Alberta has released a list of cuts it is making to the parks system, including 20 full or partial closures.
The public will be barred from 11 of those parks, while nine will be accessible but without any services. (See the full list below).
Another 164 parks are to be handed over to third parties to manage. Environment Minister Jason Nixon said about six groups have contacted him about one of those sites.
The changes are throughout the province — from campsites at Dinosaur Provincial Park in the south to the complete closure of Kehiwin Provincial Park in the north.
The total amount of land involved is about 16,000 hectares.
The government says that’s less than one per cent of the province’s parks system, but it isn’t clear if that includes the national parks.
“Alberta’s taxpayers pay over $86 million a year to be able to run our campgrounds of which we receive around $36 million in revenue,” Nixon said. “The retail side loses a tremendous amount of money.
“There’s Sulphur Lake, for example — 36 people were going to it at any given year and that’s not what we can focus on and we need to focus on the heavily utilized areas and that people want to camp at.”
Nixon said during a time of “fiscal restraint” in Alberta, those struggling to find jobs don’t “want the government focused on having a comfort campground for them.”
The United Conservative government says the changes, which it calls optimizing Alberta’s parks, will save $5 million.
The NDP said it wanted to see numbers to back up the government’s justification for the cuts.
“I would challenge the assertion by the minister that they are under-utilized. Show us the data,” environment critic Marlin Schmidt said. “Some parks on the list of closure are Dinosaur Provincial Park — that’s overbooked, Buffalo Jump is also busy, so show us data.”
LISTEN: Grace Wark with Alberta Wilderness Association joins Calgary Today to discuss plans to remove parks from the provincial system
Campers and park users that Global News spoke with on Tuesday said they were disappointed to see the parks affected, but understood why they ended up on the chopping block.
“It certainly will affect us, we are big parks users,” Daryll Harrison said. “I’m sorry this decision is made but on the other hand, the province is in a serious situation from a financial perspective and ultimately, tough decisions have to be made.”
“I’m a user of those trails. I should be the one who is complaining but I understand the big picture… We can’t keep spending money when we don’t have it,” Anders Renborg said.
For Grace Wark with the Alberta Wilderness Association, the decision is “concerning.”
- Kehiwin Provincial Recreation Area near St. Paul
- Running Lake Provincial Recreation Area north of Worsley
- Stoney Lake Provincial Recreation Area north of Fairview
- Little Fish Lake Provincial Recreation Area east of Drumheller
- Crow Lake Provincial Recreation Area south of Fort McMurray
- Bleriot Ferry Provincial Recreation Area north of Drumheller
- Green Valley Provincial Park east of Peace River
- Twin Lake Provincial Recreation Area north of Manning
- Sheep Creek Provincial Recreation Area north of Grande Cache
- Bow Valley Provincial Park west of Calgary
- Gooseberry Provincial Recreation Area west of Bragg Creek
- Gooseberry Lake Provincial Park north of Consort
- Sulphur Lake Provincial Recreation Area north of Peace River
- Engstrom Lake Provincial Recreation Area south of Fort McMurray
- Chain Lakes Provincial Recreation Area north of Athabasca
- Lawrence Lake Provincial Recreation Area north of Athabasca
- Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park southeast of Red Deer
- Notikewin Provincial Park north of Manning
- Smoky River South Provincial Recreation Area west of Grande Cache
- Dinosaur Provincial Park northeast of Brooks
— With files from Global News’ Jill Croteau