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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

ORCA advocates for quiet recreation in the Castle Parks


Christian Davis - Outdoor Recreation Council of Alberta (ORCA) Executive Director Albi Sole MSc appeared as a delegation before council for the MD of Pincher Creek at the outset of their April 11, 2017 regular meeting to talk about the benefits of non-motorized "quiet" outdoor recreation in the Castle Parks area.  He said ORCA recognizes the negative impact of removing off highway vehicles (OHVs) from the Castle Parks but averred the benefits will outweigh the negatives.

ORCA is a non-profit coalition of individuals and more than 30 organizations and who work together to promote "quiet" outdoor recreation.  It was officially launched on February 16 of this year.  Sole, who is a Calgary resident, is also Executive Director of the Outdoor Council of Canada (OCC), and was for a time Coordinator - Mountain Programs at the University of Calgary. He has extensive outdoor guiding experience dating back to 1979, including programming the U of C's Outdoor Centre programming and avalanche awareness courses, leading public ski touring, heli-skiing, and climbing courses, and he has extensive international climbing and expedition experience.

His presentation was received as information by the council at their April 25 regular meeting.

Here is Sole's presentation to council in its entirety:

Albi Sole, ORCA - The Outdoor Recreation Council of Alberta is an umbrella group for all forms of quiet recreation. Our mandate includes activities like hiking, cycling, and canoeing, hunting and fishing, horse riding, and many others. These activities range from a quiet walkaround the community with a companion through to a multi-day wilderness excursion. Our community includes amateur groups, adventure tourism and eco-tourism companies and the retail sector.

These activities are regularly practiced by approximately half of Albertans. They are so popular because are they are affordable, accessible,and family friendly. Quiet recreation is an important part of the social life for both urban and rural Albertans and helps them balance the many pressures of modern life with healthy and regenerative physical activity.

To be clear, although we represent only non-motorized activities, we fully support responsible motorized recreation. We recognize that the Castle Plan is a devastating blow to these groups and a real loss to this community.

The Recreation Council agrees that the Province must provide a place for OHV recreation, However, that place must not be the Castle.

The unfortunate fact is that the very qualities of a quiet environment and freedom from traffic that make quiet recreation so attractive to so many, especially in wilderness settings, are destroyed by the presence of OHV traffic. By closing the Castle area to the 2.5% of people who recreate with motors Province is opening it for the 50% who prefer quiet recreation.

We recognize that the transition will be challenging, but I urge you to focus less on whatls being lost and more on what is going to be gained. Your energy will be better spent recognizing that change is inevitable and that by embracing that change you will be better able to exploit and that shape that change to meet your communities needs.

For a variety of reasons, the contributions that quiet recreation makes to our economy and are society are always overlooked. This is unfortunate becausethese contributions are very large and much larger than most people, including politicians and policy leaders, realize. The Recreation Council was specifically formed to address this lack of understanding.

Only by understanding the ways in which outdoor recreation contribute socially and economically can we properly support these activities in ways that advance the social and economic welfare of our comm unities.

Each year Alberta residents spend between $4 and $8 billion on quiet recreation. This is approximately the same as that contributed by the Forestry industry. But this spending is only a part of the economic contribution made.

Sedentary behaviour is emerging as the greatest single driver of poor physical and psychological health, not obesity as the media would suggest. Active people are more productive, live up to 5 years longer, and cost the taxpayer less in health care. They enjoy superior psychological health, and are less likely to impose a health burden on their families.

At every stage of life, non-sport outdoor activity is a critical part of the daily activity mix for most Albertans. As we age, outdoor activity will be the principal form of activity for most of us. When we loose the ability to walk safely, we loose our independence and often our ability to live in our community. We overlook these simple and obvious facts because we have allowed the sport and fitness industries to define idea of physical activity in particular ways that devalue the enourmous importance of non-sport outdoor activity.

In a major study, The Conference Board of Canada estimated that a modest 10% increase in physical activity would save Canada $1.7 billion a year for just 4 major chronic conditions. Countries with outdoor active cultures are up to 100% more active than Canadians.

These statistics are not lost on either the health care industry of the general population. Albertans are quite literally voting with their feet. Participation in outdoor activities is rapidly growing. A major factor in this growth is the availability of quality wilderness recreational opportunities. Even when people can spend only a small portion of their time there, it supports major activity-oriented lifestyle changes.

The development of the Kananaskis region west of Calgary is testament to this transformative process. Protected areas drive improvements in both the economy and quality of life. The Kananaskis is protected in a layered way that supports high quality recreation. For the most part, only quiet recreation activities are permitted, but there are areas that support OHV recreation too. As are result, recreational use of this area is exploding. This trend also has become a major economic driver for the area both directly in terms of the businesses it supports but also indirectly by enhancing the reputation of Calgary as world class city to in which to work and play.

As many of Alberta's traditional economic drivers, especially oil and gas decline, it is essential that we diversify our economy. The greatest ace in the hole for Alberta is our extraordinary potential for quiet recreation.

Increasingly, the quality of quiet recreation options is a major factor in the jobs people choose to take, and the places they choose to live. This includes the walkability and bike-ability of the immediate community and access to high quality natural environments where quiet wilderness can be experienced.

It is no accident that the day after Brad Wall made a pitch to steal head offices from Calgary, the Herald cartoon openly mocked him for thinking that the people who staff these head offices would abandon a city with tremendous cultural and recreational attributes for Regina.

Change is coming to the MD of Pincher Creek. Make no mistake, this is very rapidly going to become a place where more people want to live and recreate. This will also become an area that attracts the knowledge and high-tee industries that will be part of a diversified Alberta.

We suggest that the role the MD needs to play now is to accept the challenge brought by the new parks by thinking about how change can be managed in ways that respect the unique community values of this area. This area is not the Bow Valley Corridor and Lethbridge is not Calgary. If you don't like a lot of what you see in Can more I don't blame you, but if you don't take a leadership role now that might just be what you get.

However, whatever course you choose to take, please recognize that while OHV recreation has a valuable role to play in this area, quiet recreation has a much greater one, economically and socially. I urge you to think about how that might play out here at how you can support it.

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