About half of the 15 workers at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park were given layoff notices last Monday.
For the first time, eight of the park’s employees were laid off for the park’s winter months, January until April, the association confirmed.
“We are changing, we are going to do something new this year,” said Ken Tanner, president and CEO of the West Coast Railway Association. “The park during the winter months is going to be fully open on weekends and we will have our normal operations, everything open… but during the weekdays we are going to reduce staff and we are going to have free entry.”
The outdoor exhibits will not be open during the week, but the indoor exhibits will be open.
“Our experiment here is to reduce staff and create an opportunity for local people to come and visit at no charge, donations always welcome to a charity, but the idea is to provide a community opportunity through our very slow winter months,” Tanner said, adding many of the park’s staff are part-time employees.
The park’s annual Polar Express “Ride to the North Pole,” which is currently underway, is a success, Tanner said.
According to the park’s website, the weekend event is sold out through to its last ride on Dec. 20. “We’re in the regrettable situation of having to turn people away and it is unfortunate, but we are totally sold out, every seat is gone,” Tanner said.
The number of visitors usually drops off after the Polar Express ends. Tanner acknowledged the lack of business during past winters is the impetus for the change. The park will be back to full operations in April and laid-off staff will be brought back.