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Trails Act grants expected to help OHV areas; critics say other users left waiting

The province has granted $8 million over four years for volunteer groups to maintain and improve a network of trails for off-highway vehicles and snowmobiles, but some public lands users are crying favouritism.

The money announced Friday granted a total of $4 million each to the Alberta OHV Association and the Alberta Snowmobile Association to upgrade and maintain a vast network of trails throughout the province.

That work was previously done using membership fees and volunteer time.

"This new framework of funding helps increase both the capacity and support for our volunteer clubs," Alberta OHVA president Garett Schmidt said Friday.

"(We're) working not only to increase the quality of the trails but mitigate the impacts of recreation."

While few critics appear to be questioning the benefit of the grant money, some are saying the province is giving the most to users who are paying the least.

"(Then-minister) Nixon said that McLean Creek was going to be exempt because of a trails fee coming in the future," said Shaun Peter, owner of Bragg Creek K-Country Outdoor Recreation.

"And then when the Trails Act was rolled out, the trails fee was gone."

OHV users argue they have been paying $58.25 in registration fees every year for more than a decade.

That money goes into general revenue for the provincial government.

But the controversial $90 Kananaskis Conservation Pass exempts the popular and often problematic McLean Creek OHV area.

"If you're operating a traditional OHV, you're only paying $58 a year, almost half of what the Kananaskis pass is and that's supposed to be going 100 per cent towards conservation," Peter said.

Some trail groups say they would like to see more provincial funding put back into places where money is collected from, but suggest the shortfall is in part because the majority of trails groups are focused on local trail systems and don't have the province-wide reach of Alberta OHVA or the ASA.

The first instalment of the $8 million was paid out last year, and will be continued over the next three years.

Schmidt says he is not opposed to a future trails fee similar to the system used in Ontario, but says registration fees have put substantial money into the province's coffers already.

Schmidt says that while the money will be used all over Alberta, McLean Creek is one of the most heavily used areas and upgrades to trails and bridges there will be one of their top priorities. Top Stories

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