On March 3, Alberta Parks announced its decision to either fully or partially close a select list of 20 provincial parks in an effort to save an estimated $5 million as part of its 2020 budget cuts.
Y2Y is deeply disappointed by this decision. When monitoring social media and community reactions, it is clear many Albertans share our concerns.
Why we’re concerned
Albertans love parks! They are central to Alberta’s past, present and future. They are places meant to enjoy, make memories and create adventures to be treasured for years. This decision, however, will undoubtedly make it much more challenging for people to connect to nature and experience the wonder of the great outdoors.
Soon, some park sites will be entirely off-limits to the public, including provincial campgrounds and other facilities. Ten parks will be fully closed to the public, impacting 4,490 hectares of provincial land. Notably, the removal of a park’s designation opens it up to “alternate management approaches” according to the government, including possibly reverting them to public lands.
Partial closures will also come into effect — in other words, shortened operating seasons and the elimination of essential services such as garbage collection in many of those areas. Other recreational areas will also fall off the list of priorities. For instance, several cross-country ski areas in parts of Kananaskis Country will no longer be groomed.
This decision will inevitably limit people who want to enjoy one of our greatest shared resources, and Alberta’s greatest asset — its incredible wild places.
Supporting parks not sacrificing them
At the same time the provincial government looks to cut spending and increase revenue, they have stated a desire to promote nature-based tourism. And why not? Our jewel-toned waters, magnificent mountain peaks, rolling foothills and wildlife attract millions of visitors a year. Cutting support and services in parks is no way to go about this promotional strategy. When we diminish the experience, we discourage visitors, both from Alberta but from further away, too.
Alberta has also committed to protecting 17 per cent of the province for conservation. Not only is the Province failing to attain that target, the province’s incredible biodiversity and natural heritage is now on the chopping block. Now is the time to be increasing, not diminishing, parks and protection both for our enjoyment today and for future generations of people and wildlife.
This decision speaks volumes and clearly demonstrates what our government is willing to risk. We strongly believe this move short-changes all people invested in wildlife, wild places and nature-based recreation in our province.
How you can help
Show your love for parks
Will you sign the petition calling on the government to stop cuts to Alberta’s provincial parks?
You should also write your MLA and the Minister of Environment and Parks at firstname.lastname@example.org about why you love Alberta’s parks, and let them know the impact this decision will have on the ability of Albertans and visitors to experience our province’s amazing landscapes and recreation.
Header photo: Shutterstock