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Crown land recreation survey garners large response

New measures, such as a Trails Act, and fee framework under consideration
MVT stock OHV Alberta government
To address the challenges of the increasing demand for recreation and trails in parks and on park land, Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon says the government is committed to bring forward new measures. Photo courtesy of Alberta government

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - More than 200 responses were made to Alberta Environment and Parks’ online Crown Lands Recreation Survey, officials said.

The survey results will be used in guiding future policy and legislation for Crown lands, including those west of Sundre and Cremona, says said Jason Nixon, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA and minister of Environment and Parks.

Comments received touched on topics such as camping fees, grazing leases, off-highway vehicle (OHV) fees, and enforcement.

Survey questions included: What do think are the best ways for partnerships to contribute to providing the kind of experiences and services Albertans want to see? Do you feel the collection of user-based fees is the right approach for enabling sustainable recreation opportunities on provincial Crown land? What kinds of options are important to you when considering paying fees for recreation?

Some of the 232 comments received include the following:

• OHV use areas should be privately managed with access fees. There is no other reasonable way to mitigate the immense damage to natural areas OHVs do, and there is no point to having OHV areas where people try to hike/bike/camp/otherwise enjoy nature. 

• If you hold a permit which is also a map indicating where you can legally operate your OHV, you will have one less excuse for operating in an area that is not designated for that type of use.

• OHV users should be able to access parks for recreation, but this needs to be in areas where it can be managed appropriately. 

• Having a small handful of bylaw officers try to police thousands of square kilometres with highly mobile vehicles will never work. Give these users a space they can enjoy their recreation, well away from all other users that don't enjoy the mix of OHV with their outdoor leisure.

• To prevent people from squatting and hogging campsites on public land all summer, make this a permit-required activity with a fee. Pay for the number of days you want to camp, the date range, and the area of the province you want to camp in. Camping in some designated high-use areas without this permit would be an offence.

• If user fees are to be implemented let the users vote with their money. Collected fees in a specific area should go directly to funding operating costs, facilities, trail development or have option for designated fee to be used to fund a particular project or area. If I knew that money was going to be used solely for a particular area or project that I support I would gladly pay.

• Any revenue should specifically be directed towards conservation and restoration activities, not to the general government coffers. Many of our public lands and protected areas are in dire need of restoration from years of disabuse.

• I completely disagree with the idea of letting municipalities or recreational groups run Crown land. 

• Decommission obsolete industrial roads for highway vehicles, but utilize infrastructure such as grades, culverts, and bridges to create hardened multi-use trails for hiking, OHV, and equestrian. 

• Increase fees to lease holders to fair market value for grazing and hold lease holders to higher level of accountability for protecting and rehabilitating riparian areas.

“To address the challenges of the increasing demand for recreation and trails in parks and on park land, we have committed to bring forward new measures, such as a Trails Act, and fee framework, that will deliver those expectations,” said Nixon.

“The government is seeking input into how to support the responsible use of Crown lands, including trails, how we can enhance trails experiences for a variety of users, supporting partnerships, funding opportunities, and how money can be re-invested into recreation as well as education and enforcement.”

The engagement process is part of the province’s Crown Land Vision to “make the land-use system clear and understandable, support sustainable funding and partnerships for recreation and focus on outcomes and reducing red tape,” he said.

With the survey wrapped up on Jan. 15, Nixon’s department plans other public engagement activities, including possible virtual town halls, he said.

“Over the coming weeks and months, there will be other opportunities for Albertans to provide input on other Crown land initiatives,” he said.