February 1st, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 5
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Hillcrest Fish and Game seeks public input on Castle Parks
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Archive photo
South Castle Area
ANNA KROUPINA
Pass Herald Reporter
UPDATE: The town hall meeting has been changed to February 7th at 7:30pm at the MDM Community Centre in Bellevue.

The Hillcrest Fish and Game Protective Association is holding a town hall meeting on Feb. 7 to hear stakeholder feedback from the residents and communities affected by the provincial government’s draft management plan for Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildlands Park.

The gathering will begin with brief presentations from leading stakeholders and follow up with a question and answer period.

“The main purpose is to gauge the support that we have and get different feedback so that we can devise a strategy to approach the government to amend its plan, and to let people vent their frustration because there’s a lot of it,” says Wade Aebli, land use chair with the Hillcrest Fish and Game Protective Association.

Both supporters and critics of the Castle initiative will have the opportunity to voice their concerns.

As a longtime OHV enthusiast and supporter, Aebli stands behind allowing OHV use in the parks. However, he is open to engaging in constructive discussions with those who oppose this view.

“It’s a town hall and you do need both sides of the opinion. I see the abuse and lack of respect for the land, so their point of view is not lost on me, but there’s no balance or compromise in this plan and this is mainly what we’re striving for,” he says.
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Given the polarizing tenor and emotionally charged nature of the plan, security will be on-site to ensure the safety of guests. Aebli asks that guests remain courteous throughout the meeting.

“Profanity won’t be tolerated and a tactful tone will be appreciated,” he says. “If anyone gets out of hand, they may be asked to leave. We don’t want to appear like a bunch of knuckle draggers because that won’t help the cause.”

Wildrose MLA for Livingstone Macleod Pat Stier will be in attendance to listen to concerns and get a clear understanding of the impacts of such changes in government regulations and rulings.

“If we feel that they are not necessarily in line with most of our residents expect, we will bring those opinions and arguments to the House for a proper discussion,” he says. “There are supporters that are very pleased to see what the government is doing, and I’m here to listen to their concerns as well.”

Following the meeting, Aebli hopes to form a multi-stakeholder committee to work with politicians and bureaucrats to change the direction of the government on this ruling.

Once Hillcrest Fish and Game determine how they would like to proceed, Stier will be on hand as advisor.
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“We would, at that point in time, suggest things that we’ve noticed in the past that work and try to work together to provide a clear voice for the residents that are affected,” says Stier.

Aebli’s main concern and reason for initiating a town hall meeting is the “nowhere near adequate” amount of consultation that went into amending the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP), which stipulated the conservation and lands management in the South Saskatchewan River Basin, of which the Castle region is part of.

“I would like to see the government absolve this plan, come to the table in an open and transparent way, follow the process and not only work with stakeholders, but also the public,” he says. “That means all stakeholders; not just the ones that they prefer because they’re giving the answers that they’re looking for, because that’s what they’ve done.”

He hopes to strike an agreement with the government rooted in balance and comprise.

“Right now, this plan has neither,” he says. “The bottom line is that the SSRP was designated as multi-use and this is a complete shift to absolute preservation. Conservation is when you utilize the land in a responsible and sustainable way. Preservation is putting up a fence and kicking everybody out; that’s what this is.”

Stier also expressed concern over the government’s lack of consultation.

“Had we been able to discuss this at all or debate this in the House, I would have, without any question, been standing up hard for public consultation and transparency instead of last-minute notifications where they’ve had where they’ve already made the decision,” says Stier. “I think it’s terrible that they’ve decided to do it this way.”

UPDATE: The town hall meeting has been changed to February 7th at 7:30pm at the MDM Community Centre in Bellevue.

The town hall meeting will take place Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Community Hall in Cowley, at 518 Railway Ave.
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February 1st, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 5
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