Petition going around to save provincial rec areas

Chain Lakes, Lawrence Lake, Fawcett Lake on the list

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

You’ve heard of efforts to discourage the provincial government from getting out of the business of maintaining dozens of small parks and provincial rec areas around the province. Three of them are in the M.D. of Lesser Slave River and a lobby group has formed to push the case. It has a petition going, which according to reports had 1,700 signatures as of last week.

Wayne Bowles of Slave Lake is one of the people on board. The group, he says, “don’t want to lose protection,” for the three areas.

M.D. of Lesser Slave River council feels the same way, and has a motion on the books registering its position on the matter. One possibility is for the M.D. to take over maintenance of the parks. But that’s a kind of downloading of responsibilities the municipality has seen too much of and is reluctant to absorb. Bowles doesn’t think they should have to.

“It’s not their business!” he says.

The three sites in Lesser Slave River are among 164 in Alberta identified by the provincial government for a change in status. What that change might entail isn’t exactly clear. Opponents talk of ‘closure’ but Minister Jason Nixon has rejected that terminology. The Alberta Environment website calls them ‘sites proposed for partnerships.’ This presumably means if somebody steps up and is willing to take them over, the province would welcome it. Municipal management is mentioned as a possibility, although – as noted – the M.D. isn’t keen on taking on what it sees as a provincial responsibility.

“The 164 sites proposed for partnerships are mainly recreation-focused sites,” says the AE&P website, “and many are very small and under-utilized Provincial Recreation Areas. Work is underway to explore the feasibility of various alternate management approaches for each site.”

The group trying to save Chain Lakes, Lawrence Lake and Fawcett Lake provincial rec areas calls itself the Save Chain Lakes North Action Group. Its coordinator is Cecile Fausak. In an Athabasca Advocate article last week, Fausak said, “Removing services such as fire pits, picnic tables, garbage cans, washrooms et cetera and transferring the site to the Public Lands Division makes the site unavailable to campers and day users. And it is no longer protected from leasing, industrial use, willful unauthorized access et cetera.”

The lobby group has presented its petition to NDP environment critic Marlin Schmidt, who has promised to table it in the legislature later this month. A meeting with Westlock MLA Glen van Dijken this month is expeted and the group is seeking a meeting with Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn.

Bowles hopes the government will change its mind. He ice fishes for trout at Chain Lakes, and says, “It’s a special spot.”

Lawrence Lake rec area: anybody want to take it over from the province?
Photo courtesy Cecile Fausak

Others clearly feel the same way. The Leader published a letter to the editor a few months ago from an Edmonton couple who have been coming to Lawrence Lake for decades and want to be able to keep doing it. At least 1,700 people feel the same way, going by the petition.

“I love nature and would not survive COVID restrictions without access to parks,” said Fausak in the Advocate article, written by Heather Stocking. “I am grateful to all the people who so readily joined me in signing this petition, and those who spent hours explaining what was happening to our provincial parks and gathering signatures.”

M.D. councillor Darcie Acton says she’s pleased to hear there’s a petition. She’s brought the issue up twice at M.D. council meetings, and expects it to be discussed again at the next one (Oct. 14).

“It’s not resolved by a long shot,” she said. “The more vocal we are, the better.”

Chain Lakes, on Sept. 25 – the provincial rec area is one of those the province is looking to unload.
Photo courtesy Cecile Fausak.

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