March 8th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 10
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NDP announces revised Castle plan
Motorized use extended by a year, but not a win for OHV users
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Castle Provincial Park entrance sign.
ANNA KROUPINA
Pass Herald Reporter
On March 1, Alberta Environment and Parks released revisions to the Castle Parks draft management plan and announced that off-highway vehicle (OHV) use is permitted for the following year.

Salient points from the revised draft management plan indicate that there will be no closure of designated OHV trails at this time, that there will be increased enforcement to prevent irresponsible activities in the Castle parks and that northern access and routes into the park will be maintained from the Crowsnest Pass. The public consultation period is also extended by an additional month until April 19.

In January, the province released the final boundaries for the Castle Provincial Park and the Castle Wildland Park, which comprise approximately 1,000 square kilometers of protected land, intended to preserve the aquatic habitats and biodiversity in the area, including over 200 rare or at-risk species. As part of the draft management plan, an off-highway vehicle ban was to take effect in three to five years.

Step in the right direction

Gary Clark, president of the Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad, says he is “extremely pleased” at the government’s efforts to include more public input in the consultation process. Regarding the government’s plan to close undesignated trails while leaving accessible the designated trails, he highlighted that this is what the Quad Squad has appealed for all along.
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The press release indicated, "No changes to the current state-of-trail access will be made in the upcoming year for off-highway vehicles use. The focus will be on closing illegal trails and creating proper signage."

“We’re not asking for all the trails,” says Clark, “but we want to keep the designated trail system. It’s really good news for the Pass because I was really worried about the economics here.”

Not a win for OHV users

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said at a news conference that the government is still committed to its five-year management plan, which calls for a complete phase-out of off-highway vehicles and random camping.

Kevin Van Tighem, conservation biologist and former superintendent at Banff National Park, has been a supporter of the installment of the Castle Park from inception. With the recent revision, he says he is confident the government still plans to ultimately ban OHVs in the park, a “long overdue” initiative needed to protect the landscape.

“The government is still fully committed to eliminating motorized vehicles, they’re just changing the way in which they do it. It’s a lot less complicated to get your ducks lined up before you make big changes,” he says.

“So if there’s one more year of people using the designated trails, first of all, it will be a chance for these guys to prove whether they are the responsible users they say they are, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t change their plan, which is the phase-out of off road vehicle use over the next three to five years.”

Local OHV enthusiasts are pushing back with a rally planned for March 11 in Blairmore. Organizers expect more than 1,000 people to attend.
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More feedback

While recognizing the government's effort to be more comprehensive in their public consultation, Wildrose Livingstone-MacLeod MLA Pat Stier expressed disappointment that feedback was extended by only 30 days instead of the 60 that Wildrose had asked for.

“Even with 30 more days, the timeline for concerned Albertans to provide their feedback is far too short for adequate consultation to be done,” said Stier in a news release. “A 120-day period for public feedback is the bare minimum length required for legitimate public consultation on this. Also, any expanded timeframe must be accompanied by a series of public town halls, so the people can truly be heard."
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March 8th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 10
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