Alberta Parks is closing or partially closing 20 parks and seeking partnerships to manage more than 160 other parks and recreation areas as part of a cost-cutting plan. Map from Alberta Parks

Alberta Parks is closing or partially closing 20 parks and seeking partnerships to manage more than 160 other parks and recreation areas as part of a cost-cutting plan. Map from Alberta Parks

Changes coming for Alberta Parks

20 parks slated for closure or partial closure this year

The Alberta Wilderness Association is not happy with the provincial government’s decision to remove 164 of 473 sites from the Alberta Parks system.

In a letter to Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks, Conservation Specialist, Grace Wark from AWA says the move has crossed a line that will compromise the intrinsic values Albertans associate with the parks system and threaten the integrity of Alberta’s protected areas network.

“We firmly believe that closing provincial parks won’t save money, benefit Albertans, or improve tourism,” she said.

However, the government claims the move, which includes the full or partial closure of 20 parks this year, will save money and pave the way for partnership opportunities.

Although a press release stated ‘through prospective sale or transfer to First Nations or entities such as a municipality or non-profit, these sites could continue to provide important economic and recreational benefits to local communities,’ Nixon said the changes do not mean the government is selling crown land.

“All 164 park spaces to be removed from the park system will remain wholly as crown land,” he added.

“Alberta have expressed an interest in taking a more active role in the operation of some areas traditionally run by the province,” he said. “In order to facilitate this, and to renew our commitment to our ‘crown jewel’ destinations, we will be offering Albertans, non-profits and First Nations the opportunity to work with our government and with parks societies on exploring these important partnerships.”

But Wark said the move is in direct contradiction to the government’s promise to protect 17 per cent of the province by 2021.

“It is irresponsible to be removing parks and protected areas from our network. And it came out of the blue. There was no public consultation.”

Miranda Rosin, MLA for Banff-Kananaskis said (on Jason Nixon’s facebook page) the campsites identified for closure were operating at a loss of between $4.5 million to the taxpayer, had visitation of only 20-40 people per year and were completely run down in many cases.”

But Wark said the claim that 164 sites are mainly underutilized provincial recreation areas buries the plan to remove nine natural areas and 10 provincial parks which provide critical ecological and recreation values.

“In fact many of these sites are well-loved and incredibly popular,” she said.

But Nixon said practises like flying in firewood to the backcountry by helicopter and having parks staff drive long distances to change trash cans at locations that saw 22 users last year are simply not sustainable.

“We reject the idea that it is only government that is able to provide quality services at parks day use and camping areas.”

But Wark said there is little or no information as to how the sites to be removed will be managed.

“Protected areas operate under a legislated framework to conserve their natural heritage and provide recreation opportunities where compatible with environmental sustainability. The government’s decision provides no indication these vital principles for protection will be honoured in this plan.”

“Parks and protected areas are an investment in the health and well-being of Albertans,” she said, adding that there has been no financial accounting provided for these projected a savings. A true cost/benefit analysis would have considered the potential impacts to municipalities, economic losses to gateway communities and the loss of mental and physical health benefits provided by outdoor recreation, she noted.

Rimbey area resident Florence Stemo also has concerns about the closing the parks and the ensuing changes which she fears could mean inconsistencies, staff cuts and adverse affects to tourism.

“This is our money. These parks belong to the people of Alberta.”

The full list of areas proposed for removal can be found at https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/ep-optimizing-alberta-parks.pdf

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

file photo
Wetaskiwin, Maskwacis RCMP search warrant seize drugs; numerous charges laid

39-year-old Wetaskiwin man, Wayne Wiebe charged with 21 criminal code offences.

.
Alberta confirmed more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases Sunday

Central zone active cases slightly up

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
(THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Ponoka and Maskwacis custodians ‘unsung’ heroes during pandemic

Schools have increased the sanitization of key, high-touch areas

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

Traffic crosses over the Lions Gate Bridge from North Vancouver into Vancouver on July 2, 2015. Motorists would have to pay a fee to drive into downtown Vancouver under the city's plan to slow climate change but one expert warns it could pose financial hardship for some. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver’s climate plan ‘first 10 steps in a journey of 10,000,’ says expert

Almost 40 per cent of Vancouver’s carbon pollution comes from vehicles

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
After COVID-related transplant delays, 16-year-old N.S. girl gets lung transplant

‘This is the difficult time now of seeing Tahlia in ICU hooked up to 15 IVs and sedated’

Britain's Princess Anne The Princess Royal, right, talks to NATO delegates from left, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during a reception at Buckingham Palace, in London, as Nato leaders attend to mark 70 years of the alliance, Tuesday Dec. 3, 2019.  While NATO leaders are publicly professing unity as they gather for the London summit, several seem to have been caught in an unguarded exchange on camera apparently gossiping about U.S. President Donald Trump’s behaviour. In footage recorded during the Buckingham Palace reception on Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was seen standing in a huddle with French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Britain’s Princess Anne. (Yui Mok/Pool via AP)
Canada, Britain strike new trade, beating Brexit, incorporating expiring EU pact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British counterpart, Boris Johnson, announced the deal Saturday

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
An individual in Clearview school division (Stettler and region) has tested positive for COVID-19

Case affects students and staff at Wm. E. Hay Stettler Secondary School, Stettler Elementary School, and Erskine School, officials say

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes an announcement at the Ornamental Gardens in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Nix non-essential travel, stay home as much as possible as COVID 2nd wave surges: Trudeau

Trudeau was back outfront Rideau Cottage amid concerning COVID-19 projections from Dr. Theresa Tam

A pedestrian walks past a closed storefront on St. Catherine street as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on local businesses, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
High-income earners in Canada collected CERB, pandemic-related data shows

Tax policy experts note that many higher-income earners saw their workplaces closed

Most Read