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).