AHA Letter to Premier Notley Commending Vision for Bighorn Park

2018-12-10

Premier Rachel Notley
Premier of Alberta
307 Legislature Building
10800 - 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2B6

December 10, 2018

Dear Premier Notley,

On behalf of the Alberta Hiking Association (AHA) I would like to commend you on your vision in proposing to create Bighorn Country as a complex of protected areas and Public Land Use Zones.
AHA, which has 20 member hiking clubs across the province, including in Nordegg, supports the designation of the Bighorn as a complex of protected recreation areas and Public Land Use Zones (PLUZ) to protect and enhance all recreational uses, including hiking, in this amazing area. Our members report fantastic experiences in the Bighorn but also point to increasing degradation through lack of enforcement of trail rules, few parking areas or toilet facilities and limited signage, bridges or trail maintenance. Despite most users being responsible, garbage and damage is increasing.

Our members use the hiking trails of the Bighorn extensively from Coliseum Mountain near Nordegg to Lake of the Falls and the headwaters of the Ram River. The Bighorn is also highly valued for many other recreation uses including hunting, fishing, outfitting, camping, horse and OHV use and we appreciate the efforts you have made to support and enhance all uses.

We acknowledge that the draft plan has been under development since 2014 and is consistent with the recommendations made by the Regional Advisory Council, which included substantial local input and recommended a conservation area such as a Wildland Park for the western Bighorn and the designation of the West Country PLUZ. We appreciated the clarity in the announcement two weeks ago that the existing trail management plan developed by locals through the Bighorn Backcountry Standing Committee (of which we are members), and its support for motorized and non-motorized trails is appropriate. Our members enjoy both random front and backcountry camping and designated campgrounds and we are pleased to see that both options enhanced in the plan.

Finally, after having witnessed the lack of resources the area has received over the past decades – including the closure of the information centre at the Nordegg Ranger station and lack of basic facilities, we are pleased to see the commitment of $8 million per year for 5 years to address this basic need. Creating Bighorn Country greatly enhances the attractiveness of the region for our members, and will generate substantial economic benefits for Rocky Mountain House, Sundre and Nordegg.

Over 1.3 million Albertans walk and hike for pleasure and hikers represent the most significant recreational user group on public lands in Alberta. The draft Bighorn Country plan announced by the Government last week will enhance the recreation experience for all users just like southern Albertans have benefited from the popular and visionary protection of Kananaskis by the Lougheed Government 40 years ago.

We hope you will move quickly to legislate protection of this amazing area. Alberta Hiking Association is committed to communicating information about this proposal to our members and looks forward to be involved in volunteer support and trail management planning for the region, both through our role on the Bighorn Backcountry Standing Committee and through other opportunities should they arise.

Yours sincerely,

Murray Fierheller, Chair, Alberta Hiking Association
50 50251 Range Road 234
Leduc County AB T4X 0L6
e-mail info@abhiking.ca

CC:
Honourable Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks; Minister Responsible for the Climate Change Office
Jim Duncan, Reeve, Clearwater County
Jason Nixon, MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre
Bruce Beattie, Reeve, Mountain View County
Terry Leslie, Mayor of Sundre

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