The vast network of parks and wilderness areas covers more than 4,000 square kilometers in the Foothills and Rockies just west of Calgary, with parts of its eastern boundary just 50 kilometers from the city. As of June 1, all personal and commercial vehicles stopping in the Kananaskis area and the Bow Valley Corridor will require a Kananaskis Conservation Pass.
In April, Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon said the annual fee had become necessary because visits to K-Country, as it is called, increased and created environmental strain.
The new fees are the latest in a series of changes – or proposed changes – that the UCP government has made to Alberta parks, including closing visitor centers, cutting funding for park maintenance, cross-country ski trails and the removal of provincial recreation areas from the park system. These measures have been criticized by many critics and the government has backed down on some of them.
Kananaskis’ new fees also have their critics, including the opposition NDP and the Alberta Wilderness Association, who have accused the government of making wilderness areas less accessible at additional costs. Outside of Kananaskis, a new annual fee of $ 30 will also apply to people who wish to randomly camp on public land.
But according to Michael Roycroft, Kananaskis regional manager with Alberta Environment and Parks, the hope is that the new fees for K-Country can generate up to $ 15 million in revenue that will be invested in the region.
“Kananaskis country has seen a huge influx of visitors over the past few years, especially last year,” Roycroft told the Eyeopener de Calgary Friday.
“We need more resources, and the proceeds from this pass will go to Kananaskis country to pay for the services people see. “
Every dollar goes to K-Country, says park official
The park pass fee will help pay for more staff, the reopening of visitor centers and additional resources for the Kananaskis Country Public Safety Team, Roycroft said.
“For many years our income streams have been really limited to campers and camping income, yet 75-80% of our visits are daytime activities. So we want to balance things out a bit, ”Roycroft said.
“Ultimately, every dollar raised… will go to Kananaskis country, both on the operational side and on the capital side. “
A Kananaskis Conservation Pass can be purchased online at Alberta.ca/conservationpass or at one of the Visitor Centers.
Day passes cost $ 15 per vehicle, while an annual pass, which can be used 365 days from the date of purchase, costs $ 90 per vehicle.
Households who purchase a one-year pass can register up to two license plates for their vehicles and one for their trailer, Roycroft said.
Since the pass is tied to the license plates, there will be no stickers or vehicle slips to put near the windshield.
Eventually, park staff will patrol for passes with scanning technology similar to municipal parking, and fines for not registering for a pass will cost Albertans up to $ 150.
However, Roycroft said officials hope to enforce the warnings and education in the process first, and make sure Albertans know where to get it.
While Albertans have had mixed reactions to the pass, Roycroft said, many are understanding as long as the proceeds are used to maintain amenities and services in K-Country.
“We want to make sure that at the end of the day we have the resources in place to make sure Kananaskis is there for future generations,” Roycroft said.
“We think it’s essential. “
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener and The Canadian Press.