CALGARY -- A Calgary volunteer group helps clean up parks and pathways that continues to be overwhelmed by visitors leaving trash behind, organizers say.

The "Kananaskis and Canmore Klean-up" event on Facebook has encouraged hundreds of groups to pick a time and trail to collect litter between August 6 through 10.

Sarah Kuindersma, one of the event organizers, says more people have been exploring the outdoor spaces within a few hours drive of Calgary because the pandemic has restricted international travel options.

"There's been an increase in usage this year and it's been showing with how much garbage has been left behind," she said.

"(It makes me) really sad," she added. "I love being Canadian. I'm very proud to be be Canadian but it's heartbreaking to see that with no international travel, it's Canadians that are doing this."

The boost to tourism is welcome at a time when the industry needs it most, but an influx of garbage left behind in parks is becoming a major concern for the province.

Environment Minister Jason Nixon said garbage and illegal parking have been some of the major issues at some popular trails and day-use areas. As a result, the province has stepped up education, monitoring and enforcement activities on provincial Crown lands following a ministerial order on July 31.

“On the Eastern Slopes, specifically, we’ve added more garbage bins at 11 major entrances and more portable washrooms along the Highway 11 corridor,” read a statement from Nixon’s ministerial assistant Jess Sinclair. “We thank conservation officers, and all of the staff and partners for their hard work. We have seen improved behaviours in some areas.“

The statement adds that visitors should clean up their trash as it attracts wildlife. Alberta Parks will also be watching out after reports of people camping illegal in some areas and illegally parking.

The province says Albertans can expect tickets for parking in non-designated spots on overcrowded lots because several vehicles have blocked access for emergency crews. If a park is at capacity, officials say people should find a different location to enjoy or come back for a visit at a later date.

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Overflow issues

Meanwhile, the CIty of Calgary is dealing with overflow issues of its own at a number of parks.

One woman said there were no public options for washing up at Shouldice Park over the August long weekend, as the washrooms were closed and portable toilets unusable.

"I feel like the city is encouraging people to mask up to prevent germs, but we can't even use basic toiletries and sanitation practices," said Jillian McPhee.

During that time period, the Calgary Parking Authority (CPA) was contacted by City of Calgary and Recreation requesting enforcement support at Sandy Beach due to a high volume of illegally parked vehicles, which blocked emergency access routes.

In a statement, the CPA says police officers, firefighters and paramedics were on site Monday dealing with an incident and experienced difficulty accessing the areas.

“As a result, on Monday, August 3rd, Calgary Parking Authority towed 21 illegally parked vehicles from Sandy Beach,” read the statement.

“With the recent warmer temperatures, we've seen increased traffic in and around city parks. We want to remind drivers to ensure they are parking safely before heading into the parks to enjoy their day. This includes watching for 'No Parking' and 'No Stopping' signs, ensuring emergency access routes remain clear and being respectful of neighbourhood residents by not blocking private driveways.”

CPA adds that parks lining the two rivers have been particularly popular and Calgarians can continue to expect high volumes in parks such as Stanley, Edworthy, Shouldice and Sandy Beach.