June 16th, 2024

Alberta’s special places deserve better

By Lethbridge Herald on September 1, 2021.

I’ve noticed that many people, and seemingly all Government of Alberta (GoA) officials, are quick to proclaim provincial land-use regulations are excellent. Are they? What are they worth?

It matters not how many wonderful words are written to paint a picture of a fully-clothed emperor if the emperor, naked, reveals the naked truth.

Each year I visit Alberta’s special places. Each year I find them in ever-worsening condition. This legacy of unrelenting degradation hurts at a deep and visceral level. It cuts into my heart.

The ghost town of Lille, one example, has witnessed this decades-in-degradation devastation of its historic structures. There, interpretive signs, relatively new, are riddled with bullet holes. Nearby, other signs, smashed, litter the ground. Their message, lost in the mud and ruts of creek-crossing vehicles, describes the need for vehicles to stay out of the creek in order to protect threatened native trout. The truth, ugly, lies at my feet.

The Provincial Land-Use Zone (PLUZ) at Tecumseh Mountain provides another example of issue-defining outcomes. There, muddy ruts make it clear the existing maze of off-road “trails” is not sustainable. Countless tons of soil have been eroded, and the so-called “trails” cross mountain streams where water, diverted, courses down off-road “roads.” It gets worse. This brand of “Mountain Freedom” exposes the raw essence of a landscape on which there are no rules. Waist-deep trenches cut by churning dirt bikes go straight up the mountain, and in the ruts lie wheel-excavated mountain lady’s-slippers (orchids) and other rare plants.

The GoA erected signs. The message: NO MOTORIZED USE is posted at the trailheads. 

The signs feature pictures of a snowmobile, a dirt bike, a truck, and an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) in the event someone might wonder what NO MOTORIZED USE might mean. 

The result: Motorized off-road abuse accelerated. Here, as everywhere on public land, many off-road motorists continue to entrench the tragic destruction of Alberta’s headwaters.

The posted rules and regulations are a joke, a visual affront to the raw, naked truth, the exposure of wanton degradation, the debasement of a priceless heritage.

GoA staff have been contacted year after year to address this mess. Decades have passed in which pictures of the devastation have been sent along with heartfelt letters. 

I recently wrote to Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon with a request that he take action. 

I received a form letter response. The message: “Environment and Parks endeavors to strike a balance of responsible recreational use and protection of watersheds, habitats and species.”

I see no evidence of balance. I see a catastrophic diminishment of Alberta’s cultural and natural resources, the muddying of streams and rivers, the ongoing loss of at-risk native plants and animals. I see a problem that can’t be fixed with words.

I wonder this: To whom should I write in order for action to be taken? 

There’s an old saying: Tell someone who cares. 

I wish I could find that person.

Monica Field lives in southwestern Alberta in the shadow of the Livingstone Range. She’s in love with the land at her doorstep, and has worked from it to manage Provincial Historic Sites in Alberta. 

Monica is a singer/songwriter and has also been an active educator specializing in diverse cultural resources and natural history disciplines. She has extensive knowledge of Alberta’s archeology, botany, paleontology, geology, and the province’s history of coal mining and oil and gas exploration.

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Southern Albertan

Agreed. How much more damage will the Kenney UCP do to Alberta before they are voted out? Many of us knew who did not vote for them knew, that if the Kenney UCP would get in with a majority that it would be ‘bad,’ and it has turned out to be very ‘bad.’

Dennis Bremner

Let me perhaps explain why I believe we have the abuses we have. When I was a child my father paid $400 for what was called a “Shack tent”. He then owned that Shack tent. The tent with solid walls was set up in Waskesiu in Prince Albert National Park(PANP) every spring and taken down every winter and stored.
Park Wardens and those among us who decided PANP needed more protection outlawed the “Shack tents” and moved the Marina well out of walking distance from downtown. They had a vision. This Waskesiu is such a wonderful place that we should make it so only the rich can afford to spend a night or two.
They succeeded. The “Portables” as they were known were shack tents with a solid roof and at the time when shack tents were around were only for the wealthier among us($2500). Those Portables were allowed to stay. Those portables are now well over $150,000 if you can find one.
Basically, a Park, which is supposed to be for the enjoyment of everyone, became the place that was to be protected no matter who it had to sacrifice to protect it. PANP is huge, Waskesiu could have remained the way it was and everyone could have enjoyed it. Instead, a Park, which is supposed to be enjoyed becomes a place with ever increasing regulations and ever increasing costs to use it. That was not the original purpose of a Park.
Waskesiu is now a place where you are encouraged to Leave, not to stay. When you do stay, you are subjected to so many laws, and things you cannot do, you really do not feel you are part of the wilderness anymore. I am sure those that enjoy Waskesiu now would disagree because they have known no difference.
So, Parks are made to be enjoyed as long as you follow the rules, which is fine, but next time you visit one start counting up the rules.
I read a facebook post about a jump park where parents and kids go into a building in Lethbridge and can bounce around on trampolines. The jist of the post was that there were so many rules posted that after spending $60 you realized you never enjoyed yourself and, the people running the place barked out rules and pointed to more signs that gave you more restrictions the longer you were there.
Parks were supposed to be places where you had 1000s of Acres reserved and XX Acres for the enjoyment of those that use the Park. But, Wardens and Conservationists want all 1000s of Acres preserved and really do not want people there, in fact people have become a pain in the butt for parks and park officials.
Herein lies the problem. With the advent of ATVs etc the amount of park that can be exploited has increased. Whereas the attitudes of Treehuggers and Wardens have not changed. It reminds me of gocarts on a track. You go around and around the same track and eventually you get bored. You would like a change of scenery, or a different track that challenges you but NOPE the rules are stay on THIS track.
So you get people that want off the same track. Now you may say, well we have posted ATV trails, yes, thats true, but eventually it becomes same ole same ole. So how do you solve the boredom, by being innovative which Wardens and Rangers have never had to do. They lay out a track and think they are done. They keep people bottled up in a small area of the park with no logic as to why the area where people are cannot be doubled!
Now I am sure, so far, you are absolutely aghast that I can think this way. So lets see how a park treats you vs me. I am disabled, I can walk about 1 city block before back and hip give out from a military injury. You, visit the Waterton park and enjoy numerous walking and hiking trails. How far are the things you want to see away from the parking lot? Because remember, 1 block is half a block each way. So now tell me what I CAN SEE IN YOUR PARK? In a lot of cases, I see the Parking Lot!
I do not own an ATV or UTV for the following reason.
All of the sites in Waterton or ANY other park are generally walking distance away from the parking lot. Assuming you can walk. So, what does the Park provide me? Nothing. If I bring any kind of motorized equipment, I am exposed to the very sign you scoffed at “because as you say” and I quote ” in the event someone might wonder what NO MOTORIZED USE might mean. “. Which of course means dummies (which obviously includes disabled) must be reminded what motorized means! Scooters for handicapped do not do well on walking trails because of roots and uneven ground. So what would you and ALL the park wardens in Canada suggest we do?
How many ATV/UTV people are disabled Ms Field? Have you even bothered to try to find out? Or is it ATV BAD, no matter what! So your thinking is not unlike the Wardens, because a few abuse the parks, lets ban everyone! So why not be innovative, create disabled stickers for ATVs so the disabled can see what you see? Do you know why that will never happen. Well I would be polluting your air, I would be making your enjoyment less, because of the noise, and you would make sure I never got on YOUR TRAIL or YOUR site seeing adventure, I can guarantee you that! So everyone is equal unless it pisses off the enabled, then were not so equal anymore!
So parks are made for the enabled to enjoy, that can walk. If you fit any other category, they are not made for you. I enjoy the first half block from the Parking Lot which is probably 1/50,000,000th of what you see. In many cases all the disabled parking spots are taken by non-disabled people and I am more than a half block from the entrance to the park. Perhaps you should be advocating for us? Electric Golf Carts for rent, ENFORCEMENT of Handicapped Parking, MORE HANDICAPPED PARKING!! Last time I checked I am a taxpayer and have been for about 60 years now. I see no Parks in Canada for me, but I am sure you can see plenty for you and your family, right?
Yet, it was the reason parks were set up in the first place, preserve the beauty of nature and allow ALL people to see it and use it!
Whom are those people? I would suggest you are among them because I know I am not! How do I know that? Well someone who has extensive knowledge of Alberta’s archeology, botany, paleontology, geology does not garner this knowledge from a Greenhouse, so you spend a lot of time outdoors. So, have you picked the extent of my Greenhouse yet, it appears you have?
I can presume your outrage on the destruction you see, must (unfortunately) include the disabled, correct? You know when you walk, you create no damage, ergo, it is the people that must ride, that must be banned? NDP Solution? Perhaps this is why you received “The message: “Environment and Parks endeavors to strike a balance of responsible recreational use and protection of watersheds, habitats and species.” from the UCP?
Or is it a ban on just those that destroy, if so, then if you create rules, you must be able to enforce them. If you cannot enforce rules do not create them, period! Because without enforcement NO MOTORIZED VEHICLES ALLOWED is just a suggestion!

Last edited 2 years ago by Dennis Bremner

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The difference between those wanting to develop and an environmentalist is, the environmentalist already has their cabin.