September 30th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 38
NDP, MLA, mayor and councillors on protecting the Castle
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Pass Herald Reporter
The NDP, the mayor, several councillors and our MLA are all weighing in on the province’s plan to protect the Castle Wilderness Area with the creation of two new parks.

The NDP: public consultation and jobs

The government is holding up the examples of the Kananaskis and Canmore regions that were once heavily reliant on natural resource extraction but have since developed strong economies based on tourism.

Tupper cited a recent 2011 economic analysis done by an external expert that showed the Kananaskis area (pre-flood) generated a total of 3,023 fulltime jobs and that tourists spent an annual amount of $202.5 million.

She also said there would be public consultation.

“Input from local governments, families and businesses will be important as we move toward fully protecting the Castle with two new parks. Our ongoing consultations will help determine park amenities, including access points. This is a public process where everyone can submit their ideas and feedback online,” said press secretary Laura Tupper on behalf of Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips.
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Mayor Blair Painter: upset nobody called

On Sept. 4, when the NDP government was holding a press conference in Blairmore to announce the protection of the Castle Wilderness Area with new parks, Crowsnest Pass Mayor Blair Painter was meeting with regional mayors and reeves in Lethbridge.

“I have heard rumors of the castle becoming a park for several years now. I noticed a post on Facebook that there was to be an announcement in Blairmore on Friday, but no indication of location or time of the event,” said Painter in a statement. “Since I had not received any communication, neither by phone or email from our provincial government that there was to be an important announcement with a major impact to our community, I never considered the Facebook post to be valid.”

“Don’t get me wrong, as I support the preservation of the Castle, our head waters and endangered species, I just believe this was handled very poorly,”

Councillor Bill Kovach: concerned for the logging industry

When he was a young man, there was a sawmill in every major watershed in the Castle area, Kovach said.

“I’m not saying we should go back to that but I think the Castle is being managed fine the way it is. In my opinion it’s a bad decision because logging, if done right, is a proper management tool,” he said.

“Having a wilderness area and a park are a good idea,” he said. “It might help us with tourism down the road. If it’s managed properly and we have proper campgrounds, it could be okay for the Pass.”
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Councillor Dean Ward: circumspect

How will this park affect us in the Crowsnest Pass?

“Who knows for sure?” said Councillor Dean Ward in a statement. “It will be a while before any of us know what the park will really be. When asked if there were funds available to promote tourism and the other economic spin offs that come with this type of venture, the minister reminded us of the dire financial situation at hand in this province right now. (Which I believe was code for "No").”

“One thing that is clear, logging and surface disturbance of any kind is ended. Just as many people will tell me that is bad as will tell me that is good. Personally I believe in responsible use of our resources. Where would our community be without the coal mines?”

Shar Cartwright: has many questions

Councillor Shar Cartwright learned about the new parks via an article in the Calgary Herald that she read the morning of the NDP’s announcement.

While she is not against the park, she is deeply concerned by the lack of communication and consultation with the surrounding communities.

She also has many unanswered questions:

“Who will be responsible for the infrastructure? Who will be responsible for maintenance of the roads and bridges in the park? Will the province put enough, not just sufficient, capital and operating dollars into the park to make it an attraction?” she said in a statement. “What is the plan? Who will be monitoring and doing enforcement in the parks? How much will the province have to pay the logging industry? What will be the effect (if any) on our local forestry office? Will jobs be lost? Will new jobs be made for the parks?”

Wildrose MLA Pat Stier: partisan

Wildrose MLA Pat Stier said the NDP is guilty of a lack of transparency and accountability and believes local officials, business people and citizens should have been informed of this sooner.

“This is once again, short sighted thinking by the new NDP government and another example of how they are quite happy to experiment with their perceived goals by changing policies and regulations with the drop of the hat and knee jerk reactions without considering the long term overall consequences,” he said.

“I too believe in clean air, clean water and land stewardship,” he added. “The preservation of natural areas is always on the forefront of my mind and, working in a balanced way, I think we can achieve those things while still providing local employment and taking advantage of our local resources.”
September 30th ~ Vol. 85 No. 38
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