Parks Planning Framework

There was an article in the Calgary Herald today about the Provincial Government’s proposed new Alberta’s Plan for Parks that has been in the works since the change in government in 2008. One of the Strategic Priorities of the  Business Plan 2008-11 is to create a Parks Plan that addresses Alberta Parks and Protected Areas in context of the Provincial Land-use Framework. 

The strategic priority is to “Ensure Alberta’s parks and recreation areas remain protected yet accessible to Alberta’s growing population by developing a plan for Alberta’s parks and recreation areas. This will include a focus on ensuring science-based stewardship and conservation of our natural and cultural heritage while providing nature-based outdoor recreation opportunities for all Albertans. The plan will help to coordinate recreation opportunities provided in provincial parks and recreation areas with those provided by municipalities through urban and regional parks.

By August 2008, Tourism, Parks and Recreation had produced a draft plan after meetings with First Nations, campground operators, stakeholder groups and municipal parks and recreation providers, and polling(?). While a number of conservation groups have been involved, there appears to have been no consultation with outdoor recreation groups and no open public consultation. The Draft Parks Planning Framework is not available on the Alberta Government web site. The article in the Herald states that the final document is expected by spring (2009).  The whole process appears to have been rushed.

There are a number of things that should concern the non-motorised outdoor recreation community. The statement in the plan that “Albertans tell us they need campgrounds that accommodate large trailers, accessible facilities and designated trails for all-terrain vehicles, whose numbers have tripled in the past 10 years” is a warning that the strong ATV lobby is being heard in Edmonton. The noise, damage to public lands and the impact on wildlife is contrary to the values we all subscribe to.

There are many subtle references to enhancing tourism opportunities in Alberta Parks hidden among the “for all Albertans” statements. Absent are statements about ecologically friendly tourism. Even before the plan is in place helicopter tours have been approved for the Kananaskis Valley next summer!

Another worrying aspect of the plan is the move to simplify the parks classification system. A system that was developed some years ago with a good deal of public input and has worked reasonably well for Kananaskis Country. The stated intention is to: “Simplify the current parks classification system so Albertans can easily understand which recreational activities are supported in their local parks. A simpler classification system will also help Albertans design a parks system that reflects their regional needs. Simplifying the classification system will require consolidation of two pieces of legislation – the Provincial Parks Act and the Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas Act and Heritage Rangelands Act.”

While Alberta’s Plan for Parks is the basis for future management plans, there will be many issues arising from this document that will affect outdoor enthusiasts who use Kananaskis Country: Access restrictions; tourism infrastructure developments that were so soundly rejected by Albertans a few years ago; an increase in all-terrain vehicle use; campgrounds primarily geared to large vehicle with a reservation system that will make casual use by Albertans very difficult; to name a few. 

Go to the Advocacy tab below the header of this site to download the latest version of Alberta’s Plan for Parks and to link to the well-thoughtout response by The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

2 comments… add one
  • David Wasserman Mar 4, 2009, 1:48 pm

    The Minister’s response to my question about OHVs in the Parks Plan and the survey follows. You will note that the survey results are not dealt with..

    Dear Mr. Wasserman:

    Thank you for your letter of January 30, 2009 regarding Alberta’s Plan for Parks, and specifically your association’s concerns about off-highway vehicle (OHV) use in provincial parks. I appreciate the opportunity to provide you with the following information.

    There is a growing demand for motorized recreation opportunities in Alberta 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.

    However, I would like to reassure you that it is not the intent of Alberta’s Plan for Parks to open all parks to motorized recreation. Parks will continue to provide safe, secure opportunities for families to relax and recreate in natural surroundings while also determining opportunities to address new forms of recreation.

    Recreation groups will have opportunities to be directly involved in the designation, development and maintenance of these trail networks. This involvement will be closely coordinated with the work of the Recreation Corridors Coordinating Committee.

    Alberta’s Plan for Parks is closely linked to the Government of Alberta’s Land-use Framework. The Land-use Framework sets out to develop seven regional plans where provincial government, municipal government, Aboriginal community representatives, industry, non-government groups and other relevant planning bodies come together to determine the best land use decisions within their region. Tourism, Parks and Recreation staff will carry the feedback and knowledge, identified by Albertans during Alberta’s Plan for Park consultation, into these regional planning initiatives.

    I will be taking Alberta’s Plan for Parks forward for government approval. This document is a result of the passion shown, and the knowledge shared, by stakeholders, partners, Aboriginal communities and Government of Alberta staff. The support of the participants involved in the development of this document is an important step in working together to manage our provincial parks.

    Thank you for your ongoing interest and support of Alberta’s parks.


    Cindy Ady

  • David Wasserman Feb 5, 2009, 10:18 pm

    The only non-motorized recreational group involved in the Minister’s Forum (in September 2008) on the first draft of the “parks planning framework” (as it was known at the time) was a nascent group then called “Hike Alberta” but now known as the Alberta Hiking Association. We have continued to be involved by responding to the second draft, although apparently with little or no effect.

    The draft parks plan is now available from my web site here. The public and park user survey dated September 25, 2009, and made available to various groups in January of this year is here, and the Alberta Hiking Association response to the draft plan is here. A further query to the Minister, which was also sent to the leaders of the opposition parties, after receiving the public and park users survey results is here.

    Please feel free to circulate these documents.

Leave a Comment