This is a copy of a letter I sent to Mr. Jason Nixon, Minister of Parks and Environment and Mr. RJ Sigurdson, MLA Highwood.
I am writing to you today to tell you how much I value our parks, recreation areas and wild lands and to question your reasons for the proposed removal and de-listing of 164 Provincial Parks and Recreation areas. Less than a year into your term and without undertaking public consultation on this plan, you are intent on making sweeping and shortsighted changes to these treasured spaces.
Specifically, please tell me where you found the data to determine that the day use areas along the jewel of Kananaskis Country, Highway 40 to the Highwood Pass, are underutilized and not worthy of Alberta Parks oversight? These sites include the newly restored Sentinel, Cat Creek Falls, Fitzsimmons and Mist Creek among many others. Some of them are so busy that folks frequently park on the
highway to access.
I adventure in the parks every week. They are places of sublime and unique beauty. These day use areas are accessible to families stopping for a picnic, taking a bathroom break, breathing in fresh air, or staging deeper excursions into the trail systems. There are no fees to access these sites; Albertans support their maintenance with tax dollars, and rightly so. The contribution to our collective well-being and ecological integrity of our forests, wildlife and watersheds are beyond financial measure.
Please tell me who is going to take on the regular outhouse cleaning required, supply toilet paper and garbage collection? Who will respond to wildlife matters if no longer under the purview of Parks? Who will ensure our human impact is minimized? We already have a disjointed patchwork of land uses in that area. How does further fragmentation “optimize” the Park experience for Albertans?
Please tell me how tourism opportunities in neighbouring communities are going to be “optimized” by de-listing services to the very area that draws visitors from around the world? Tourism is a key economic driver for the gateway communities of Longview, Black Diamond and Turner Valley. Visitors are coming to experience the natural world in its glory.
Our Eastern Slopes are also critical watershed places. Specifically, the day use areas named above are directly adjacent to the Highwood River, serving the water needs of High River and Longview as well as rural areas. How will your government ensure that degradation, erosion and pollution of this river system does not occur?
I ask that you listen to voices that don’t align with your myopic vision of this province. How can this be achieved? Dump the $30 million per year farce of a “war room”. Start there and strengthen the protection of our wild spaces for us and future Albertans.