Alberta seeks partners for 164 parks to focus spending on ‘high-value areas’

Alberta seeks partners for 164 parks to focus spending on ‘high-value areas’

EDMONTON — The Alberta government wants to hand off management of 164 provincially run parks to outside groups.

“Modernizing Alberta’s parks system is long overdue,” Jess Sinclair, spokeswoman for Environment Minister Jason Nixon, said Friday.

“Government is subsidizing a financially struggling system year after year, while attempting to ensure maintenance, programs and services remain at a high level.”

Few details have been released about the plan hinted at in Thursday’s budget.

“Alberta Parks envisions a system managed by many partners and will seek to increase partnerships with municipalities, Indigenous communities and non-profit societies to assist with provision of park operations and quality visitor experiences,” says Alberta Environment’s business plan.

“This will allow for focused spending in high-value areas (conservation, recreation, tourism) of the parks system and improved leveraging of resources.”

Sinclair said the United Conservative government will begin looking for partners to run the parks in May. The list of which parks are to handed off has not been released.

Alberta currently manages 473 provincial parks, wildland provincial parks, provincial recreation areas, ecological reserves, wilderness areas, natural areas and heritage rangelands.

The budget forecasts a $4-million cut to parks over the next three years.

Critics said the plan reduces preservation of Alberta’s outdoors to a profit-and-loss calculation.

“It is an outrageous way to look at a park system,” said Marlin Schmidt, environment critic for the Opposition New Democrats. ”They shouldn’t be seen as a cost subsidy. It’s how we preserve our natural heritage for future generations.”

Carolyn Campbell of the Alberta Wilderness Association agreed.

“We are supportive if there are partnerships with municipalities or Indigenous groups that would still be very high-quality experiences,” she said.

“But to think of it within a system of parks as a profit centre or parks as needing to be money-making — that risks losing their primary purpose of investments in health and well-being for Albertans.”

An extensive 2017 survey of thousands of Albertans found that 90 per cent of respondents agreed that preservation of landscapes, plants and animals was an important purpose of parks. About 75 per cent said it was important a park contribute to the local economy.

About 42 per cent said admission or registration fees were already a barrier to enjoying Alberta parks.

Schmidt said handing off parks management risks the quality of the province’s tourism offerings.

“If we are out there selling Alberta as a destination for people to come and visit, then it’s our responsibility as the province of Alberta to make sure that those tourists have a high-quality tourist experience.

“The system that they’re envisioning for us will have varying levels of quality. The province won’t be able to hold them accountable and I’m afraid that tourism will suffer as a result of this patchwork of provincial parks managers they’re going to create.”

It’s another example of the provincial government downloading costs onto municipalities, Schmidt said.

The province has already told municipalities they’ll have to pick up costs for extra policing. As well, many are in dire financial straits because energy companies haven’t been paying their tax bills.

“Municipalities don’t have money to look after these parks,” said Schmidt.

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

Just Posted

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US Vice-President Joe Biden walk down the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. If Joe Biden’s decision to kill off Keystone XL is supposed to sound the death knell for Canada-U.S. relations, you wouldn’t know it from the newly minted president’s call sheet. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
In wake of decision to kill Keystone XL, Biden’s first foreign-leader call? Trudeau

Biden rescinded former president Donald Trump’s approval of the US$8-billion cross-border pipeline expansion

Protesting farmers and their families gather around a bonfire to mark the harvest festival, which is called Lohri, on a blocked highway in protest against new farm laws on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. Changes in India’s farm laws could potentially open up one of the world’s most populous markets and are being closely watched by Canada’s agricultural and economic sectors, say experts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Altaf Qadri
Changes in Indian farm laws could benefit Canada, experts say

Independent committee of experts to negotiate with opponents of legislation

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
CFIB raises estimate of small businesses at risk of closing permanently

One in six Canadian small business owners seriously contemplating shutting down

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

Lucas Berg, left, with the backpacks filled with essential items he donated to the Red Deer Mustard Seed Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Central Alberta teenager donates filled 20 backpacks to Red Deer Mustard Seed

Lucas Berg, 14, of Ponoka County says he ‘just wants to help people’

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus looks into a souvenir shop displaying various of stickers, one of them showing a former U.S. President Donald Trump caricature, in Beijing, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. China imposed sanctions on nearly 30 former Trump administration officials moments after they left office on Wednesday. In a statement released just minutes after President Joe Biden was inaugurated, Beijing slapped travel bans and business restrictions on Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, national security adviser Robert O’Brien and U.N. ambassador, Kelly Craft. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
China hopes for co-operation, better relations under Biden

U.S. need to relaunch co-operation in a number of areas

German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks to the media during a press conference on the current situation in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. Topics include the decisions taken by the federal and state governments to combat the Corona pandemic, the Chancellor’s upcoming virtual consultations with the heads of state and government of the European Union (EU), and relations with the United States following the inauguration of the new president. (Michael Kappeler/Pool via AP)
Germany’s Merkel stands by Russia pipeline that US opposes

Washington says the project makes Europe more dependent on Russian gas and hurt European energy security

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, greets International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel during their meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Nikolai Petrov/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)
Lithuania offers to replace Belarus as hockey worlds co-host

Tournament scheduled to run May 21 to June 6

Canadian international midfielder Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare, left, is seen in action against St. Louis FC in an undated handout photo. Gagnon-Lapare has joined HFX Wanderers FC on a two-year deal with a club option for 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-HFX Wanderers FC
Canadian international Jeremy Gagnon-Lapare joins CPL’s HFX Wanderers FC

Gagnon-Lapare most recently with Ottawa Fury FC and St. Louis FC

An Italian police officer stands by a copy of the “Salvator Mundi” (Savior of the World) by Leonardo da Vinci, in Naples, Italy, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Italian police have recovered a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th century “Salvator Mundi” painting of Jesus Christ that was stolen from a Naples church without the priests even realizing it was gone. The discovery was made over the weekend when Naples police working on a bigger operation found the painting hidden in an apartment. Police chief Alfredo Fabbrocini said the owner offered a “less than credible” explanation that he had “casually” bought it at a small market. (Italian Police via AP)
Italian police find stolen copy of Leonardo ‘Salvator Mundi’

500-year-old copy of Leonardo da Vinci painting

Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as her husband Doug Emhoff holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)
Inauguration fashion: Purple, pearls, American designers

Joe Biden wore navy blue suit and overcoat by Ralph Lauren

Adam Hadwin, of Canada, chips to the second green during the first round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Slocum
Adam Hadwin hopes to hit reset button in 2021 starting with American Express

Adam Hadwin hopes to hit reset button in 2021 starting with American Express

Most Read