Kananaskis Conservation Pass nets zero fines — for now
The days of chancing it and taking a trip to K-country without a Kananaskis Conservation Pass are over soon.
After a year-long grace period, the province is gearing up to implement enforcement in the coming weeks, with fines in store for those who didn't purchase a single day, multi-day or annual pass.
Alberta Parks hasn't issued a single infraction ticket since implementing the pass back in June 2021.
But they have been doing educational compliance checks at random trailheads.
"Compliance overall has been really, really good," said Lead Park Recreation and Resource Officer Doug Frizzell, "We're averaging around 80 to 85 per cent compliance. Last week was our highest compliance weekend of 96 per cent, with people already having purchased the pass before they showed up."
Drivers go through a check-stop of sorts, where Alberta Parks employees ask them if they have purchased a pass, where they got it, and take down the first three digits of their postal code.
Frizzell said most of the visitors they see are from Calgary.
Of course, some park-goers are nervous to admit they don't have a pass in hand when they see the compliance check set up. Several cars pulled over ahead of the stop to whip a U-turn.
Frizzell said they often see those cars again 20 minutes later with a freshly-printed receipt in hand. People turn around to make the trip to a Kananaskis Visitor Information Centre, or find a couple of bars of cell service and purchase the pass online.
Even when the enforcement begins, Frizzell said tickets won't be doled out on the spot. He said visitors need to purchase a day pass before midnight on the days they visit to ensure they aren't hit with a $150 fine.
Global Traffic Group won the contract to conduct enforcement and will be scanning license plates using photo technology in the coming weeks.
"It's just in the beginning stages right now of getting geared up," Fizzell said. "So we're just kind of at the end of the compliance checks and they will move into enforcement in June."
At the Kananaskis Visitor Information Centre near Barrier Lake, cars file in and out of the lot.
Once parked, some people stop to hit the bathrooms, and others double-check their license plate numbers before heading inside the building to buy a pass.
Many here are new to Calgary, including Dave Kent and Shannon Miller who recently moved from Edmonton. Today, they're just grabbing a day pass until they decide if hiking trails are worth splurging for.
"We're hoping to come out to the area often enough to make it worthwhile," Miller said.
With a little one in tow, Heidi and Larkin Cook are happy to be close to home for a Kananaskis staycation.
Despite living nearby in Calgary, it's their first time purchasing a pass. Typically they head to Banff or Canmore.
Larkin doesn't mind paying the fee because it helps maintain the provincial park. He's happy to hear the province is easing into ticketing those who skip buying the pass.
"I can imagine it probably has a lot of positives to it," Larkin said. "But obviously the negative for a lot of people is it was the lowest cost alternative activity to do if you lived in Calgary and now it just has an extra cost to it, which can be difficult for some people."
In its first fiscal year, the conservation pass generated $12 million. Since 2021 when the pass came into effect, Albertans bought more than 110,000 annual passes.
The pass costs users $15 a day or $90 a year per vehicle.