Almost one year ago the provincial government announced 164 provincial parks and recreation areas would be delisted from provincial management.
Delisting the sites from provincial park designation, the government argued, would improve cost efficiencies that could then be reinvested back into parks in need of infrastructure updates.
Since then, the government announced Dec. 22 that all previously delisted sites had secured or maintained partnerships.
The announcement included a list of 170 that will retain their existing designations, protections and access.
Several local areas, including Oldman Dam Boulder Run, Waterton Reservoir and Lundbreck Falls, were on the delist list.
Administration for the MD of Pincher Creek had reached out to the province at the beginning of 2021 about managing parks in the area, but the announcement — coupled with a lack of response — ended inquiries.
Although the Dec. 22 partnership list included “Oldman River,” no other local sites were included. The list also does not specify who will be responsible for managing each site.
Just because an area is not included on the list should not be taken as a cause for concern, says John Muir, director of communication for Alberta Environment and Parks.
“Government oversight and management will continue for the sites that have not secured a partnership to date,” he says.
“The list of 170 sites that was released [Dec. 22] identifies sites that have been secured or maintained partnerships. As a result, no sites under the Budget 2020 optimization plan, including those in the Pincher Creek region, will be delisted.”
Despite the government’s reassurances, critics of the initial move to delist provincial designations say more information on how these spaces will be managed needs to be publicly shared.
“It was highly problematic that the government released this at 4 p.m. the last working day before Christmas,” says Marlin Schmidt, NDP critic for environment. “It created more questions than it answered, and then they went on holidays in Hawaii for a couple weeks and left Albertans hanging.”
Mr. Schmidt adds the government needs to be clear on who has assumed managing responsibilities and what partnerships have been entered into.
Requests from the Breeze to find out who will be managing the locations identified on the Dec. 22 list received no reply. The managing partners that have been identified, such as Nordiq Alberta, were for areas that weren’t delisted back in March.
Informing the public as to how parks will be managed this summer is particularly important, Mr. Schmidt continues, because the record attendance last year is only expected to increase.
“We’re in the middle of winter and it seems like it’s forever away, but really it isn’t,” he says. “I think travel restrictions will still be in place in some form, and parks will be as busy as they were last year and we still don’t know what’s in store for them.”
The provincial government’s announcement and list of parks with secured managing partnerships can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/ABparks.
Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze