The following response has been approved by the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association(GBCTA) board of directors.
The GBCTA was disappointed to learn that plans are underway to eliminate groomed cross country ski track setting in the Kananaskis Region at Peter Lougheed Park, Mt. Shark and Kananaskis Village Area. Along with the Canmore Nordic Centre, the GBCTA was named to provide groomed ski trails at West Bragg Creek in Kananaskis Country in the coming year. While this announcement re-affirms the strong working relationship the GBCTA has established with the Alberta government, it was made without proper consultation. Our organization feels that our perspective is of value considering our experiences in the realm of volunteer ski trail grooming. We would also like to share our recommendations and highlight the challenges associated with administering a complex, dynamic non-profit trail group operating on public lands and in the West Bragg Creek Provincial Recreation Area.
- The GBCTA recommends that the Alberta Government conduct meaningful public consultation with Albertans before the implementation of any plans announced in “Optimizing Alberta Parks.”
- The GBCTA recommends that groomed cross country ski track setting by Alberta Parks staff continue in the Kananaskis Region at Peter Lougheed Park, Mt. Shark and Kananaskis Village Area. These cross country ski trails are very popular with Albertans and attract international tourists. The GBCTA does not believe it is feasible to have a not for profit group handle this work.
- The GBCTA recommends that Alberta implement reasonably priced user fees to cover the costs of providing recreational services both in Alberta Parks and on public lands. Such user fees are common across Canada and the USA. Cross country skiers, for example, pay a user fee at the Canmore Nordic Centre. There are numerous options for recreational type user fees. The approach recommended by the GBCTA is a province wide vehicle access fee for all provincial land, whether in a Park or on public land. The fee could be daily, weekly or annually, with a variety of payment options including online or as part of the vehicle licence registration process. The GBCTA believes this is the most effective and efficient approach with the greatest ease for enforcement. The GBCTA recommendation is a broader fee than the proposed $35 per off road vehicle fee proposed in the United Conservative Party platform.
- The GBCTA recommends the funds collected from a new recreational user type fee be used to cover the costs of constructing and maintaining recreational infrastructure on provincial lands (examples include, but are not limited to; trails, parking lots, washrooms, picnic facilities, etc). This would include infrastructure operated by Alberta Parks, Public Lands or not for profit groups (examples include, but are not limited to; the GBCTA, Friends of Kananaskis, Moose Mountain Bike Trail Society, Calgary Mountain Bike Alliance, Great Divide Trails Association and Pembina Nordic Ski Club).
The GBCTA operates 165 km of recreational trails in the Bragg Creek area, both in WBC Kananaskis and in Rocky View County. We handle all aspects of trails from concept to reclamation, including the grooming and track setting of 60 km of ski trails and the snow grooming of 40 km all season trails for fat tire bikes at WBC. The GBCTA is a leading not for profit trail group in Alberta, having spent over $4 million on Bragg Creek trails and contributed over 60,000 volunteer hours in the past 12 years. The success of the GBCTA can be attributed to many factors, including having a dedicated highly motivated core group of volunteers who live nearby. They are highly skilled and many are retired or semi-retired persons who are financially secure. We have also found that filling key grooming positions with paid employees to oversee operations and volunteers dramatically improves efficiency, work quality and accountability. Most importantly, this contributes to the overall safety of all field operations. Having a secure base of operations is also paramount to our success. To expect this model to be transferable to remote locations such as Mt. Shark or Peter Lougheed Park would not be feasible in our opinion.
The GBCTA is not sustainable from a financial or volunteer perspective, given our current funding and operating model. Current donation levels from trail users are insufficient to cover our operating, maintenance and grooming/tread setting budget.
You can also see the above response at the GBCTA website.
An excellent response and a good starting point. One caution though given my past experience with public consultation. Best to define what “meaningful consultation” is, or what the purpose or goal is, or when it is achieved, so that it doesnt end up just being a few meetings to “inform” rather than consult, with the outcome being the same (consultation achieved in the eyes of government leaders). The goal of consultation should be to find and review ALL options and alternatives that allow grooming to continue (Plus the facts to support the notion that it has value and is worthwhile to support in the long term), including the unique issues/sustainability of a volunteer/donation model at WBC, especially if it becomes the only groomed location in Kananaskis.
This is an excellent piece. Great thanks are due to the GBCTA for their out-sized contribution to our lives.
However, we are all dreaming thinking that K-Country skiing is coming back. Our family will head out to PLPP this weekend for what we expect to be our last ever ski there, ever. It was great while it lasted and we can all be happy for that. We will tell our kids about it when they are older and they will not believe us that we had paid government employees grooming tracks in the middle of nowhere. I’m just as sad as you are about it, but this is the reality.
The more important question is, how will we ensure the GBCTA gets the support they need to continue their work? If we as skiers want at least one other place to go, WBC is the most viable option that we have and we need to find a better way to support them and their sustainability.
An ecotourism professor in Calgary says the government is the best steward when it comes to managing provincial parks, and calls the Alberta government’s plans shortsighted.
This confirms just how ill-considered the “Optimizing Alberta’s Parks” plan is- if you could call it a “plan” at all. I’m still wondering where the specific cost-cutting measures originated- were they decreed from on high by the ministry, or selected by Parks bureaucrats? Either way-it’s pathetic there was no informed consultation with park users, the tourism industry, and the very group they cite in an apparent effort to add some legitimacy to the decision to end grooming (GBCTA).
Now, in an ideal world- free general access to our parks would be recognized as a benefit to the health and well being of the populace as a whole, and funded accordingly- a much better use of tax dollars than that ridiculous “War Room”. As xc skiers though- I don’t think that it is reasonable anymore to expect that taxpayers fund grooming, while at the same time wanting other users banned from these trails.
Keep up the pressure- don’t let this issue fade away!
Frustrating that so many are “for” user fees. What about those whom can’t afford it???!!! One person mentioned if the Government took back the privatized campgrounds in K Country, their suspicion is that revenue stream alone would pay for winter ops in K Country and to their knowledge possibly operations costs all year ’round!
Contributing to covering the costs of grooming (an added value) is a completely different issue than access fees. There are no plans to instill an admission fee to visit K-Country.
If you can afford to drive a 3+ hour round trip to PLPP to cross country ski, then a few $ to support grooming operations isn’t a deal breaker. Same for all the arguments on ‘tourism’ … a true out-of-town tourist is paying ~$200 – $250/day to visit K-Country, a grooming fee isn’t going to drive anyone away. For example, nobody is avoiding travel to Silver Star BC for XC due to the $20/day trail passes … despite the trails being in a Provincial Park in a high-tax Province.
Thank you GBCTA for your very thoughtful response to the UCP proposed cuts to our provincial parks. You are certainly in a position to directly address the problems associated with a not for profit organization attempting to take charge of tracksetting and trail maintenance in the areas PLPP, Mt, Shark and Kananaskis Village area. For the most part, it would appear that most users of these areas are not opposed to a user fee in order to maintain parks and services as they are now. This issue is much bigger than just the tracksetting and trail maintenance in the winter, it involves the trails and park services year round. I sincerely hope the government will listen and at the very least engage in public consultation.
This is a very constructive and thought-provoking contribution to the discussion. Since the last attempt by the Alberta government to cease tracksetting (2001-2002), and an abandoned attempt in 2004 to institute fees, K-Country skiers have been happily fooling themselves that they can continue to be the only high-quality XC ski area without some sort of user fee. If this idea can be discussed with government reps, surely some solution for free or reduced fees for Wm Watson Lodge users and low-income families can be worked out. In light of the last paragraph, we must not under-estimate the costs of winter and summer trail maintenance and be prepared to contribute what we can.