What we heard: recreational access a hot topic in Lethbridge

SSRP banner

This month, we’re in 21 communities talking to Albertans about the draft South Saskatchewan Regional Plan – a long-term land use plan for the region. These summaries, posted the day following each session, try to capture the main themes expressed during each session – which weren’t necessarily agreed upon by everyone.

And that’s a wrap for talking SSRP this week. We capped off the week with a very impressive turnout in Lethbridge. Over 200 people turned out to the public session, including many members of the outdoor recreation community who were eager to share their concerns about the plan. The agriculture industry, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, and Property Rights Advocate Lee Cutforth were among those who came out in the morning to share their views.

Associate Minister for Municipal Affairs Greg Weadick was also on hand to answer questions and add to the discussion.

Sticky wall - Lethbridge stakeholders panoramic 11142013

Here’s what we heard:

 The SSRP Vision and Proposed Goals:

  • Lack of focus on water in overall vision for the plan
  • Plan is vague, leaves too many things ‘to be determined’
  • Plan lacks balance
  • Some participants think the plan is a good balance between ‘pie in the sky’ thinking and concrete scientific tools for monitoring and evaluating
  • Everyone connects to land differently and that needs to be addressed
  • Too little attention paid to implementation of the plan – need to see funding models, etc.
  • Emphasis needed on more enforcement across the board (rec, air and water pollution, etc.)
  • Not enough specifics on protecting access for recreation
  • Plan includes too much ‘government-speak’; not enough plain language
  • Too many plans and not enough action. In this time it’s taken to go through three phases of consultation, the area has changed significantly – need to start implementation
  • Many attendees came in mistrustful of government but left the session indicating that they had received good answers to their questions and were happy to be heard

Healthy economy:

  • Need to focus on securing long-term economic security
  • Find alternatives to forestry
  • Expand tourism and recreational opportunities (more comments on recreation/ATV access are below)
  • ‘Right to Farm’ should be identified and supported in the plan

Biodiversity management framework:

  • Plan needs to include more species
  • More concrete measures needed to protect grizzlies – grizzly populations are not addressed sufficiently in the plan and the numbers used are outdated
  • More emphasis needed on forest health
  • More enforcement is needed to protect biodiversity
  • Development in the Castle area needs to be limited

Public land: 

Photo of a person riding a quad

A theme of the session: recreational access is important – but so is enforcement

  • Need to re-evaluate recreation areas established in the plan, and determine what money and resources are needed to create these areas
  • Need for designated, quality trails, clearly defined and easy to access
  • Trail and area maps need to be clearer – right now they are difficult to find and understand
  • Need for clear standards for what people can and cannot do in a given area
  • Concern about what will happen to existing trails if new trails are created
  • Concern that the plan does not sufficiently address ATVs and does not manage use
  • Concern about government limiting access to random camping
  • Who sets the standards for responsible stewardship?
  • General consensus that more enforcement is needed on public land – but we also need more focus on education

Stewardship and conservation of private land:

  • More respect is needed for property rights/autonomy on private land

Air and water quality:

  • Discussion of waste water treatment best practices is missing
  • Need to pay more attention to air quality and air quality monitoring
  • No discussion of the cumulative effects of agriculture on air quality
  • General support for push towards efficient water use – but this needs even more focus. More concerns about water quantity than quality
  • Need more focus on flood mitigation and floodplain management

Strengthening communities: 

Photo of a family camping on the lake shore. Photo credit: Travel Alberta

Some participants were afraid the plan would restrict random camping opportunities.

  • It is not enough to ‘encourage’ municipalities to be involved – this should be required
  • Lots of multiuse sites proposed – need to fully understand the consequences of these
  • General support for municipal planning
  • Again, frustration at having to wait for action: ‘stop consulting and start doing’
  • Support for First Nations consultation
  • Support for the conservation of historically and culturally important areas
  • Support for more collaboration between various rec users and between users and all three tiers of government

Our next stops:  

Intrigued? Remember – you can provide feedback on the draft plan through an online workbook or by attending one of the information sessions being held throughout November. Feedback on this blog or the session? Tweet us – @AENV_SRD.

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