Waterton Lakes opens more trails, camp sites ahead of Canada Day

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Waterton Lakes National Park has re-opened several kilometres of trails and a handful of backcountry camping areas just as Canada Day approaches. The closures were caused by damage from last September's Kenow wildfire. Kyle Benning reports – Jun 29, 2018

Hikers, campers and nature lovers heading to the mountains over the long weekend will have more access to the crown jewel of southwestern Alberta.

Parks Canada has re-opened 50 kilometres of trails as well as three backcountry campgrounds in Waterton Lakes National Park after they were closed due to damage from the Kenow wildfire last September.

The blaze, about 380 square kilometres in size, affected more than one-third of the park and about half of its vegetation.

READ MORE: Significant portion of Waterton Lakes National Park closed for 2018 season

Parks Canada said crews are working to repair damaged infrastructure on trails like benches and foot bridges, as well as cutting and clearing fallen and burned trees.

The park’s visitor experience manager noted that anyone heading to the park should be prepared for large crowds.

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“Although there is more for those folks to who decide to come to do, there’s not really more space available in the townsite or along the roadways to park,” Locke Marshall said. “So we still have the potential to be quite busy and it could be congested.”

Despite the good news, a large section of Waterton Lakes is still closed.

A number of campgrounds and trails on the west side of the park are blocked off including Bear’s Hump Trail, the Akamina Parkway and sections of Red Rock Parkway.

READ MORE: Daytime visitors up, business slow in Waterton townsite after Kenow wildfire

Officials haven’t said when those spots will be open, but said anyone who enters a closed area can be fined up to $25,000.

Parks Canada said visitor traffic for May and June is decreased compared to previous years.

Last year saw an unprecedented number of visitors with entry being free for Canada’s 150th birthday.

WATCH: Global News’ coverage of the Kenow wildfire and Waterton Lakes National Park

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Marshall said 2016 was the park’s second-best year for attendance. June 2018 has seen a 20 per cent dip in visitors compared to two years ago.

But he added attendance is usually high over the Canada Day long weekend with a number of events set up for those who visit the park.

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