UCP unveils provincial parks plan, invests $43M in upgrades

CALGARY — Premier Kenney announced Tuesday morning that the province would spend $43 million to improve trails and upgrade campgrounds and days use areas in provincial parks.

The move comes after the provincial government laid out its plans on the contentious decision to close or transfer ownership of 175 parks across Alberta.

The province announced back in March its plans to fully or partially close 20 parks and reclassify 164 campgrounds and recreation sites to allow for private contracts. The plan meas any site where no manager could be found will lose park status and revert to general Crown land, which can be sold.

The sites cover about 16, 000 hectares, roughly a third of the park area the province currently manages. The government says the decision was made because underutilized sites are costing Albertans money and budget documents suggest the move would save about $5 million a year.

The province was planning to lay out guidelines on how the parks partnership would work back in May but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Public Pushback

The province’s plans for parks was quickly met with opposition. An online petition calling for more public consultation garnered 8,000 signatures within days of the announcement.

The opposition NDP has also slammed the government over details revealed in emails and briefing notes obtained through an access to information request by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

Critics, including the opposition NDP, say Minister Nixon refuses to discuss the plan or hold consultations despite the document’s revealing advice to do so.

A livestream of the event is available here.

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