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K-Country too busy? NDP pushing Castle Parks with upgrades, marketing, OHV phaseout

Lucas Meyer/660NEWS

With millions of dollars in capital upgrades and hundreds of thousands in an advertising campaign, the Alberta Government is pushing for more tourism and general visitation to Castle parks in the province’s southwest.

“There is another destination other than Kananaskis and Banff and it is beautiful and there is so much to do,” Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips said Friday in Fish Creek Provincial Park.

The province is investing $3 million in upgrades and $400,000 in advertising for the area, following a series of closures in Waterton Lakes National Park due to damage from last year’s wildfires.

Last year, the NDP announced the establishment of Castle Provincial Park and the expansion of the Castle Wildland Provincial Park.

There will be new campsites in Lynx Creek, huts at the Syncline South Station area and Beaver Mines, which will also give five new comfort cabins.

There will also be trail improvements including water crossings, debris cleaning, hazard tree removal and other improvements to Grizzly Lake, Table Mountain, Barnaby, Southforks/Barnaby Lake and Bovin Lake.

“I would say it’s better in some ways than Banff,” Phillips said.

Alberta Parks South Region Director Peter Swain said some of the projects will take several years, such as the new huts.

“Most of what’s on that list is going to be completed this year,” he said. “The campground one is the one that will take a number of years and we don’t want to overbuild, we want to build according to the demand as well.”

As for one of the more contentious issues – the phasing out of off-highway vehicles – the province says as of June 1st, the current 350 km’s of routes will go down to 137.

OHV use will end south of the Carbondale River on that date, followed by a reduction to 37 km’s next year and ending with a patch of OHV routes in the northwest part of the park in 2020.

“This was coming,” Phillips said, reiterating the reasons for the ban being the protection of trout populations and headwater protection.

Snowmobile use will continue.

“It became clear that the environmental effects of snowmobiling are quite distinct from the summer-motorized activities,” she said.