Shirleen Burnett walks her dogs daily at Quarry Lake Park in the town Canmore, about 100 kilometres west of Calgary, and on weekends and holidays Burnett says the whole family spends time together there.
“Quarry Lake for us it’s a family thing. When we go out there, we take the dogs, the kids ride their bikes, they do the trails … the dogs go swimming. There’s no other dog park like that,” said Burnett, who lives in the small Hamlet of Harvie Heights just outside of Canmore.
The town says more and more people are flocking to Quarry Lake, especially with limited recreation opportunities due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Canmore town council has approved a new parking fee, which comes into effect June 1, and it will cost $20 to park a vehicle at Quarry Lake for four hours.
“Quarry Lake isn’t actually that big of a facility and we were seeing large groups of people, we were seeing a lot of spillover of parking on to the secondary highway, spillover of parking into our residential communities and it was really becoming hard for our local residents to be able to use the dog park for example to walk their dogs,” said Canmore’s Engineering Manager, Andy Esarte.
“It really became quite a challenge for us from a parking enforcement, bylaw and traffic management perspective.”
The parking fee will be used for infrastructure improvements within the park, things like an expanded parking lot, and new washroom facilities.
Local residents are exempt from the fee, and each household gets one free parking permit.
But as a Harvie Heights resident, Burnett does not qualify.
“You know we’ve known about the parking changes that are coming up, and I assumed incorrectly that I would be able to get the local pass because really we’re five minutes from downtown Canmore,” Burnett said.
Despite its close proximity to Quarry Lake and the town of Canmore, Harvie Heights is in the M.D. of Bighorn.
“Residents of Canmore, their property taxes contribute to the improvements that are being made there. So they are already funding the maintenance, the bylaw enforcement, the expanded facilities, the expanded parking — they’re funding that directly,” says Esarte.
Burnett argues that her family supports the local economy by doing its shopping and errands in Canmore, as her hamlet has no stores or services.
Burnett posted a petition online asking that something be done so residents in Harvie Heights didn’t have to pay every time they use the nearby park. Soon there were a few hundred names including members of other nearby communities.
“At first I had Harvie Heights, but then I realized that the other communities — Exshaw, Dead Man’s Flats, Lac des Arcs — are all just as upset and that they spend as much time out there as we do, so it really became a petition about all the communities in Bow Valley,” she said.
Burnett says she doesn’t mind paying, but says $20 per day is way too steep.
If her petition isn’t successful in getting the Bow Valley communities a full exemption like Canmore residents get, she hopes some sort of compromise can be made, and suggests a seasonal pass where users pay once per year.
“At the best of times that wouldn’t be feasible for most families to every time you walk your dog, pay $20,” Burnett said.
The town says the new pay system may be re-evaluated after it’s been in use for awhile, but told CBC News that wouldn’t likely happen until after the busy summer season.