Campers who have been pitching their tents on Crown land in the Waiparous area west of Calgary say it’s a spectacular getaway, but they could do without the waste left behind.
“We did notice when we came out in June a lot more toilet paper left behind because, apparently, there are more people camping this year but may not have camped before,” said Lisa Glass, who has been random camping in the Waiparous area for 20 years.
The province’s environment minister said there has been an increase in unsafe and irresponsible behaviour in Alberta parks and on Crown land this year.
“Alberta’s enforcement officials will be out patrolling, and I have ordered them to step up our monitoring and enforcement activities. There will be more boots on the ground to ensure everybody is behaving safely and responsibly,” said Jason Nixon in a Facebook post on Friday.
More garbage bins have been added at entrance sites to the eastern slopes, and portable washrooms have been installed along the Highway 11 corridor, according to Nixon.
Nixon warned there could be consequences if the abuse of public land continues.
“It would be a real shame if a bunch of careless people ruined the ability of responsible Albertans to enjoy our parks and public areas,” Nixon said.
Devin Rochon is the founder of the Alberta-based club Off-Road Brigade.
Volunteers from his group cleaned up the mess left behind at random camping sites in mid-July in the Waiparous area.
He said Monday that he has never seen as much traffic in random camping areas as there has been this year.
Rochon suggested that more bathrooms and garbage bins may just bring more people to Crown land camping and enforcement is just too hard in an area so big.
“The area is so large that they have to cover and they can’t be there all at once. We have to be as vigilant as possible as user groups as we can. We are going to lose it if we don’t take care of it,” Rochon said.
Rochon said education is the best option when it comes to changing behaviour.
Officers patrolling the Waiparous area over this weekend said it was a bit busier than an average long weekend, but they didn’t see the kind of garbage they have seen in the last few weeks.
“I think Albertans have responded positively. I think they took the minister’s message to heart,” said Frankie Kerr, lands team lead with Alberta Environment and Parks, on Monday.
“They have had fun and enjoyed themselves but we haven’t seen the issues that we have seen over the last few weeks.”
Kerr said education is key to getting campers to clean up their acts.
The province is also launching a social media campaign promoting the importance of respecting Alberta’s wild places.