Alberta government’s parks plan another ‘download:’ rural municipalities group

EDMONTON — A provincial plan to off-load dozens of Alberta parks and other protected areas to third-party management is just another way of shifting costs to other levels of government, says the head of Rural Municipalities Alberta.

“Yeah, it’s a download,” said Al Kemmere. “I do think that this is a passing-off of the responsibility.”

On Tuesday, the United Conservative government announced it would close or partially close 20 provincial parks. It also plans to remove from its parks list 164 provincial recreation areas and other parks — many of which are full all summer with campers — unless third parties such as municipalities agree to run them.

The move was immediately denounced by parks advocates, political critics and user groups.

Kemmere said Wednesday that Environment Minister Jason Nixon’s announcement was unexpected.

“It definitely comes as a surprise. A week ago, we wouldn’t have had any knowledge of this.”

Kemmere said the surprise was compounded because the province said it hoped to double the value of tourism to Alberta’s economy.

“To hear this happen seemed almost counter to that approach.”

Nixon said the move is being made because the province can no longer pick up the $50-million difference between what the parks cost and what they bring in from user fees.

Government documents say the move would save $5 million. Nixon said it would be more, but he was unable to say how much.

Meanwhile, parks advocates wracked their brains to find examples of governments decertifying parks instead of creating them.

“Other provinces have delisted parks before, but often decades ago — and never to the scale we are seeing here in Alberta,” said Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

Kemmere said there might be a handful of rural municipalities able to cover the costs of running a park. But not very many.

“For municipalities to take this on, and all the other things that have been changing … I’m not sure what the appetite would be.”

Members are already shouldering the cost of expanded rural policing, mandated by the province. The province has also reduced the municipal tax levy applied to certain types of gas wells and is expected to do the same for other types of wells.

As well, many small communities face large holes in their budgets from energy companies not paying their property taxes.

“When you put all the factors together, that’s all accumulating into some major pressure points for some of our members,” Kemmere said. ”There are going to be some of these areas where parks exist, but the municipalities may not have the tools to handle them.”

That’s just going to create more problems down the road, he said. Campers aren’t going to stop and, without organized and controlled campsites, random camping will increase.

“It won’t be very well-controlled,” Kemmere said. “That’ll create a whole other problem in the environment that we don’t have right now.”

Kemmere said the issue will be prominent at a meeting of the municipalities next week.

“I’m going to make sure this conversation takes place.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2020

— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Provincial Government

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta confirms 28 new COVID-19 cases, 3 more deaths

There are 28 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, bringing the… Continue reading

Community garden plots are allowed to grow again

Community garden plots allowed to grow again A modified community garden plot… Continue reading

Rocky Mountain House RCMP seize guns, more than $14K in cash after curfew check

Rocky Mountain House RCMP came upon an expected seizure Wednesday. During a… Continue reading

Visitors should stay home this long weekend, say central Alberta’s resort communities

Social distancing and other virus prevention measures must override pleasure trips

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

Red Deer businesses still serving

BY PAUL COWLEY ADVOCATE STAFF… Continue reading

Alberta Health Services provides COVID-19 prevention tips

Alberta Health Services has a number of recommendations for people amid the… Continue reading

Alberta government website has latest COVID-19 statistics

Red Deer Advocate readers can stay up to date on the COVID-19… Continue reading

Alberta announces extra $1B to create jobs repairing roads, bridges, schools

Alberta announces extra $1B to create jobs repairing roads, bridges, schools

Alberta doctors file lawsuit against province over changes to billing

Alberta doctors file lawsuit against province over changes to billing

Leafs’ Matthews hoping to take care of ‘unfinished business’ if season resumes

Leafs’ Matthews hoping to take care of ‘unfinished business’ if season resumes

No ice, big problem: Nothing mimics skating for NHL players

No ice, big problem: Nothing mimics skating for NHL players

Oilers forward Cave remains in medically-induced coma at Toronto hospital

Oilers forward Cave remains in medically-induced coma at Toronto hospital

Most Read