Premier Kenney announced Tuesday morning that the province would spend $43 million to improve trails and upgrade campgrounds and days use areas in provincial parks.

The move comes after the provincial government laid out its plans on the contentious decision to close or transfer ownership of 175 parks across Alberta.

The province announced back in March its plans to fully or partially close 20 parks and reclassify 164 campgrounds and recreation sites to allow for private contracts. The plan means any site where no manager could be found will lose park status and revert to general Crown land, which can be sold.

According to the province, the 164 sites cover about 11,600 hectares. The government says the decision was made because underutilized sites are costing Albertans money and budget documents suggest the move would save about $5 million a year.

"Delisting a provincial park from the provincial park system is not closing the park," said Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon. "The reality is that the majority of our special places inside this province are actually protected and managed through the public lands division."

The province was planning to lay out guidelines on how the parks partnership would work back in May but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Public Pushback

The province’s plans for parks was quickly met with opposition. An online petition calling for more public consultation garnered 8,000 signatures within days of the announcement.

The opposition NDP has also slammed the government over details revealed in emails and briefing notes obtained through an access to information request by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

Critics, including the opposition NDP, say Minister Nixon refuses to discuss the plan or hold consultations despite the document’s revealing advice to do so.

A livestream of the event is available here.


The original version of this story indicated the 164 sites proposed for partnerships or removal from the system totaled roughly 16,000 hectares. The province says the total size is 11,605 hectares, roughly 0.3 per cent of the total landbase.