This is part two in a series about the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan and how its implementation will address the feedback we heard from Albertans. You can view the full list of posts here.
Throughout our public consultation sessions for SSRP, we heard a lot about recreation. That’s not surprising. Camping, quadding, biking, hiking, and other outdoor activities are all very popular in this region – and as the population increases, so do demands on trails and campsites, as well as access to the backcountry.
Recreation areas in the South Saskatchewan region were originally developed for a much smaller population. Today, the number of people who live and work in the region has increased dramatically to 1.8 million, which is roughly 44 per cent of the province’s population.
The jump in Albertans interested in some types of recreation – specifically, off-highway vehicle use – has been even bigger and more rapid. In 1987, just 37,000 ATVs, quads, motorcycles, and snowmobiles were registered in Alberta. In 2010, that number had jumped to more than 138,000 – more than a 270 per cent increase.
Obviously, not all of these vehicles are being used in the South Saskatchewan region – but its beautiful backcountry tends to attract more than its fair share of outdoor enthusiasts. This increased demand has pushed established facilities and trails over capacity, resulting in an increase in recreation on vacant public lands – and more damage to the sensitive areas, such as wetlands, as a result.
The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan addresses these issues in the following ways:
- The SSRP kicks off planning for a new South Saskatchewan Regional Trails System. The trails system will be a combination of new and existing trails throughout the region. .
- This plan will clearly establish trails for:
- Winter and summer motorized recreation
- Non-motorized recreation
- Routes that link trail system with the region’s parks, outdoor spaces, and tourism hot spots
- It will also identify what infrastructure and facilities are needed to support this recreation, and provide us with a plan for effective, fair enforcement.
- As you can probably guess, this plan will require a fair amount of work. We’ll consult with users, municipalities, and aboriginal communities before this plan is formalized, and we’re committed to getting things in place as soon as we can.
- The SSRP creates new and expanded provincial parks and recreation areas, including Coleman Provincial Recreation Area and Syncline Provincial Park. (Check out page 97 of the plan for full details.)
- The SSRP includes plans for an on-the-ground public education and enforcement program (which will include placing more seasonal outreach staff in the field).
- We will also establish a stronger enforcement presence (working with local governments and other agencies) during the summer season, when the need for enforcement is highest