And now, no OHV’S. We feel frustrated, betrayed and angry. We have spent money and thousands of hours of volunteer’s time to protect the environment, and with the stroke of a pen, it has all been taken away from thousands of families who love the mountains of South Western Alberta.
We met with the Minister of Environment and Parks on two occasions, once in a larger user group, and once with the Board Members of the Quad Squad. We presented numerous suggestions on how to implement changes in the OHV industry to promote safe and responsible use, while at the same time protecting the environment. We can continue to build bridges over the waterways, repair the riparian growth of the water banks to prevent silt and natural erosion into the waters, move trails away from the waters, trench proper drainage channels in the trails to prevent run off from entering the waters, thus protecting the fish habitat. With a designated trail system for the whole Province and proper signage riders will know where they can ride. Enforcement of the Off-Highway Vehicle Act in relation to equipment, such as proper lighting, spark arrestors and mufflers, age of riders, and a mandatory permit fee; would generate monies back into maintenance and enforcement, not into General Revenue where the approximately 7-9 Million dollars per year generated from registration does now. Proper washroom and dumping stations for the campers would need to be constructed. More specific penalties for such serious offences as crossing or running up and down the streams and mandatory helmet laws (which is pending} need to be enforced.
We (CNP Quad Squad) advised the Minister that more than 1 million dollars was spent in the last 20 years from Federal and Provincial grants, as well as privately raised funds to install over 30 bridges in the now new Parks area. As of today, those bridges would be useless in the new Parks and should be removed and placed in areas where there are no bridges and where OHV use is still allowed. The Provincial Government has spent about 3 million dollars during the last 3 years using Federal Money; plus an $87,500.00 grant, and a donation of 4 bridges of a value of about $36,000.00 each from the Quad Squad to repair, close, redirect trails and re-install bridges washed out from the flood of 2013. These trails in the Castle area are world class and refurbished by government environmental scientists. The Quad Squad is being proactive to the environment.
Premier Notley stated in the announcement that the phase out period of 3-5 years was for the allowance of new trails to be built outside of the Park’s area. Why build new trails when there is already a sustainable trail system in place? Reduce the imprint by closing redundant trails in the Parks, but keep the good designated trails. Where are, these new trails going to be built? The OHV community has already been told by the government through the Porcupine and Livingstone Range Management Consultations that more trails are to be closed to lessen the linear footprint at the same time approving new hiking and mountain bike trails. A trail, is a trail. You still have the same compaction, water issues whether it be an OHV trail or any other type of trail.
As I stated earlier, we are frustrated and angry. We are distrustful of this government, not only for the loss of our recreational sport, but by the total disregard of public input by thousands of Albertans.
I was selected to be on a Board for the Management of the Castle Parks which was to make recommendations to the Government on hunting, fishing, cattle grazing and OHV use in the Parks. These recommendations were not binding on the Government, it was their decision. The board was comprised of 9 Environmentalists, one Fly Fishing, one Fish and Game, two hiking, one Municipal District of Pincher Creek, one Reeve of the MD of Ranchlands, (both of which were ranchers with their main interest keeping cattle grazing in the Parks), one representative from the Pincher Creek Stockman’s Association, one from Shell Canada, one from Westcastle Resort, one from Alberta Equestrian Federation, and Myself from the CNP Quad Squad. Just by the selected composition of this Board it soon became evident what recommendations would become priority. Several meetings and discussions took place however the Board had not made any formal recommendations that were to be forwarded to the Government. In my opinion, the Government had already made their decision and was working backwards trying to justify their actions.
We wish to make it perfectly clear this decision was made by the elected Government officials, not by the conscientious and hard working staff of the Government. They will continue to present non-biased information to the Government. It is up to the elected officials what they do with it. We must continue to give our input into the Castle, Porcupine and Livingstone Range Land Management sessions. It is a good avenue for public input.
This draft decision affects OHV use, RV dealers, OHV dealers, gas stations, restaurants, hotels etc. and all Albertans should be concerned.
The environment is important, but let us all protect it in a responsible manner. There must be a balance between the environment and recreation, as the Provincial Park Act states: “To facilitate their use and enjoyment for outdoor recreation, education and the appreciation and experiencing of Alberta’s natural heritage.”
We urge everyone to write your MLA, your MP, and the Minister of Environment and Parks and voice your feelings. This is only a draft management phase, and can be amended for every person’s enjoyment.
The Quad Squad will continue it’s work to protect the environment and promote safe, sustainable trials and responsible enjoyment of our back country.