Letter to the Minister Alberta Environment and Parks

Honourable Jason Nixon

Minister of Environment and Parks
323 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2B6

May 1, 2020

Dear Honourable Jason Nixon,

The Alberta Whitewater Association (AWA) is the Provincial Sport Governing Organization for whitewater canoe/kayak sport in Alberta. The AWA represents over 2,000 paddlers from 20 different clubs across Alberta. Since 1972, our Association has been organizing kayak education, certification of instructors and coaches, running trips, along with hosting competitions in Alberta’s rivers and lakes. Paddling sports now rank in the top 15 recreational activities that Albertans participate in each year and the #2 sport/recreation activity that Albertans want to learn (Alberta Recreation Survey 2017). 

The Government of Alberta recently announced a plan for Alberta Parks to withdraw Provincial Park status from 164 sites within the Provincial Park system. This includes 49 sites on lakes and 52 sites on navigable rivers/creeks in the Provincial Park system, as well as 2 off-river sites related to river use. Some of these are Provincial Recreation Areas currently managed by Facility Operators that are likely to stay open for camping or for day use. Other sites may or may not stay open or be available into the future for the public to use.

The AWA has consulted with our affiliate clubs across the province, our board and members regarding the impact of the slated closure. With this information, we collectively determined the priorities for Alberta’s paddling community for the 103 Provincial Park water related sites. The review ranked the ability to access the adjoining lakes and rivers, the importance of the sites to the paddling community, and accessibility for all Albertans related to paddling sports. Of these 103 sites, there are 30 that are critically important to Alberta’s paddling community.

For 48 years, we have used the Alberta Provincial Park system to access many lakes and rivers for our programs. Throughout our history, we have had a great partnership with the Alberta Government on the Kananaskis River whitewater modifications, the Canoe Meadows Campground, the WID weir conversion into the Harvie Passage whitewater park in Calgary, Boulder Run on the Oldman River and access points on many other rivers. Our investment of $2 million and thousands of volunteer hours to enhance paddling sites in Alberta has generated $500 Million for Alberta’s economy during the last 5 decades. This investment will continue to provide benefits for years to come without ongoing operating costs.

The AWA, our clubs and our members are concerned that paddlers continue to have access to rivers and lakes to launch and land our trips on the water. In some locations where there are bridge crossings or nearby public lands, this is not a critical issue. But where there are limited options for access it does become an important factor for the paddling community. Maintaining public access to the water’s edge will also be important with all the private facility operators into the future.

The AWA believes in the value of Parks and our protected areas as well as the natural environment that surround the rivers and lakes that we paddle on. We want to maintain these important recreational facilities into the future and support any initiative that recognizes the value of Alberta’s water resources. The AWA and our affiliate clubs are willing to step forward where necessary to maintain critical sites for the public and membership to use into the future and we have signed up for your Partnership plan.

The AWA has a special interest in a partnership opportunity at the Barrier Lake Visitor Information Centre. We see this facility as having a critical support function for paddling sports, as well numerous other activities within the rest of Kananaskis Country. If approved this would be a wonderful opportunity for the AWA, as the Facility Operator of the Lower Kananaskis[1], to create Alberta’s equivalent to the Canmore Nordic Centre for Whitewater Sport next to our flagship whitewater park and campground.

In closing, the AWA requests that the Provincial government takes into consideration the direct impact to Albertans with the closure of these sites, beyond paddling sports. We are confident that with further discussion with the AWA, similar organizations and the province a collective agreement could be made on the province’s withdrawal from the sites that affect the paddling community. We look forward to continuing this dialogue into the future.

Sincerely,

 

Alberta White Water Association (AWA)
T: 403-628-2336
E: admin@albertawhitewater.ca
Box 162, Lundbreck, Alberta T0K1H0

www.albertawhitewater.ca

 

[1] Facility Operator for the Canoe Meadows Campground (2014-present) and Widowmaker Day Use