Save Chain Lakes North, a non-profit community group of concerned citizens, announced that NDP MLA Marlin Schmidt will table their petition Oct. 29. It had over 1,700 signatures demanding the provincial government keep three campgrounds and recreation areas fully open, protected and publicly managed north of Athabasca.
The group opposes the implementation of the government’s entire ‘Optimizing Alberta Parks’ plan. The group focused on Chain Lakes Provincial Recreation Area, situated 43 kilometres northwest of Athabasca but the request includes Lawrence Lake Provincial Recreation Area 46 km northwest of Athabasca and Fawcett Lake Provincial Park 77 km east of Slave Lake, AB. These are only three of the 175 sites impacted by the plan involving closure and/or removal from the park system and availability for partnership.
The government estimates the move across the province will save tax payers $5 million annually, but there is no data backing up that figure.
Cecile Fausak, one of the founders of the group, said after researching the closures that it makes no financial sense for the government to close or privatize the parks – think about tourism and mental health.
“I’m outraged at the scope in doing this without any consultation. As I’ve delved into it and see what CPAWS (Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society) and the Alberta Wilderness Association has uncovered, it is more and more disturbing that there’s such a lack of data and understanding of why this would make any economic sense, let alone in terms of conservation and the amazing legacy of our parks,” she said.
The petition with a cover letter has been presented to UCP MLA for Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock Glenn van Dijken on October 16 and Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn Oct. 23.
Although the recreation areas fall in the constituency of Lesser Slave Lake UCP MLA Pat Rehn, Athabasca area citizens have noted the impact of partial closure and taken action to express their opposition. There are seven additional sites to be “delisted” (removed from Parks Act protection) in van Dijken’s riding.