April 25th, 2018

Backcountry huts planned for Castle area


By Lethbridge Herald on April 17, 2018.

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald

tkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

Environment minister Shannon Phillips announced Monday in Calgary $700,000 in new funding to help the Alpine Club of Canada construct three new backcountry huts in Castle Wildland Provincial Park, and expressed absolutely no regets about her government’s decision to restrict off-highway vehicle usage in the area.

“Albertans love parks,” she said in a statement to the media. “Camping allows us to spend quality time with our families while also reconnecting with nature. These backcountry huts will expand the recreation opportunities available in the Castle region, attract new visitors and meet the growing demand for backcountry experiences in Alberta.”

Phillips made her announcement beside representatives of the Alpine Club of Canada, Mountain Equipment Co-op, (the location where the press conference took place), and the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of Alberta, which advocates for “quiet” recreation in nature.

When asked by The Herald following the announcement how she would respond to criticisms from the off-highway vehicle community that they are being locked out of government’s recreation plans, Phillips pointed to off-highway vehicles as the main reason the province decided to protect the Castle area in the first place. She referenced “unfettered” off-road vehicle damage in the region, including 1,800 documented unauthorized stream crossings and 35 unauthorized crossings of headwaters.

She also pointed out the government was investing $20 million in new funds over four years for recreation of all kinds in Castle, including substantial amounts for approved off-highway vehicle trails.

“There will be substantial capital investment in the millions of dollars for off-highway vehicles,” stated Phillips. “I guess my question would be: How much more do you want? We are investing in communities and all sorts of recreation, and we are doing it after a period of careful consideration.”

Phillips also predicted the government would likely continue on the course it has already laid out in the Livingstone-Porcupine Land Footprint and Recreation plans after receiving what it has deemed to be largely positive community feedback during the public consultation process.

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