Southern Alberta campers protest proposed delisting of provincial parks

Click to play video: 'Crowsnest Pass campers protest proposed delisting of Alberta parks'
Crowsnest Pass campers protest proposed delisting of Alberta parks
WATCH ABOVE: Campers in southern Alberta say they don’t believe enough consultation has gone into the decision to delist or close nearly 200 provincial parks. Emily Olsen reports – Sep 18, 2020

Gordon Bridges and his brother Winston took a boys trip to camp in the Crowsnest Pass this past weekend.

“Immediately we decided this was going to be a yearly thing,” Bridges said. “We loved where we were: a very small, intimate campground right next to a waterfall.”

He said their plans to return to the Lundbreck Falls Provincial Recreational Area were soon put to a halt.

On the drive home, Bridges said he heard that the future of the Lundbreck Falls area is uncertain.

According to the Alberta Parks website, 20 parks will have full or partial closures by the end of this year.

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An additional 164 sites will be removed or delisted from the parks system and open to potential development.

Ryan Epp, who runs the Facebook group Crown Land Camping Alberta said if some parks revert to Crown land, it could make for a busier camping season.

“If it reverts to that Crown land, I don’t see that as a total bad thing, as long as it stays usable for everybody,” Epp said Friday.

“[We] don’t want to see it get sold off to corporations or have coal mines or forestry and everything going in and using the land [to the point] where it’s unusable for everybody else.”

A spokesperson for the minister of Environment and Parks issued a a statement to Global News about the concerns. 

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“Many of these projects will be undertaken with partnership organizations like the ones we are looking at to manage several facilities across the province. This is an existing model already in place at more than 120 facilities across the province. These areas will continue to be accessible to Albertans and ecologically sensitive areas will continue to be protected.”

Bridges said the decision to delist and close parks still doesn’t sit right with him, and he’s sounded the alarm about it on social media ever since.

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“It basically means without any vote — any conversation whatsoever — that they can change things and tell you that you’re not allowed to enjoy your province, your backyard,” he said. “So it’s very concerning to know that next year we might have to find somewhere else.”

Bridges said he wants to be able to share his favourite childhood adventures in the parks with his two sons.

“To have question marks about whether or not they’re going to be able to go to the same places that I was able to go… [it’s] hugely concerning, deeply emotional,” he said.
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Bridges also noted that one of the top reasons listed for delisting or closures of parks is underuse of the sites. He said in his experience, that was not an accurate assessment.

“This was not an underused facility, but it made the list as being ‘underused.’”

“It’s an extensive list,” he added. “People are probably completely unaware of it. It’s not just random little campgrounds in the middle of nowhere, there are provincial sites on lakes. It’s not that they’re just removed from status, some of them, they’re saying that you’re going to be banned from going there.”

Bridhes said it’s important that people continue to push back and reach out to local government officials to ensure protected natural spaces in the province don’t fall through the cracks.

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