On Jan. 20, the provincial government announced that part of the protection of the Castle area would include a transition of OHVs recreation use out of the new Castle boundary.
Gary Clark, president of the Quad Squad says, they’re extremely disappointed with this recent announcement.
“Over the last 20 years the Quad Squad … has spent thousands of volunteer hours and millions of dollars through provincial, federal and privately-raised funds to build bridges in the present parks and … that seems to be all for not,” says Clark.
The Quad Squad members were surprised by the announcement as they have been spending time and money to create trails and bridges for OHVs in the parks area to protect the quality of the waters and the fish habitat.
Clark says they’ve also repaired the riparian areas around the banks to help limit erosion and they have been moving trails away from running beside waterways.
Not only are they disappointed in the announcement itself, Clark says he’s disappointed in the decision-making process.
Clark sat on the Castle Parks Management Board, which was supposed to make recommendations to the government before any decisions were to be made. This announcement came about before any recommendations could be made.
“I have some extreme questions about the integrity of the government. I feel that this was all planned in advance and that their idea was from the start … was to shut down off-highway vehicle use and they were using the board to try and work backwards,” explains Clark.
He is also concerned about the overall economic impacts this may have on the Crowsnest Pass to take out the OHV industry as it brings in money to the area and the province.
“I’m concerned about the economic impact of the Crowsnest Pass, which is already severely handicapped due to lack of industry and … the OHV industry contributes anywhere from one to two billion dollars a year into the Alberta economy.”
Clark says Premier Rachel Notley had mentioned in the recent announcement they would be building new OHV trails elsewhere. He questions where they are going to build these trails and why build them elsewhere when they already have sustainable trails in the Castle parks area. Clark says more than $3 million in federal funding has been spent in the last three years in this park area for OHV trails and bridges.
The Wildrose party in a new release Jan. 31 stated the NDP government should extend the the 60-day online public feedback timeline to 120 days.
The Wildrose party wants to see the NDP government hold open houses and have this expanded timeline for public feedback on the Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildlands Provincial Park Management Plans.
The news release stated the NDP has already implemented a number of changes that have significantly impacted the public use of the Castle area, including banning the recreational use of highway vehicles such as Jeeps and other 4x4s from travelling off the main roads.
As well, it states the government has restricted the use of OHVs to designated trails only and banned them from use south of Highway 774 in the new park.
This contradicts the guidelines for permitted uses that were released when the Castle Provincial Park was first announced in Sept. 2015.
“The NDP is once again pressing ahead with ideological changes to areas where true, public consultation is needed,” stated Wildrose Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier in the news release.
The Castle area is a world-class destination for people who love to camp and experience the natural outdoors.
By phasing OHVs out entirely within five years and restricting their use today, the government is contradicting the permitted uses it made in 2015.
“The survey the NDP sent around was a sham designed to get the answers they wanted,” stated Stier in the news release. “The NDP should open up the timeline for feedback and hold open houses for the public to allow the people of this region to finally be heard.”
Clark says they will deliver a letter to the Minister of the Environment soon about their concerns and feedback on this recent announcement. He says they urge anyone who is affected by this announcement to write a letter to the Minister as well.
A town hall meeting was held in southwest Alberta Feb. 7. More than 600 people were in attendance to express their concerns.
Officials organizing the meeting wanting to gather feedback about how to respond to the government. Stier organized this town hall meeting in conjunction with the Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad.