A list of 164 provincial parks and recreation areas that are slated to be removed from Alberta’s parks system can no longer be found on the Government of Alberta website, leading some to believe it was intentionally removed to avoid further public scrutiny.
The list has been publicly available since Feb. 29, but was removed sometime within the past month. One member of the Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) said she believes the government has now made it more difficult for Albertans to know if certain areas will still be part of the provincial parks system when they plan their next visit.
“It was something we noticed maybe over a month ago, and so it did take us a little bit of time to spread the news about this,” said Grace Wark, a conservation specialist with the AWA. “It could be some deliberate misguiding so that folks have a harder time engaging with this decision, they have a harder time finding out information about it. And so there may be less of an opportunity for them to push back on these parks’ closures. Now, obviously, that’s just speculation.”
The move to remove certain parks has been heavily criticized for the lack of consultations with the public.
“What’s important is that the government isn’t being as transparent as possible in this process. They haven’t offered any public consultation and to do their due diligence on a public resource, like our provincial parks and recreation areas then they need to get that list back on their website, as well as start providing more information backing up this decision,” Ms. Wark said.
Various parks and campgrounds surrounding Swan Hills are at risk, including Chrystina Lake, Trapper Lea’s Cabin, Edith Lake and Freeman River.
The AWA and other partners are encouraging people to write to the minister and their MLA and copy it to the NDP environment shadow critic Marlin Schmidt with their stories and memories surrounding the use of the areas.
“What we’ve heard from our members, from our friends, from the public is that many of these lakes are actually very important to them. They’ve been telling us stories about, ‘We spent my kids first birthday here,’ ‘We go here every long weekend.’
“And so, it’s telling a very different story than the one that we’re hearing out of this government proposal where they’re saying, ‘Oh, we’re shutting down these lakes because there’s no use,’ ” she said.
We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.