The County of Grande Prairie will continue to operate the Demmitt Provincial Recreation Area after it was listed in the Optimizing Alberta Parks plan in February 2020.
The Optimizing Parks Plan came when the province was looking to remove 164 sites from its system, along with the closure or partial closure of another 20 sites. The Demmitt campground fell into "removal from the system" that would have seen the park eliminated privatized through a sale or transfer.
Seeing the Demmitt campground on the list came as a surprise to Christine Rawlins, Parks and Recreation Manager at the County.
On Dec. 22, the province backtracked its previous announcement to remove all the 167 sites from its system.
As the pandemic continued over the past year, more people were going to the parks, said Rawlins, “they (the province) pretty much just reversed that complete plan and did a 180 and then they took Demmitt back off that list.”
The County of Grande Prairie operates that campground and has a recreation lease on the grounds till 2036, said Rawlins.
The campground has 15 campsites and is 4.8 acres in size.
Rawlins said that the county was seeing an increase in interest at all its campgrounds this year and noted that Pipestone has been very popular. Upgrades will be coming to the park over the summer in the way of some new trails.
She said plans for the new trails would have to wait till closer to the end of summer so as to not disturb migrating birds and other animals in their habitat.
Bear Lake is also seeing a rise in activity as the water levels are lower this year; with the beach exposed, it makes for a good staycation or day trip area, she said.
Bear Lake may also see upgrades such as toilets and showers, pull-through sites and powered sites in the future due to the new popularity, but Rawlins said the county doesn’t have plans for construction to begin until 2022.
With COVID restrictions easing as the province follows its reopening plan, the county hopes to open group campsites when it can.
“We just encourage people to support their local county campgrounds and, we definitely welcome them with open arms,” said Rawlins.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News