

Over 600 people took swimming lessons at the park this summer. There were canoeing, sailboat, and water skiing clinics. The Regional Park Celebration brought out 2500 people who watched a judo event and an airplane show as well as participating in biking, boating, running, and relay races. On that day, 230 registrations were taken for the nine hole golf course.

Of the 28 employees last summer, 20 were summer students. This is one thing , according to Mr. Piche, the park does. It injects a lot of employment opportunities for students. Students in the area are always considered for the jobs, he said.

Many of these students teach swimming lessons at the pool. Because of algae problems, the lake is not used for swimming.

The idea to develop the park was first thought about after Dr. Thomson decided a reservoir was needed to irrigate surrounding farms. The area was flooded for the dam in 1958.

The Wood River Beach Association was formed and in 1959 a call for volunteers, to spread sand for the beach, went out. In 1960, the sandy beach was in place even before the lake was established.

Then people such as Jim Hooker, his brother Bud, Les Coote, and Martin Maloney, who still chairs the Thomson Lake Regional Park Authority, began approaching the provincial government for funding.

After many trips to and meetings in Regina, the Saskatchewan government passed the Regional Parks Act in 1961. The act authorized municipalities to form regional groups to develop parks, to set up permanent bodies of administrators, and to provide grants for such projects. Initially, the provincial government provided 60 per cent of the grant money while the local municipalities kicked in 40 per cent. Now the split is 66 per cent for the province and 33 per cent for the municipalities.

Due to the passage of the Act, which was prompted by people in this area, there are now over 100 regional parks in the province.

But there are a few negitive aspects to running the park. Nothing like this is developed without some headaches and the big problem here is money, Mr. Piche said.

It s (the park) been taxed to the limits. The high cost of development and high interest rates have impeded our fasteom to operate. Our operating cash is very tight.

Part of the revenue for operating the park is provided through the park fees. To get into the park is $2.00 per day and $6.00 a season. Golf fees are $5.00 a day during the week and $8.00 on weekends. A yearly membership fee to use all park facilities is $100 for a family and $60 for a single person.

However, Mr. Piche is concerned that $30,000 in provincial grant money to be used for park maintenance has still not arrived. He said it has never been so late in coming as this year.


To read other posts in this eclectic blog,go to and

Tanya s books are Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader (can be purchased from the author or from, Friends I Never Knew, Dreams and Tricksters and Women s Rights- Writes. All of these books can be found in some libraries and the last three are in the Legislative Library of Manitoba.

Tanya does intuitive counselling (including tea leaf reading and tarot), is a reiki master and a house sitter. To use her services, go to her website: or her pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google. Or contact her directly at or call 250-538-0086 cell.



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