Defend Alberta Parks

In a previous post, I wrote about a recent camping trip, and included some links to help other Albertans take action against the privatization of public lands.

Around the same time I was writing this post, more and more information was coming out about how the initial story we had been told wasn’t the whole story. And Albertans were getting a shittier deal than we initially suspected!


CPAWS has been doing great work around this topic, and I encourage you to explore their site. They have created a “to-do” list to take action, including a great email template for easy sending to Alberta’s Minister of the Environment and Parks. You can find that list and template here. I took that template and made some adjustments this morning. Took me maybe 15 minutes all-in. And I didn’t have to look up any email address!


This is what I wrote:

Dear Minister Nixon,
I do not support the removal of the provincial parks, recreation areas and natural areas from Alberta’s parks system or any of the associated closures, sales or transfers of infrastructure at these areas to third party managers. Alberta’s parks should remain publicly managed, open, and protected under the Provincial Parks Act. I am deeply concerned over the fate of parks and conservation in Alberta and urge you to take immediate action.

It is crucial that parks remain open and protected from resource extraction. I know that our province is traditionally obsessed with the jobs created by that resource extraction, but parks also provide much needed jobs in tourism, outdoor guiding, rural communities and more.

The inherent value of these parks goes farther than any quick dollar you could make from their sale, providing clean water to our communities, and protecting our beautiful and diverse fish and wildlife habitats.

Albertans care about their parks. It seems as if everyone I know in the province right now is either coming home from a trip to a Park, or planning to take one in the next month. This is a gift our parents gave us, and one we can pass along to our children. My son is a teenager now, so making time to connect with him is rare. But we can always count on spending time in a park.

It is YOUR responsibility of Environment and Parks to PROTECT those things. Government protection and management of these spaces ensures their long-term survival, and allows all current and future Albertans to enjoy the benefits of tourism, outdoor recreation, and biodiversity.

Do not close, transfer the assets of, or delist Alberta’s parks and recreation areas.

BUT Y’ALL, THAT AIN’T ALL!

I also wrote to my MLA, the rep for Edmonton-Strathcona and former Premier Ms. Rachel Notley! Here’s how that email went:
Dear Ms. Notley,Thank you so much for standing up to defend our Alberta Parks. I have so many fond memories in our local parks from my childhood, and my son’s childhood. I shudder to imagine a day where those opportunities aren’t available to people. If anything, we should be making our parks and recreation areas MORE accessible, especially to marginalized communities. Or giving these spaces back to the Indigenous people and First Nations who still call this land home. It’s safe to say that I don’t always agree with the Alberta NDP on everything (it’s weird to be a left-of-the-lefties in this province!), but I am ALWAYS grateful for your voice and your opposition to the current government. Thank you and take care, a Ritchie Resident

FURTHER READING

I think I link to a Sprawl article every few posts or so, but TBH they just do great independent journalism! Check out this article by Melanee Thomas: “Albertans love our parks – so why close them?


I am 50/50 on most CBC reporting, but this article (also linked above) is terrrr-ific: “Documents reveal doubts on Alberta plans to close, deregulate parks“.


I’m still digging into the “Don’t Go Breaking My Parks” initiative started by the Alberta NDP, but at the very least I am going to sign up to get a sticker!


And finally, if you like reading reports, check out this link on the CPAWS site: “New Report Shows Parks and Protected Areas are Essential to Our Lives and Economies: Alberta Government Still Needs Convincing“.

Camping at Crimson Lake Provincial Park (2020)

This trip was a COVID consolation prize. We were supposed to have spent last week in Portland, Oregon celebrating the 10th anniversary of my 30th birthday trip. But let’s not dwell on what could have been but never was. I still had the time booked off work, so I started looking for some options.

There was a spot available to reserve at a campground my friend recently visited. It looked nice, she gave it a glowing review, so I booked two nights for Lucas and I. We only got to enjoy one night (which is a whole other story), but it was a nice break from regular life, despite it being a (very) short break.

Slight ripples on a large lake. The water looks fresh and clear, and the sky is a beautiful mix of puffy clouds and bright blue sky. The dark shoreline cuts across the middle horizon of the image.

ON THE SURFACE

This is a lovely spot in central Alberta, in David Thompson Country. To be honest, all of central Alberta is lovely, but I have special fondness for this area in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.

There are loads of things to do, for every type of camper and outdoor enthusiasts. We are mostly hikers and ice cream eaters, so we opted for:

  • Walking along the beach at sunset
  • Exploring the paths around the campground (there was a nice 10km loop, but we only got to see about 2 km of it!)
  • Ram Falls (picture at the top) – A 1.5 hour drive away, followed by a 10 minute easy walk (a big chunk of that drive is on a gravel “Forestry Trunk Road” so keep that in mind if you’ve got your eyes set on this prize)
  • Rocky Mountain House Historic Site – We showed up after hours, so we ate our DQ in the car and watched the bison roam, but there is a fort and interpretive displays there
  • Nordegg Canteen for picnic and ice cream on the first hole of the Nordegg Golf Course

Other folks might like to fish, boat, ATV, hit up one of the playgrounds at camp, or actually swim at the beach.

There is a little store at the registration desk, so if you forgot to pack the snacks, they’ll do in a pinch. I believe the entire campground is powered, so Lucas & I cozied up to the green power box on our site for some quality quiet time with our vices. I’m the weirdo (??) who likes to get a spot as close to the bathrooms as possible, and they were very clean. Just pit toilets in the loops. If you wanted the full service you had to find the shower room.

Am I using too much camping jargon?! I haven’t quite figured out who is reading these posts! If something I wrote in here doesn’t make sense and you need more details, drop a line in the comments!

BELOW THE SURFACE

In my experience, white settlers here have a weird, prideful relationship to these lands. There have been many discussions over the past few years in particular about what types of recreating we can do in our parks, and who should be able to enjoy these lands. And generally what our Provincial Parks and Recreation Areas mean to us as Albertans, as Treaty 6 people, as folks living on this land.

Along with other brutal austerity policies, our current government recently recommended (and then walked back on) closing many of our Parks to the public and selling off the land to private parties. Once that land is gone, it’s gone my Friends. The future potential for these areas goes so far beyond the short term gain of giant summer cabins, oil and gas ventures, and deleterious agriculture practices. Stay alert folks!

FURTHER READING

Two senior officers with a local municipal police service were demoted for unauthorized surveillance of an elected official from the previous government because of her party’s proposed changes to a provincial park. Wow that was a long sentence. Read this article by Melanee Thomas at The Sprawl to get an idea of why that’s a huge problem.

If you have any interest in the recommendations to close and sell of some of our public parks I recommend reading “13 Truths and a Lie about the announced changes to Alberta Parks” by CPAWS. And then taking action by downloading this beautiful tool kit by local artist Amanda Schutz, signing this petition, and writing to your MLA (here is a template). There is also a cool event/protest happening on September 1 in Edmonton if you’re so inclined (and stay pandemic aware!). Event details are here (Eventbrite link).

Y’all like Low Waste Camping Tips?! I wrote some! And so did WasteFreeYeg (here).

“Land back” has been a rallying cry from Indigenous folks ever since the start of the Colonial settlement of Canada. For the Alberta government to think they can just sell off “Crown land” to private interests without first considering and consulting our First Nations neighbours is audacious and unsurprising. I’ve got this fundraiser on my list to support when I can. Help a couple of rad Metis ladies set up a land trust and build a “feminist indigenous compound”. (Sounds heavenly).

If y’all want to up your education level, pull back a bit more of the curtain of the oligarchs, and get your blood boiling I (always) highly recommend anything by Naomi Klein on “Disaster Capitalism.” She’s been making the interview rounds since the pandemic began, and for good reason. We are going to see more and more brutal austerity, anti-environment, anti-human policies come out of our right-wing (and centrist) governments this year. STAY ALERT FOLKS!!

Find out the history of where you are traveling this summer on Native-Land.ca, a “resource for North Americans (and others) to find out more about local Indigenous territories and languages.”

This is Cree, TsuuT’ina & Blackfoot land. This land is near the reserves of the O-Chiese and Sunchild First Nations.