We are business owners in a Provincial Park. Since 2006, Michelle and Claude have grown a small business in the Kananaskis Village from a tiny rental shop into a mid-sized retail and rental operation, with a well developed guided tour program. We rely on trails to serve our customers. The cuts proposed by the provincial government will impact us in a major way. We will see visitation decline, a large reduction in revenue from equipment rentals in the Winter, a drop-in guided tour sales, and a complete stop for ski lessons and fat bike tours. This year alone, we have equipped over 830 xc skiers with rentals or lessons. Losing this has a real impact on a budding local economy and the associated jobs.
Kananaskis is uniquely positioned to serve Calgary, with over 1 million residents. We see a diversity of visitors from Alberta and beyond, and groups including nordic ski clubs, new Canadians, school groups, and corporate outings. They are coming out to Kananaskis Country in the Winter for a number of reasons, snowshoeing, the Nordic spa, downhill skiing, fat biking and nordic skiing our collection of world-class groomed ski trails. Trails aren’t the only reason people come out here, but they are a big part of the draw.
According to Alberta’s Plan For Parks,
“Parks are established, and ARE TO BE MAINTAINED”, “To facilitate, the use and enjoyment for outdoor recreation, education, and the appreciation and experiencing of Alberta’s natural heritage, and to ensure their lasting protection for the benefit of present and future generations.” So much of this new plan goes against past precedent and the stated plan of parks management.
Travel Alberta is always looking for non-downhill ski Winter activities to help diversify the offering of tourist products to a broader group of people from all over the world. Fatbiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, all support that initiative. These cuts take away our contribution to that part of the economy.
Outdoor recreation pays long term dividends to the province in other ways by improving people’s health, fitness, mental well-being and this reduces healthcare costs.
If the government is serious about doubling tourist expenditures by 2030, removing well-used tourist attractions is not the way to do it! People come here to recreate, and when they are here, they rent equipment, shop in stores, eat in restaurants, stay in hotels, buy gas and support our local economy. Our tourism industry is the envy of all the other provinces. We have protected land, lots of wildlife, sustainable caps on development, a management system in place to preserve and protect for the long term. If the land is not managed properly, we compromise the habitat and the wildlife within it. We risk doing long term damage to our already strained ecosystems. Deregulating so many of these parks will have consequences on the landscape and the tourism industry.
Cuts to wayfinding services like visitor information services make it harder to connect tourists with trails and businesses that benefit from their visitorship.
Premier Kenny said, “Our Common Sense Conservation Plan will take a balanced approach to environmental stewardship, recognizing that recreation, economic use, and conservation can and should support each other.” What I am seeing in practice, does not feel balanced.
No public consultation was done in regard to nordic ski and fat bike trail use. No tourism valuation assessment, no willingness to pay surveys, no economic impact assessment, no community engagement, no stakeholder engagement. The ski and fat bike community can be partners with the government in this optimization strategy. But they have to invite us to the table.
The proposed volunteer-based group cannot maintain these trails sustainably. Kananaskis is a large area with seasonal transient staff and no nearby sizable local population to pull from. Grooming equipment is expensive and requires skills and expertise to operate.
Trails are important! They are a major attraction to our area and add to the overall package. They give Albertans and tourists alike a reason to come to an area and positively affect local businesses and Alberta’s economy.
What you can do!
Send a letter to Minister Nixon at firstname.lastname@example.org
Send a letter to your MLA.
Here is a form letter you can use. Please add your personal comments to increase the impact.
Honourable Minister Nixon,
I believe in Alberta parks. I have been recreating in them for most of my life with friends and family and rely on ski trail grooming in the Winter to recreate without impediments. Slashing trail programs that have been providing access to Albertans and visitors for 30 years would affect my health and wellness and this province’s bottom line.
Asking volunteers to run trail grooming programs is a short-sighted, unsustainable plan, destined for failure in an area so far removed from a large population base.
Wayfinding is critical in Kananaskis, closing visitor information centers will put undue strain on myself and other visitors to find information on trails, the area, local businesses, and their services. Closing the Barrier Lake Visitor Information center in an area with no cell service will pose a risk to visitor’s safety.
For the long term health of our Provincial Park, and myself, I implore you, do not defund the grooming and track setting program in Kananaskis. If you think this area is “under-used” you are out of touch with Kananaskis. A vibrant community of outdoor enthusiasts, outdoor/ski clubs, and businesses benefit from grooming and information services.
I ask that you start a dialog with local stakeholders to find a solution to maintain ski trail grooming.
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