Alberta government introduces bill to upgrade thousands of kilometres of nature trails

The Alberta legislature on Aug. 26, 2020. Global News

Alberta is proposing legislation that the government says would modernize and upgrade thousands of kilometres of recreational trails on public lands.

Environment Minister Jason Nixon says the proposed Trails Act would allow some trails to be designated for specific uses, such as hiking or for off-highway vehicles.

There would be $4.5 million to help managers build and maintain the routes.

READ MORE: Alberta government looking for public feedback on Fish Creek Park trail improvements 

Nixon says there would be consultation on any new trails, and cultural heritage and critical habitat would be taken into account.

He says no existing trails would be closed, and First Nations and Métis harvesting rights would be respected on any new or upgraded path.

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The plan is to address existing designated trails but also thousands of kilometres of other trails.

“Alberta has hundreds of thousands of unmanaged trails due to industrial activity, which can cause environmental and public safety concerns, such as poor water crossings that are harmful to fish,” Nixon told a news conference Tuesday before introducing the legislation.

“The Trails Act will help modernize Alberta’s trail system and make trails safer by ensuring they’re managed properly and are more enjoyable to use and environmentally sustainable.”

READ MORE: ‘Not sustainable’: Kananaskis annual user fee coming June 1 as recreation area flooded with visitors 

Opposition environment critic Marlin Schmidt issued a statement in response to the introduction of the bill and said the legislation would give Nixon more power over the province’s trails, something that concerns him.

“Albertans are skeptical of this minister’s track record with managing our public lands,” he said, referencing the contentious debate around coal mining in the Rocky Mountains, the “fee on nature” that the government brought in with the Kananaskis Conservation Pass, and the attempt to fully or partially close 20 provincial parks and hand off another 164 to third-party managers.

READ MORE: Alberta won’t close any provincial parks, despite previous delisting plan 

“How can Albertans trust him to care for our 13,000 kilometres of designated and managed trails, and hundreds of thousands of kilometres of unmarked trails?” Schmidt asked.

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Alberta’s trail legislation has not been updated since 1979.

–With files from The Canadian Press’ Bob Weber and Global News’ Phil Heidenreich

Click to play video: 'Trail improvements on the way for Fish Creek Provincial Park'
Trail improvements on the way for Fish Creek Provincial Park

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