The Government of Alberta introduced Bill 79, the Trails Act, last week on November 2, 2021. The stated goal of the Trails Act is to support trails on public lands and to adapt to the growing demand of outdoor recreation, tourism, and business.
The Alberta Hiking Association (“AHA”) represents over 1-million hikers across Alberta, the largest outdoor recreation group in the province. Our goal and focus has always been to advocate on behalf of those who choose to hike, walk, and snowshoe and to further their voices, ensuring that governments of all levels hear hikers’ concerns.
The AHA is hopeful of the Government of Alberta’s efforts to modernize and update the system by which trails across the province are managed. We hope that future designated trails, trail management plans, and trail managers will take the concerns of hikers into account when it comes to providing resources, supports, and efforts into maintaining and expanding Alberta’s hiking opportunities. We are also hopeful that the Trails Act will result in increased hiking opportunities in historically underserved and less popular hiking areas in the province.
It’s worth noting that the Trails Act should not be treated as a substitute for proper land-use planning in Alberta, but should be used as an additional tool by the government to help make the lives of organizations and groups engaging in trail maintenance, building, and planning easier, as well as ensuring that designated trails are managed sustainably and effectively. Future designated trails and trail management plans should work with land-use plans, such as the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, and not against it.
The AHA will continue to monitor the developments, discussions, and news on the Trails Act in the coming weeks to ensure that hikers’ concerns are being heard. We will continue to work with third-parties and the Alberta government to further the voice of hikers. We will also be listening to member hiking clubs and individual members of the AHA to ensure their concerns are raised with those involved in the success of the Trails Act.
The AHA hopes that the Trails Act will push the Government of Alberta into becoming a more active and equal partner in future trail partnership agreements.