Here we go again! It took three studies and five or six years to convince the Klein government that Albertans didn’t want more infrastructure development in Kananaskis Country. How long is it going to take to convince Ed Stelmach that Albertans don’t want more off-highway trails and infrastructure in Alberta’s Parks, Protected Areas and other public lands.
A recent Praxis study of park users found that providing more OHV facilities was very low on the list of priorities of those surveyed. “Key Findings” in the executive summary state: “A number of areas were considered as low or non-priorities. The area of lowest priority is infrastructure and land to support off-highway vehicle use …”
In Alberta’s Plan for Parks under Evolving Visitor Needs is says: “… For example, Albertans tell us they need campgrounds that accommodate large trailers, facilities that minimize physical, social and financial barriers to participation and access to designated trails for off-highway vehicles.”
Minister Ady in a letter (almost certainly drafted by bureaucrats) confirms that the government has already made up its mind to capitulate to the strong lobby by equipment manufacturers and retailers. She says: “There is a growing demand for motorized recreation opportunities in Alberta [contrary to the Praxis study] and therefore the need to formalize motorized recreation trails is a priority for the Government of Alberta. My ministry is working closely with colleagues from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development to determine where motorized recreation opportunities are best provided on public lands. My ministry’s Parks Division is also looking at how motorized recreation will be addressed in parks. It will identify locations for new campgrounds and staging areas that will be constructed to specifically address the needs of motorized recreation. These staging areas will provide access points to designated trails networks on both public land and in some parks, in keeping with classification restrictions.” [my emphasis]
The problem is that we still have the same bunch of arrogant bureaucrats in Edmonton who cherry-pick the parts of a study they agree with and reject findings that interfere with their pre-conceived plans. So much for “evidence-based decision making” touted in the Plan for Parks.
It is totally unreasonable that a minority of users are allowed to cause such severe environmental damage to public lands owned by all Albertans. They should take their activity to private facilities sponsored by manufacturers and dealers in the same way as stock car drivers go to a race track.
We need to be particularly vigilant for Kananaskis Country as a result of a recent announcement by Stephen Harper about infrastructure funding for trail development as part of his economic stimulus package. It is noticeable that two of the three supporters of the project are Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations and the Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle Distributors Council!
In and adjacent to Kananaskis Country we have more than our fair share of land that is being trashed by off-highway vehicles. Enough is enough Minister Ady.