This forum is for you to use as you wish for asking questions or generating discussion on non-motorized use of trails in Kananaskis Country or of issues relating to trail use. Where a blog has been linked to the forum, please follow the link at the bottom of the blog to the forum to make comments.
December 8, 2008
Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation, as part of its Plan for Parks, is looking for feedback on proposed legislation to simplify the park classification system in Alberta. Under the proposal public park land would be classified as either Provincial Parks or Heritage Rangeland, with Provincial Parks being split into zones that balance recreation and conservation.
Even though Alberta currently has several different types of Provincial Park designations, including Provincial Parks, Wildland Provincial Parks and Provincial Recreation Areas, most people have no idea that there is any difference between them. To most people, all of these areas are simply "Parks". In fact, a majority of people believe that all of Kananaskis Country is a park... when only about 60% of it is managed by the Tourism, Parks and Recreation ministry.
Most jurisdictions in Canada and the USA use zoning to define the type of activity that is permitted in a National Park, Provincial Park or State Park. It is only Alberta that uses different park types to define what is permitted in a specific area. As far as I can see, this change in legislation would merely bring Alberta in line with most other places.
I agree with your concern that the current "Wildland Provincial Parks" provide a wonderful combination of limited development and relatively unrestricted non-motorized access and that this type of designation is the best option for most of Kananaskis Country. As I read the descriptions, the Zone B classification is designed to provide this balance of recreation and conservation. The on-line survey clearly says that it is anticipated that most of the current "Wildland Parks" and significant portions of the larger "Provincial Parks" would be classified as Zone B. I just think that the definitions of what is permitted should be more clear and specific. For example, is hunting permitted within any of the zones? What about random backcountry camping? Would motorized recreation be permitted in any of the zones, or does "Park" really mean non-mechanized recreation?
The bigger issue for most people is that there are way too many different parks within Kananaskis Country and the boundaries make very little sense to someone who is hiking, biking or riding a horse. Who really cares if they are walking through Bluerock Wildland Park, Sheep River Provincial Park, Elbow-Sheep Wildland Park or Don Getty Wildland Park. It is possible to do day hikes that go through all 4 parks, yet there is nothing that tells any hiker when they go from one type of park to another or how it makes any difference. Simplifying this mess would be a much more valuable exercise, but perhaps that will be the next step.
The other type of protected area included in the proposed new act would be a "Heritage Rangeland". The description talks about protecting areas of "prairie", but description is much too restrictive. Some of the best heritage rangelands are located in the foothills and front-range mountains, where there is a mix of grassland, wetlands and forested areas. Such areas are best protected with large grazers like cattle or bison. The "Heritage Rangelands" say that they would permit some limited recreation, but the descriptions do not define what that includes. Does it allow for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing... and does it also permit the use of off-highway vehicles?
I encourage everyone to read the background information and complete the survey.
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