Back­coun­try huts planned for Cas­tle area

Lethbridge Herald - - HOMESTOWN NEWS - Tim Kali­nowski LETH­BRIDGE HER­ALD

En­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Shan­non Phillips an­nounced Mon­day in Cal­gary $700,000 in new fund­ing to help the Alpine Club of Canada con­struct three new back­coun­try huts in Cas­tle Wild­land Pro­vin­cial Park, and ex­pressed ab­so­lutely no regets about her gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to re­strict off-high­way ve­hi­cle us­age in the area.

“Al­ber­tans love parks,” she said in a state­ment to the me­dia. “Camp­ing al­lows us to spend qual­ity time with our fam­i­lies while also re­con­nect­ing with na­ture. These back­coun­try huts will ex­pand the re­cre­ation op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able in the Cas­tle re­gion, at­tract new vis­i­tors and meet the grow­ing de­mand for back­coun­try ex­pe­ri­ences in Al­berta.”

Phillips made her an­nounce­ment be­side rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Alpine Club of Canada, Moun­tain Equip­ment Co-op, (the lo­ca­tion where the press con­fer­ence took place), and the Out­door Re­cre­ation Coali­tion of Al­berta, which ad­vo­cates for “quiet” re­cre­ation in na­ture.

When asked by The Her­ald fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment how she would re­spond to crit­i­cisms from the off-high­way ve­hi­cle com­mu­nity that they are be­ing locked out of gov­ern­ment’s re­cre­ation plans, Phillips pointed to off-high­way ve­hi­cles as the main rea­son the prov­ince de­cided to pro­tect the Cas­tle area in the first place. She ref­er­enced “un­fet­tered” off-road ve­hi­cle dam­age in the re­gion, in­clud­ing 1,800 doc­u­mented unau­tho­rized stream cross­ings and 35 unau­tho­rized cross­ings of head­wa­ters.

She also pointed out the gov­ern­ment was in­vest­ing $20 mil­lion in new funds over four years for re­cre­ation of all kinds in Cas­tle, in­clud­ing sub­stan­tial amounts for ap­proved off-high­way ve­hi­cle trails.

“There will be sub­stan­tial cap­i­tal in­vest­ment in the mil­lions of dol­lars for off-high­way ve­hi­cles,” stated Phillips. “I guess my ques­tion would be: How much more do you want? We are in­vest­ing in com­mu­ni­ties and all sorts of re­cre­ation, and we are do­ing it af­ter a pe­riod of care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion.”

Phillips also pre­dicted the gov­ern­ment would likely con­tinue on the course it has al­ready laid out in the Liv­ing­stone-Por­cu­pine Land Foot­print and Re­cre­ation plans af­ter re­ceiv­ing what it has deemed to be largely pos­i­tive com­mu­nity feed­back dur­ing the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion process.

Fol­low @TimKalHer­ald on Twit­ter

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