12/16/2014 10:25 EST | Updated 02/15/2015 05:59 EST

Manitoba park that's popular year-round attraction to undergo big expansion

WINNIPEG - One of Manitoba's more popular provincial parks is undergoing a major growth spurt.

The government is expanding the boundaries of Whiteshell Provincial Park, east of Winnipeg, by almost 3,000 hectares.

As well, the area within Whiteshell that's protected from mining and development will be increased by more than 20,000 hectares.

The change will raise the amount of protected land and water in the park to 44 per cent from 35 per cent.

Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh says in a release that the land being added is almost as large as Birds Hill Provincial Park, just north of Winnipeg.

Mackintosh says the expansion will also help protect the shores of Big Whiteshell Lake, the Winnipeg River, White Lake and other bodies of water that are popular for fishing.