As online reservations for campsites begin on the Alberta Parks site, the government has announced the total or partial closure of 20 of its sites and a rate increase.
The provincial parks of Little Fish Lake, Crow Lake and Greene Valley Lake, for example, will be closed. This will also be the case for the Barrier Lake and Elbow Valley reception centers in the Kananaskis region.
Starting in the fall of 2020, the cross-country ski trails will no longer be maintained in the areas of Peter Lougheed, Mount Shark and Kananaskis Village.
Another change announced: the season will be shorter at some campsites. They will open to visitors later in the season and close earlier.
In its press release, the Alberta government clearly indicates that the objective is to reduce operating costs.
More expensive services
The province also indicates that the cost of booking a campsite will increase by $3 per night at most parks. Rates for electricity, water or a shower will increase by $1.
Service fees at provincial campsites have not increased since 2016 , justifies the government, which adds that access to provincial parks and day use areas remains free .
According to figures from Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, Tanya Fir, the fees paid in 2018-2019 by visitors to provincial parks generated revenues of $33.4 million. At the same time, operating the parks cost the government $86.1 million.
“It is a mistake to think of parks as something that should be profitable,” says Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.” These are places where Albertans can enjoy the outdoors. We should not only take into account the economic point of view, but also the quality of life.”
Soon 164 fewer sites
Also in its press release, the government announced that it wishes to dispose of 164 of its 473 sites, mainly small underused recreational areas.
The government plans to sell or transfer them to First Nations, municipalities, non-profit organizations or private operators.
“It is a great way to encourage private sector investment and create jobs in Alberta,” said Jason Nixon, Minister of the Environment and Parks.
Katie Morrison would have liked a public consultation to be organized on this subject.
“When you look on the map, these sites are in more rural communities, smaller cities. It may not be the parks right next to Calgary or Edmonton where there are a lot of people on weekends. But these are still places where Albertans across the province can go for a walk and camp with their families.”
Morrison fears a deterioration in services and higher costs.
Ten parks will be fully closed to the public this year, affecting 4,490 hectares of provincial land.
The list of parks with full closures in 2020:
- Kehiwin Provincial Recreation Area
- Running Lake Provincial Recreation Area
- Stoney Lake Provincial Recreation Area
- Sulphur Lake Provincial Recreation Area
- Little Fish Lake Provincial Park
- Crow Lake Provincial Park
- Bleriot Ferry Provincial Recreation Area
- Greene Valley Provincial Park
- Twin Lakes Provincial Recreation Area
- Sheep Creek Provincial Recreation Area
For parks with partial closures, some areas will remain open but non-serviced. That means services such as garbage collection and grounds-keeping won’t take place in the accessible areas of the park.
The 10 parks affected by partial closures:
- Bow Valley Provincial Park — Barrier Lake Visitor Information Centre (facility)
- Gooseberry Provincial Recreation Area — Elbow Valley Visitor Centre (facility)
- Dinosaur Provincial Park — Comfort Camping (facility)
- Gooseberry Provincial Park Lake (campground)
- Engstrom Lake Provincial Recreation Area (campground)
- Chain Lakes Provincial Recreation Area (campground)
- Lawrence Lake Provincial Recreation Area (campground)
- Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park — Tolman Bridge Campgrounds (campground)
- Notikewin Provincial Park (campground)
- Smoky River South Provincial Recreation Area (campground)