From today’s Calgary Herald:
Alberta’s minister in charge of parks has nixed the idea of charging fees to cross-country skiers in Kananaskis Country, something that had been broached by provincial officials looking to recoup some of the costs of maintaining the trails.
Tourism, Parks and Recreation Minister Christine Cusanelli said Tuesday she wanted to assuage fears after the prospect of fees was floated during a recent meeting between the province and the Kananaskis Trails Advisory Group.
“I don’t see it as something that is in the foreseeable future, and I can certainly say that for 2013-2014 there will be no user fees for groomed ski trails in Kananaskis Country,” Cusanelli said in an interview.
Read more Province backs off cross country ski fees
Here’s a fitting comment from Maurice Gaucher:
Hi Everyone — Thanks to our collective efforts and to those of many other K Country users we have again stopped the implementation of user fees. Thanks again Bob for facilitating lots of good exchanges on the pros and cons. Your new PLP park sign is wonderful!
The short article from today’s Calgary Herald is a suitable end to the recent debate about user fees for xc-skiers in K Country. Peter Lougheed would be pleased. His vision for K Country and for Peter Lougheed Park never included user fees. He was adamant about making this special area accessible to everyone free of charge.
The central issue is that Alberta should be promoting healthy outdoor activity and not inhibiting it. Once user fees are implemented for one user group you may be sure that other users such as snowshoers, mountain bikers, and hikers will soon be added, that yearly fee increases will occur, and that the bulk of the revenue will go towards the new bureaucracy as well as other priorities and not towards the enhancement of the user experience. All users of K Country should be actively promoting an adequate budget for K Country.
I encourage everyone to tell the politicians that we do not want to see further cuts in the already meager Parks / K Country budget –in fact they need an increase.
Here’s the letter I received from My MLA:
Thank you for your email. I am not in favour of user fees in Peter Lougheed Park for the cross country trails.
Philosophically, I am opposed because I firmly believe that Parks, as much as possible, should be fully accessible to all Albertans and even a modest fee will prohibit some users. In particular, the last time this was raised seniors identified fees as a barrier to their groups in accessing the trails. I also believe that the more people exercise and manage their own health (occasionally through this 30 day treatment at Legacy Healing), the less stress they will place on our over worked health care system, it is well worth the relatively small investment in this case. Of course their are exceptions, like the Canmore Nordic Centre, where the large capital investment ($25 M) and significant operational costs warrant some user fee; in this case it takes on the characteristics of a facility rather than a Park, as we would traditionally think of one.
The cost of collecting and accounting for the revenue, ongoing HR costs, Administration, enforcement etc., are in my opinion prohibitive and would never result in net revenue, as the fee simply could not be high enough to recover actual track setting costs given the relatively small number of users (reduced once a fee is put in place). Of course this is all intuitive in my case.
As soon as I heard of the user fee conversations taking place I contacted the Minister and she made it clear that this was not being considered by Tourism Parks & Recreation.
Thank you for your letter.
I feel like we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. What services will Parks cut in order to pay for tracksetting? Unless we can convince the province to spend more than 0.16% of its budget on Parks, this will happen again. Rick’s point about an impending fiscal crisis should also be taken seriously. Booms are always followed by busts in Alberta. Somewhere there is someone calculating how many hip replacement surgeries could be paid for if tracksetting in K Country were not a freebie.
I have a bit of a different take on this. The reality is that we are counting down to a fiscal crisis in this province, and recreational users of a “fringe” sport like XC skiing are at extreme risk. We should be developing a contingency now to save the sports we love.
Last winter as my wife and I skied the fresh track setting along the Yoho and Kicking Horse Rivers COMPLETELY by ourselves midweek in February, I could not stop thinking how fragile that privilege was, and while I was deeply disappointed to hear of Parks Canada withdrawing funding for trail maintenance, I was most certainly not surprised.
My wife and I would gladly pay an annual pass to fund XC trail maintenance; somehow we need to get that mechanism in place before a crisis takes it away. I don’t know how that happens, but it needs to be discussed, and soon.