(The Canadian Press)

Alberta government plans to close 20 parks, hand over 164 others to third parties

Environment Minister Jason Nixon says the province can no longer afford the ‘retail’ side of parks.

The Alberta government is fully or partially closing 20 provincial parks and is planning to hand over 164 others to third-party managers.

That’s more than one-third of all the province’s parks, recreation areas and other protected areas.

Environment Minister Jason Nixon says the province can no longer afford the “retail” side of parks.

“We can’t continue to spend $86 million of Albertans’ tax dollars and only see $36 million come in,” he said Tuesday.

Nixon was unable to say how much money the move would save. Documents released by his department late Monday put the figure at $5 million in the 2020 budget year.

The closures and downgrades are accompanied by increases to camping fees and cuts to services, such as grooming cross-country ski trails in the popular Kananaskis area west of Calgary.

The 164 sites — which include provincial parks and wildlife areas — are to be dropped from the provincial list. They could be managed by other bodies or sold.

Nixon said about six groups have contacted him about one of those sites.

The changes range throughout the province — from shutting campsites at Dinosaur Provincial Park in the south to the complete closure of Kehiwin Provincial Park in the northeast.

The total amount of land involved is about 16,000 hectares. The United Conservative government says that’s less than one per cent of the parks system, but it isn’t clear if that includes the national parks.

The move brought a mix of disbelief and anger from environmental groups, political critics and park users.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” said Rhonda Jewett, a cross-country skier who has competed internationally and says she’s never skied anywhere that compares with Kananaskis. Last weekend, she said, the trails were packed with skiers, including a Korean tour group.

Trail groomers make it possible for people with mental and physical disabilities to use the park, she said.

“This is a big deal and I don’t see anything good about it,” said Kecia Kerr of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

“These are public goods that are for all Albertans. We shouldn’t be thinking of them from a business-model perspective.”

Opposition environment critic Marlin Schmidt said hundreds of people had already contacted his office to express concern about the changes.

“It doesn’t make sense. It’s so out of touch with what Albertans have told me they want.”

An online petition protesting the changes had more than 8,000 signatures by mid-afternoon Tuesday.

Nixon denied that removing 164 sites from the provincial park list was a prelude to privatizing them. He said conservation would continue to be a priority.

He said some of the closed parks had as few as 36 users a year.

“We ran on a clear platform to modernize our park system, to partner with municipalities and Indigenous communities and non-profits to help manage our park system.”

Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society said during last year’s election campaign that the UCP criticized the NDP government at that time for not doing enough consultation on parks policy.

“They did not run on a mandate of selling and transferring our parks system,” she said. “It’s kind of ridiculous to claim they can be making this type of change to our parks without consultation.”

Bob Weber , The Canadian Press

Alberta

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Council seeking extension to tax property payment deadline

North Cowichan also moves to virtual meetings as necessary during the COVID-19 crisis

Chemainus & District Baseball Association season on hold due to COVID-19

Shouts of Play Ball! would normally have started being heard next week

Province restricts open burning across much of the Cowichan region

No new fires may be initiated in all high smoke sensitivity zones

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

COVID-19: Isolation exemptions to frontline workers a danger to patients, say Island Health employees

Staff exempt from self-isolation upon return from international travel according to Island Health

IN DEPTH: How B.C. emptied its hospitals to prepare for COVID-19

Thousands of beds have been freed up, but patients and seniors have had to sacrifice

Long list of events disrupted by COVID-19 around the community

Challenging situation affecting fundraisers, entertainment, sports and more

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Crucial details of Ottawa’s proposed wage subsidy program expected today

The government has rolled out a bailout package totalling more than $200 billion

World COVID-19 morning update: Olympics delayed one year; 12,000 health care workers infected

Comprehensive world news update: Lockdown in UK showing signs of hope

Newspapers are safe to touch, World Health Organization confirms

Just make sure to wash your hands as you would after touching any surface or object

Most Read