CALGARY — It’s currently free to visit provincial parks in the province. But Alberta Parks is looking at implementing a user fee structure. The National Parks already have something similar in place, charging a daily or yearly fee.
Right now Alberta Parks is only surveying campers after they book a campsite through reserve.Albertaparks.ca. The web site says “the survey aims to get feedback from Albertans on the possibility of new or increased user fees to support programs, services and facilities. “
Campers out at Gooseberry Campground in Kananaskis Country say they’ve already seen an increase in site fees this season and aren’t so sure about having to pay even more.
“I think it’s good to have a survey of the people that are using the services and see what they have to say, yah,” said camper April Vander Haeghe.
But Vander Haeghe is worried a new fee will turn people away from provincial parks.
“It gets expensive, camping is an economical way for people to be travelling around and especially this year and it’s really hard to find campsites,” said Vander Haeghe. “If they’re going to have more campsites that would be nice.”
Jess Sinclair, the press secretary to Jason Nixon, Minister of Environment and Parks said the province regularly looks for feedback from campers and this survey includes a question to help understand campers’ opinions about fees.
“We’re thinking to the future to ensure sustainability of the system,” said Sinclair in a written statement. “We’ve looked across North America and user fees are something many other jurisdictions use to maintain services and support quality visitor experiences in parks.”
Sinclair says Alberta already has fees for camping and some services in provincial parks, including winter access at the Canmore Nordic Centre, Writing on Stone and Dinosaur Provincial Park tours, and some visitor services programming.
“Albertans have told us they value parks and our survey is helping us understand what campers value,” said Sinclair. “And how can we sustain the things that are most important to them. “
Lori Kohlman is from Calgary and received a survey email after she booked her campsite.
“I mean if the money is actually going to be used to do the roads the maintenance, (build) more campgrounds because we have such a shortage with COVID, great,” said Kohlman. “But when is that fee dollar amount going to stop?”
Kohlman doesn’t want to see a daily or annual Alberta Parks fee increase every few years.
“I always seem to find a user fee turns into a tax,” said Kohlman. “More tax money to the government kind of thing.”
At the Elbow Trail, Fullerton Loop trail head Lilly Reynoso is hiking with her husband Ben Hernandez and their two children. Reynoso is against a fee.
“Where can you go and enjoy (something) for free? There’s no other places, downtown is a lot of people,” said Reynoso. “Here is a natural place where you can enjoy for free.”
Reynoso says her tax dollars are going to fund Alberta Parks and she doesn’t want to pay extra.
“You can basically (hike) in, eat your lunch maybe and come back, why do we need to pay for that?” said Reynoso.