SSRP: Drumheller

Photo of a tour group at the Royal Tyrell Museum

Guided tour of the badlands at the Royal Tyrell Museum

One of our first stops this week – as we wrap up our last week of South Saskatchewan Regional Plan community conversations – was Drumheller.  A town of approximately 8,200 people, agriculture, energy and tourism are its economic base.

Best known for its unique topography, Drumheller is situated in diverse terrain that includes grasslands, canyons and coulees. 

With the opening of the Royal Tyrell Museum in 1985, the area sees thousands of visitors each year. The scenic drives, unique landscapes and many attractions make it easy to see why tourism is one of the town’s economic drivers.

This was a great opportunity to gather feedback from engaged Albertans in the Drumheller area, on the advice given to government by the Regional Advisory Council.

Drumheller

In attendance: 21

Vision and principles

  • Some felt it lacked teeth and was too general, it should provide a better definition of the prairies
  • Concerns were raised over getting everyone on the same page:
    • Can all the diverse municipalities agree to the plan, how will GOA departments work together?
  • Regarding privately-owned land:
    • Is vision statement achievable with so much land privately owned?
    • Land use planning puts restrictions on private land ownership
  • Regarding stewardship:
    • Don’t reinvent the wheel; recognize and review existing tools
    • Provide incentives to municipalities to encourage stewardship
    • There was reference to regulatory streamlining being a good concept but it shouldn’t lose the ability to have good oversight on environmental issues

Healthy economy

  • The plan should recognize the various types of agriculture and there should be best management practices for each type
  • More emphasis on how agriculture supports the environment, wildlife access, air, water, and soil
  • Comment made that growth in agriculture is not always tied to size of land base
  • There is support for incentives (not regulation) for agriculture management; some felt government has no right to regulate private-farming practices
  • What tools will be used to encourage private agriculture to follow recommendations?
  • Land use plans should not create a cost burden for agricultural producers if changes are required

Recreation and tourism

  • There should be inclusion of provincial and national recreation areas and their implications
  • Visual impacts can have negative impacts on recreation and tourism
  • Public land should not be a free-for-all
  • Water storage should be beneficial to agriculture, tourism and recreation; build on existing storage areas.
  • All industries are looking for clarity and certainty of access; ensure early consultations with all stakeholders when making decisions. 

Healthy environment

  • Some participants support this section in RACs advice and say it’s well done
  • Some mentioned that there should be educational tools used to communicate how to meet recommendations
  • All contributors (regulated and un-regulated) need to be part of the solution
  • Protecting head waters is key but there is a lack of resources to enforce it
  • Wetland classification system needs clarity and should be simplified; should be more options for landowners and municipalities to reclaim and restore wetland areas
  • There is not enough baseline water data (huge gaps exist):
    • Need to fill data gaps with water planning
    • All water stakeholders need to get on the same page
    • Concern that wetland restoration can lead to taking land from landowners (fear of strict policy implications)
  • Concern that conservation management areas (CMA) won’t be able to navigate the regulatory stream; ability to apply for projects is different than the ability to develop them
  • Regarding CMAs:
    • How powerful are they going to be?
    • They could be vital to tourism industry (clear compensation would have to occur for energy industry)
  • There should be use of environmental off-sets; they can be used but they must stay localized.
  • Some were in favour of paid access for hunting – there are not enough areas for hunting as recreational activity
  • Transferable development credits should NOT be used as a right or a licence

Healthy communities

  • Some feel that this section of RAC’s advice has a heavy focus on high growth areas; more attention should be placed on rural areas
  • The lower tax base in shrinking communities leads to real challenges for recreation facilities and programs
  • As farms get bigger, there are less people in rural communities; how does that contribute to a healthy community?
  • Anything on the urban fringe is at probable risk of being expropriated
  • In regards to growth, cities need to “earn” the right with high densities – how will the SSRP plan accommodate change over time?
  • Another question was raised as to what planning is being done to accommodate population growth in areas where there are depleting water resources and minimal/aging infrastructure?
  • There is strong support for education and connected communities but how does it connect to healthy eco-systems?
  • Some mentioned the need for density triggers
  • One person said, “good job on this section, very comprehensive.”
  • Another mentioned that the overall balance of public and private ownership is missing
  • A few people mentioned that tourism nodes should be a priority and strategically developed – concern was expressed over grouping recreation with tourism as they are two separate concepts.
  • Motorized access has to be provided in public areas and it needs to be managed

Land-use direction and management intent

Participants had more questions than comments about this section

  • What kinds of metrics were used to determine the various values in this section?
  • How do commercial areas fit into the recreation/tourism areas?

Regarding conservation:

  • A comment was that that there should be market-based incentives for private conservation.
  • Participants indicated there is support for the concept of CMAs, but it needs to be better defined (are we conserving land uses or land bases?)
    • Some not clear about the parameters around CMAs
    • How will CMA change the existing way the areas are being used?

Regarding energy:

  • As proposed in the RAC advice, there is no LUC that has business as usual; they all have risk and uncertainty written in for the energy sector

There are three more opportunities to get involved in the community conversations.  If you’re unable to attend the sessions in person, we encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to provide feedback through the online workbook.

Upcoming sessions

Wednesday, December 5

Medicine Hat
Medicine Hat Lodge
1051 Ross Glen Drive SE

Foremost
Foremost Community Hall
802 – 1 Avenue W

Thursday, December 6
Lethbridge
Coast Lethbridge Hotel
526 Magrath Drive S

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