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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Beaver Mines General Store owner shares Castle parks plan concerns

Jeff McLarty
Chris Davis - Jeff McLarty and his wife Stephanie purchased the Beaver Mines General Store in December of 2015. The business offers an eclectic mix of goods and services, including gasoline, sundries, a deli and small dining area, gift items, artisan work, beer and liquor, firewood, propane, lodgings, and camping, hunting and fishing supplies. Located on Highway 774, the store is the last stop before Castle Mountain Resort (which is 20 km down the road southwest of Beaver Mines) and is at the doorway to the Castle parks area. The recently unveiled Castle parks draft management plan concerns McLarty.

Beaver Mines is a small village west of Pincher Creek that Wikipedia and other websites describe as a ghost town, but according to the Canadian 2011 Census, Beaver Mines had a population of 80 living in 34 of its 55 total dwellings at that time. The Beaver Mines General Store is a hub for many of those inhabitants, as well as for ranchers in the area. However, the store counts on the tourism traffic that passes by every day for its continued existence. According to McLarty, skiers, quadders, snowmobilers, and random campers for a significant portion of his clientele. "We really do appreciate their business, and this is going to make it a lot harder for them to find their way out here. We are concerned about how that is going to affect us long term, for sure."

"Whatever happens to the Castle happens to us."

"There are quite a lot of people who enjoy random camping in the areas as well as using ATVs. Any restriction on those groups of people will definitely, in the short term at least, reduce the numbers of people coming into the Castle."

McLarty said he has been hearing from his customers about the issue. "A number of them are concerned as to how this may affect what they will be able to do."

"In the preliminary (regional) land use framework (released in 2013), there was a number of allowable uses that are not in the final (draft) plan. Some of them include off highway use, both on designated trails and off, as well as random camping in designated areas. We recognize the plan as it has been laid out is still open for discussion. We appreciate that the government's giving an opportunity to provide our input and hopefully incorporate that input into what the final plan is. We do notice there is significant departure from what the previous indications had been."

McLarty said the uncertainty has caused he and his wife to hold off on some of their plans for the time being. "We had had originally intended to hire for a number of positions, and we have decided to postpone hiring any new staff until we have a better understanding of exactly what the plan and implementation is going to be."

"Everyone out here recognizes the Castle is a special place, and needs to be protected. But there needs to to be a balance between environmental priorities and economic realities of keeping a community functioning out here. I don't necessarily believe the current plan as proposed strikes that balance in a fair way."

"I am looking forward to the actual consultation process. I believe the way the initial event was rolled out and announced was perhaps less than perfect."

McLarty said he had just been called by Alberta Environment and Parks Chief of Staff Brent Dancey, who is "reaching out to area businesses to have a discussion as to how this plan will affect businesses in the area, and we appreciate that very much.

1 comment:

  1. We would like to hear about your talk with Bent Dancey. What was his suggestions?
    Thank you

    ReplyDelete

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