Advertisement

Alberta government’s parks plan another ‘download’: rural municipalities group

Click to play video '20 Alberta parks and campgrounds closed fully or partially as a result of budget cuts' 20 Alberta parks and campgrounds closed fully or partially as a result of budget cuts
WATCH ABOVE: It's a plan the provincial government says will save millions. But nature-lovers and campers are expressing a lot of concern over a move to close some of Alberta's parks. Jill Croteau has more on the fallout. (Aired March 3, 2020) – Mar 3, 2020

A provincial plan to off-load dozens of Alberta parks and other protected areas to third-party management is just another way of shifting costs to other levels of government, says the head of Rural Municipalities Alberta.

“Yeah, it’s a download,” said Al Kemmere. “I do think that this is a passing-off of the responsibility.”

On Tuesday, the United Conservative government announced it would close or partially close 20 provincial parks.

It also plans to remove from its parks list 164 provincial recreation areas and other parks — many of which are full all summer with campers — unless third parties such as municipalities agree to run them. (Scroll down to see the full list of parks affected.)

READ MORE: Alberta wants to hand off management of 164 provincial parks to focus spending on ‘high-value areas’

Story continues below advertisement

The move was immediately denounced by parks advocates, political critics and user groups.

Kemmere said Wednesday that Environment Minister Jason Nixon’s announcement was unexpected.

“It definitely comes as a surprise. A week ago, we wouldn’t have had any knowledge of this.”

Kemmere said the surprise was compounded because the province said it hoped to double the value of tourism to Alberta’s economy.

“To hear this happen seemed almost counter to that approach.”

Nixon said the move is being made because the province can no longer pick up the $50-million difference between what the parks cost and what they bring in from user fees.

Government documents say the move would save $5 million. Nixon said it would be more, but he was unable to say how much.

READ MORE: 20 Alberta Parks slated for full or partial closures

Meanwhile, parks advocates wracked their brains to find examples of governments decertifying parks instead of creating them.

“Other provinces have delisted parks before, but often decades ago — and never to the scale we are seeing here in Alberta,” said Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

Story continues below advertisement

On Wednesday, Nixon posted a note online, calling CPAWS and two other agencies — Leadnow and Y2Y — left-leaning organizations who are “making things up and parroting NDP talking points.”

A section of Nixon’s post reads:

Let me reiterate: Albertans will always have access to crown land, regardless of which partnerships are sought or how a location is designated. We reject the idea that it is only government that is able to provide quality services at parks day use and camping areas. This is the primary difference between us and the NDP.

We know we don’t have to designate an area a park in order to ensure good stewardship.

Unlike the NDP, we trust that most Albertans are responsible and have a deep love for our wild places.

We are looking at these changes because we want our parks system to work for the largest number of Albertans possible, but we are also responsible to Alberta taxpayers. Practises like flying in firewood to the backcountry by helicopter and having parks staff drive long distances to change trash cans at locations that saw 22 users last year are simply not sustainable. Albertans are doing more with less – we need to follow their lead.

Kemmere said there might be a handful of rural municipalities able to cover the costs of running a park. But not very many.

Story continues below advertisement

“For municipalities to take this on, and all the other things that have been changing … I’m not sure what the appetite would be.”

Members are already shouldering the cost of expanded rural policing, mandated by the province. The province has also reduced the municipal tax levy applied to certain types of gas wells and is expected to do the same for other types of wells.

As well, many small communities face large holes in their budgets from energy companies not paying their property taxes.

READ MORE: Tax debt owed from oil and gas companies to Alberta towns has more than doubled

“When you put all the factors together, that’s all accumulating into some major pressure points for some of our members,” Kemmere said. “There are going to be some of these areas where parks exist, but the municipalities may not have the tools to handle them.”

That’s just going to create more problems down the road, he said. Campers aren’t going to stop and, without organized and controlled campsites, random camping will increase.

“It won’t be very well-controlled,” Kemmere said. “That’ll create a whole other problem in the environment that we don’t have right now.”

Kemmere said the issue will be prominent at a meeting of the municipalities next week.

Story continues below advertisement

“I’m going to make sure this conversation takes place.”

READ MORE: Alberta Parks camping reservations set to open up for bookings in March

Below is a list of the parks the province is looking to close, transfer or sell, sorted alphabetically:

2020 Full Park Closure (entire site will be closed to public access)

  1. Bleriot Ferry Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  2. Crow Lake Provincial Park (day use)
  3. Greene Valley Provincial Park (day use)
  4. Kehiwin Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  5. Little Fish Lake Provincial Park (overnight)
  6. Running Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  7. Sheep Creek Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  8. Stoney Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  9. Sulphur Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  10. Twin Lakes Provincial Recreation Area (day use)

2020 Partial Closure (remaining park areas will be open to public access, but un-serviced)

  1. Bow Valley Provincial Park – Barrier Lake Visitor Information Centre
  2. Chain Lakes Provincial Recreation Area Partial Closure – Campground
  3. Dinosaur Provincial Park – Comfort Camping
  4. Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park – Tolman Bridge Campgrounds (East and West) – Campground + group use
  5. Engstrom Lake Provincial Recreation Area – Campground
  6. Gooseberry Provincial Park Lake – Campground + group use
  7. Gooseberry Provincial Recreation Area – Elbow Valley Visitor Centre
  8. Lawrence Lake Provincial Recreation Area – Campground
  9. Notikewin Provincial Park – Campground
  10. Smoky River South Provincial Recreation Area – Campground

Sites to be removed from Alberta Parks system 

  1. Aylmer Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  2. Beaverdam Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  3. Big Berland Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  4. Big Elbow Provincial Recreation Area (overnight) ***
  5. Big Mountain Creek Provincial Recreation Area (group use)
  6. Bigelow Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  7. Bleriot Ferry Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  8. Brazeau Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area (overnight) + group use
  9. Brazeau River Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  10. Brown Creek Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  11. Buffalo Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  12. Buffalo Tower Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  13. Bullshead Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  14. Burnt Timber Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  15. Cartier Creek Provincial Recreation Area (overnight + group use)
  16. Cat Creek Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  17. Cataract Creek Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  18. Chain Lakes Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  19. Chambers Creek Group Camp Provincial Recreation Area (group use)
  20. Chambers Creek Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  21. Chin Coulee Provincial Recreation Area (group use)
  22. Chisholm Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  23. Chrystina Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  24. Clifford E. Lee Natural Area (day use)
  25. Coal Lake North Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  26. Cow Lake Natural Area (day use)
  27. Crane Meadow Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  28. Dawson Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  29. Deer Creek Provincial Recreation Area (group use)
  30. Demmitt Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  31. Dry Haven Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  32. Dutch Creek Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  33. Edith Lake Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  34. Elk Creek Fish Pond Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  35. Elk Creek Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  36. Elk River Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  37. Engstrom Lake Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  38. Etherington Creek Provincial Recreation Area (overnight + group use)
  39. Eyrie Gap Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  40. Fairfax Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  41. Fallen Timber Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  42. Fallen Timber South Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  43. Fawcett Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight + group use)
  44. Fir Creek Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  45. Fisher Creek Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  46. Fitzsimmons Creek Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  47. Fort Vermilion Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  48. Freeman River Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  49. Ghost Airstrip Provincial Recreation Area (overnight + group use)
  50. Ghost Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  51. Gooseberry Lake Provincial Park (overnight) + group use
  52. Greenford Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  53. Gunn Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  54. Harlech Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  55. Heart River Dam Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  56. Highwood Compound Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  57. Highwood Junction Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  58. Highwood Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  59. Highwood River Natural Area (day use)
  60. Honeymoon Creek Provincial Recreation Area (group use)
  61. Horburg Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  62. Hornbeck Creek Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  63. Indian Graves Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  64. Iosegun Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight) + group use
  65. Island Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  66. J. Collett Natural Area (day use)
  67. Jackfish Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight + group use)
  68. James-Wilson Provincial Recreation Area (overnight + group use)
  69. Jensen Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  70. Jumpingpound Creek Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  71. Kakwa River Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  72. Kehiwin Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  73. Kinbrook Island Provincial Park (overnight) + group use
  74. Lantern Creek Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  75. Lineham Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  76. Little Bow Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  77. Little Fish Lake Provincial Park (overnight)
  78. Little Smoky River Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  79. Little Sundance Creek Provincial Recreation Area (group use)
  80. Livingstone Falls Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  81. Lovett River Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  82. Lundbreck Falls Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  83. Lusk Creek Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  84. Mallaig Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  85. Maycroft Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  86. McLeod River Provincial Recreation Area (overnight + group use)
  87. Mesa Butte Provincial Recreation Area (overnight + group use)
  88. Michelle Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  89. Mist Creek Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  90. Mitchell Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  91. Moose Mountain Trailhead Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  92. Muriel Lake Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  93. Newbrook Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  94. Nojack Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  95. North Bruderheim Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  96. North Fork Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  97. North Ram River Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  98. Northwest of Bruderheim Natural Area (day use)
  99. O’Brien Provincial Park (day use)
  100. Old Baldy Pass Trail Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  101. Oldman Dam Provincial Recreation Area (overnight + group use)
  102. Oldman River North Provincial Recreation Area (overnight + group use)
  103. Oldman River Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  104. Paddle River Dam Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  105. Park Lake Provincial Park (overnight)
  106. Peace River Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  107. Peaceful Valley Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  108. Pembina Forks Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  109. Picklejar Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  110. Pine Grove Provincial Recreation Area (group use)
  111. Pines Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  112. Pinetop Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  113. Prairie Creek Group Camp Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  114. Prairie Creek Provincial Recreation Area (group use)
  115. Racehorse Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  116. Rainbow Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  117. Raven Provincial Recreation Area (closed)
  118. Red Deer River Provincial Recreation Area (overnight + group use)
  119. Red Lodge Provincial Park (overnight) + group use
  120. Riverlot 56 Natural Area (day use)
  121. Rochon Sands Provincial Park (overnight) + group use
  122. Saunders Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  123. Sentinel Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  124. Seven Mile Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  125. Sheep Creek Natural Area (day use)
  126. Sheep Creek Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  127. Sherwood Park Natural Area (day use)
  128. Shunda Viewpoint Provincial Recreation Area (group use)
  129. Shuttler Flats Provincial Recreation Area (group use)
  130. Sibbald Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  131. Sibbald Meadows Pond Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  132. Sibbald Viewpoint Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  133. Simonette River Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  134. Smoke Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  135. Smoky River South Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  136. South Ghost Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  137. Southview Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  138. Stoney Creek Provincial Recreation Area (group use)
  139. Strachan Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  140. Strathcona Science Provincial Park (day use)
  141. Strawberry Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  142. Tay River Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  143. The Narrows Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  144. Tillebrook Provincial Park (overnight)
  145. Trapper Lea’s Cabin Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  146. Travers Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  147. Trout Pond Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  148. Twin Lakes Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  149. Waiparous Creek Group Camp Provincial Recreation Area (group use)
  150. Waiparous Creek Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  151. Waiparous Valley Viewpoint Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  152. Ware Creek Provincial Recreation Area (day use)
  153. Waterton Reservoir Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  154. Watson Creek Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  155. Weald Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  156. Wild Horse Provincial Recreation Area (group use)
  157. Wildcat Island Natural Area (day use)
  158. Wildhay Provincial Recreation Area (group use)
  159. Wildhorse Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  160. Wildhorse Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  161. Williamson Provincial Park (overnight)
  162. Wolf Creek Provincial Recreation Area (previously closed)
  163. Wolf Lake Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)
  164. Wolf Lake West Provincial Recreation Area (overnight)

*** The province said the deregulation of Big Elbow PRA is administrative only with no public impact, as the site designation overlaps with Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park. If deregulated, Big Elbow PRA’s backcountry campground would remain open, and be integrated and managed as part of Don Getty Wildland Provincial Park.

Story continues below advertisement

— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News