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Why Defend Alberta Parks

The Alberta government is planning to close 20 parks and remove 164 from the Alberta Parks system. A total of 175 parks could lose protection and Albertans could lose access.

With the help of volunteers and supporters from across Alberta, the goal of Defend Alberta Parks is to ensure the province’s parks remain within the Alberta Parks system and remain protected.

Plans to remove parks from the system

On February 29, 2020, the Government of Alberta announced the proposed removal of 164 parks from the Alberta Parks system.

There are currently 473 sites in the Alberta Parks system, so this proposed change will impact over 1/3 of parks in the province.

“Government undertook an assessment of all sites in the Alberta Parks system and identified 164 of its 473 sites – 0.3 per cent of the Alberta Parks land base – for proposed removal from the system.”

Government of Alberta (Feb. 29. 2020)

While this may be a relatively small land base, they are the most accessible areas for Albertans to access parks and experience our public protected areas.

The proposed change will have impacts on public recreation across the province:

  • The closure of more than 4,000 campsites (nearly 1/3 of all provincial campsites)
  • The loss of 74% of all provincial recreation areas

Many of these parks also have important conservation values such as protections for rare plants, locally important habitats or breeding areas for wildlife.

Full or partial closures

In the same announcement on February 29, 2020, the Government of Alberta announced the full or partial closure of 20 sites

Additional changes to support a more effective and efficient parks system include closing or partially closing 20 sites this year and increasing camping service fees.”

Government of Alberta (Feb. 29. 2020)

Ten sites are proposed for full closure, and ten sites are proposed for partial closure. Parks that are partially closed will remain open but will be unserviced, while parks that are fully closed will no longer be accessible to the public. 

Government of Alberta (March 2020)

The original list was published on the Government of Alberta but was removed in the summer of 2020. This link goes to an archive of that list. 

Protected area status removed

Parks that are removed from the Alberta Parks system will lose their protected area designation under the Provincial Parks Act.

These sites will revert to public land under the Public Lands Act, which does not have the same strength and conservation intent as the Provincial Parks Act.

If the sites are removed from the Alberta Parks system, these activities could be permitted:

  • Mining
  • Surface mineral extraction (e.g. gravel)
  • Commercial forestry activities
  • New oil and gas development
  • New or unrestricted off-highway vehicle access
  • Random camping
  • New resource roads
  • Cultivation
  • Commercial facilities, such as resorts, hotels and golf courses

 

Graph of park closures

Partnerships and potential sale

For the 164 sites removed from the Alberta Parks system, the Government of Alberta is considering “if some of these facilities and areas could stay open under a public lands management model.”

Details have not yet been released on this proposed partnership model, including the costs of conditions for partnership. Sites that revert to public land without a partner organization and closed sites would no longer be serviced or maintained by Alberta Parks. 

Through prospective sale or transfer to First Nations or entities such as a municipality or non-profit, these sites could continue to provide important economic and recreational benefits to local communities.”

Government of Alberta (Feb. 29. 2020)

An Alberta Parks’ news release (note: the news release was removed Oct. 31; here is an archive of the release) was amended to remove the mention of sale of parks. The Environment and Parks Minister said park facilities and assets will be sold and management authority for the area transferred to private partners through leases or other mechanisms.

The Alberta government has promised not sell public land; however, the sale of public land has been considered for other sites despite the promises.

Partnerships do not rely on removing the sites from the Alberta Parks system. The government can still pursue partnership management options while retaining the protected status designation under the Provincial Parks Act.

Graph of park closures

No public consultation

These changes were introduced without transparent decision making or consultation, contrary to commitments made by this government to increase transparency and consultation on land-use decisions.

Alberta Environment and Parks staff internally advised the Minister to conduct both a general and site specific public consultations on the proposed changes. But the Minister’s Office and communications department decided not to pursue consultation of any kind.

“As recommended by [Minister’s Office] and communciations, recommended option is to not do consultation.”

Government of Alberta, Freedom of Information Release (August 2020)

Eight months after announcing the plan “Optimizing Alberta Parks,” the Minister of Environment and Parks hosted a virtual townhall and the public chat on Zoom was disabled.

“A virtual townhall organized by the United Conservative caucus on contentious changes to Alberta’s parks took a turn after moderators disabled the chat on Zoom, where questions were being posed by participants,” read a Global News Edmonton article from Nov. 18.

List of impacted sites

A list of impacted sites was originally published by the Government of Alberta at the end of February 2020. Since then, the list has been removed.

“A list of 164 provincial parks and recreation areas that are slated to be removed from Alberta’s parks system can no longer be found on the Government of Alberta website, leading some to believe it was intentionally removed to avoid further public scrutiny.”

Globe and Mail (August 27, 2020)

The list is now only available from a website archive.

The parks are located throughout the province, including nearby major cities. 

Graph of park closures

Usage data of parks

There has been no information provided on the actual use of these parks or how “underused” is defined. 

Alberta Parks does not monitor or report on day use of our parks system, or strictly monitor registration for overnight camping in more remote sites.

No comprehensive visitation data was provided in the internal decision documents to justify the claims that these particular parks are underutilized.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Locations of sites

Where is a list of these parks?

A list of impacted sites was originally published by the Government of Alberta at the end of February 2020. Since then, the list has been removed.

The full list is still available from a website archive

Where are the sites located?

The locations of the parks that will be removed from the Alberta Parks system are located throughout the province, including near major cities. Some are remote, but many are a short drive away from the majority of Albertans.

See a map of all the sites.

Are these sites underused?

There has been no information provided on the actual use of these parks or how “underused” is defined. We do know that Alberta’s parks were extremely busy in Summer 2020

About Defend Alberta Parks

Who is behind Defend Alberta Parks?

Defend Alberta Parks is organized by the Alberta Environmental Network and the Alberta chapters of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). Hundreds of volunteers from across Alberta are helping to deliver lawn signs, deliver flyers and bring Defend Alberta Parks to more communities.

How is Defend Alberta Parks funded?

Defend Alberta Parks is supported by donations from individuals, small businesses and local non-profit groups from Alberta. Donations are collected by the Alberta Environmental Network and go towards lawn signs, flyers and sharing the campaign across the province. Hundreds of volunteers help by delivering signs, flyers and organizing Defend Alberta Parks.

What are the donations used for?

Donations to Defend Alberta Parks are collected by the Alberta Environmental Network and go towards lawn signs, flyers and sharing the campaign across the province. Hundreds of volunteers help by delivering signs, flyers and organizing Defend Alberta Parks.

Removal from parks system

Will these sites lose protected status?

Parks that are removed from the Alberta Parks system will lose their protected area designation under the Provincial Parks Act.

These sites will revert to public land under the Public Lands Act, which does not have the same strength and conservation intent as the Provincial Parks Act.

What happens if sites are removed from the parks system?

If these sites are removed from the Alberta Parks system, the sites will be managed under the Public Lands Act and these activities could be permitted:

  • Mining
  • Surface mineral extraction (e.g. gravel)
  • Commercial forestry activities
  • New oil and gas development
  • New or unrestricted off-highway vehicle access
  • Random camping
  • New resource roads
  • Cultivation
  • Commercial facilities, such as resorts, hotels and golf courses

See more information on what delisting means.

Will any sites be sold?
The Premier and the Minister of Environment and Parks have said that these sites will not be sold.

However, removing the sites from the Alberta Parks system opens up opportunities to sell the public land in the future – something the Alberta government has promised not to do yet still considered for other sites.

A government news release from February 29, 2020 described the prospective sale of sites:

“Through prospective sale or transfer to First Nations or entities such as a municipality or non-profit, these sites could continue to provide important economic and recreational benefits to local communities.”

Can the public still access these sites?

Ten sites will be closed and the “entire site will be closed to public access.” Ten other sites will be partially closed – they will remain accessible but will no longer be serviced or maintained by Alberta Parks.

164 sites will be removed from the Alberta Parks system and are being considered for alternative management models. No details have been released on the partnership model, and details on future public access are unknown.

Will this save money?

It has been reported that these changes will amount to a savings of $5 million.

However, internal documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request have also shown that the government has insufficient financial data to determine the budget impacts of these changes.

In fact, the documents suggest that it is likely that private partnerships would need to be subsidized, which could end up costing the government money.

More Information

Strong Majority of Albertans Oppose Government Changes to Parks

Almost 7 in 10 Albertans oppose the closure or removal of these parks from the parks system.

Alberta Parks Fact Check

13 truths and a lie about the announced changes to Alberta Parks. 

Albertans May Lose Thousands of Campsites

The number of campsites that will potentially be lost was obtained by going through each of the proposed delisted parks.

What You Haven’t Been Told: FOIP Information Request

Internal government documents from a FOIP request reveal that the government has not been completely honest about their plan for Alberta’s parks.

Government investment in Alberta Parks infrastructure is encouraging, but 175 parks still set to be removed

Albertans from across the province continue to ask for a commitment from this government that all of these parks will remain protected within the parks system.

List of Impacted Parks (PDF)

The original list was published on the Government of Alberta but was removed in the summer of 2020.

Government documents on “Optimizing Alberta Parks”

Government news releases, documents and information about “Optimizing Alberta Parks.”

What does delisting mean and why is it bad for parks?

Delisting a park transfers the land from being managed under our protected areas legislation to the more general Public Lands Act.