With a warm forecast and no park fire bans, thousands of Central Albertans campers are heading into the great outdoors this long weekend.
Preparing for an onslaught of 35,000 visitors is a joint task force of police, peace and conservation officers who will be making sure roads and campgrounds are safe for all users.
Multiple highway check-stops are being set up throughout the weekend, and officers will also be patrolling parks and campgrounds with off-road vehicles.
Although the fire hazard is low in the Red Deer area and wilderness west of Sundre and Rocky Mountain House, it’s high in Edmonton and parts of Northern Alberta. Some new safety laws officers will be enforced that will penalize individuals responsible for abandoning campfires or burning during fire bans.
Irresponsible campers will now be slapped with a $287 fine for leaving a campfire unattended. If flames from an abandoned campfire cause a destructive wildfire, the fine for the individuals responsible was boosted to $100,00o from a previous $5,000 after the 2016 Fort McMurray disaster. Careless corporations now face a million dollar fine.
New safety laws passed earlier this week in Alberta make it mandatory for all off-highway vehicle users to wear helmets when riding on public land, including highway right-of-ways and Crown forests. Those caught without approved head gear face a $155 fine.
Off-highway vehicles includes dirt bikes, motorcycles, mini-bikes and related 2-wheel vehicles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), utility terrain vehicles, miniature motor vehicles, amphibious vehicles (and snow vehicles, including snowmobiles and snow bikes).
Some campers will be approached about doing a Clearwater Trails Initiative survey this weekend. The goal is to learn more about uses of the West Country to address issues arising from large numbers of recreational motorized vehicle use. The goal is to develop a multi-faceted stewardship program that fosters cooperation among users and also encompasses trail assessments, planning, maintenance and education.
In Red Deer, the Woody’s Marathon is running on Sunday, necessitating some road closures:
– 42A Avenue will be closed from 55th Street to 58th Street on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. to Sunday at 3 p.m.
– 55th Street Hill will be closed from 52 Street (and 40th Avenue) to 45th Avenue (and 55 Street) from 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. on Sunday.
– 45th Avenue from 55 Street to McKenzie Trails will be closed from 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. Sunday.
As well, the right lane of 55 Street westbound will be closed from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. on Sunday to allow runners to approach the finish line. Traffic will be slowed to 30 km/hr.