March 22nd, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 12
Castle Parks public information session held at Elk’s Hall
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Archive photo
Castle Park area looking south.
Pass Herald Reporter
Alberta Environment and Parks hosted a public information session at Elk’s Hall in Blairmore on March 17. This was one of several forums across Southern Alberta to gather public input and exhibit the proposed rollout for the Castle Parks Draft Management Plan and South Saskatchewan Regional Plan.

Prior sessions were held in Pincher Creek and the Municipal District of the Ranchlands, with more sessions to be announced.

Poster boards with project information lined the walls of the Elk’s Hall and multiple staff from Environment and Parks were available to answer questions and gather public input.

“The purpose of the forum today is for local residents here in the Crowsnest Pass to come in and learn more about what the draft plans are for the Castle Parks, as well as the public lands that are surrounding this area,” says Steve Donelon, the assistant deputy minister for Environment and Parks.

Of particular significance to Crowsnest Pass is the implementation of the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan including the public lands surrounding the community that are not part of Castle, the Livingstone Range and the Porcupine Hills.
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The intent for these areas is to develop a recreation management plan by the end of 2017 that would establish public land use zones with designated single-use and multi-use trail systems for both motorized and non-motorized use. Instituting public land use zones will lead to better enforcement and education, says Robert Simieritsch, Regional Resource Manager for Environment and Parks.

“We are thinking about where people can go and recreate and where to have different sectors, where to have multi-use trails, where to have staging areas and camping areas,” says Simieritsch.“We are looking at what we need to do to fix that up so that it’s sustainable long term, gives people good experiences and hopefully improves how recreation is managed going forward.”

While implementation is expected to begin next year, Simieritsch says they recognize that certain areas require more immediate attention, particularly pointing to Dutch Creek Area and the McGillivray and Atlas staging areas. The intent is to create an interim designated trail network for the summer and once completed, the recreation management plan would finalize direction for the trail network for the future.
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“They need to be repaired and maybe fixed up because there’s damage, so we’re going to look at what we can do this year to help some of that stuff along,” says Simieritsch. “We also have our Backcountry Trail Flood Rehabilitation Program that’s been running for three years. While we’re doing the planning, we’re also recognizing that we need to do some work to improve things right now, as well.”

Consultations with the public and affected parties are ongoing in developing the recreation management plan.

“We are looking at different mechanisms of engaging, so having on-on-one meetings and information session,” says Simieritsch. “One of the things we’re looking at is having some kind of advisory group and bringing different stakeholder groups together, and having them give us feedback and advice.”

Simieritsch encourages affected and interested residents to offer input through their local community organizations, or directly to the Environment and Parks office.

“I encourage that if they’re part of a club, that’s a great forum,” he says. “As we develop some of the processes, we’re going to have an interim trail map, so there’ll be the opportunity for comment once that comes out. And once we develop the recreation plan, there will be a process for public engagement there, as well.”

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March 22nd, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 12
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