Alberta’s government is planning $11.5 million in funding for new projects and more boots on the ground to enhance the visitor experience – made possible in part by a new Kananaskis Conservation Pass, a vehicle entry pass that will go into effect June 1.
With more than 5 million visits last year – 1 million more than Banff National Park – and another busy season expected, action is needed now to protect Kananaskis for the future.
With increased visitation comes more litter, injuries, human-wildlife conflict, overcrowding, traffic and illegal parking issues. There has also been increased strain on critical services like search and rescue operations within Kananaskis.
Since 2013, the province has invested more than $160 million to improve K-Country, including the new Kananaskis Emergency Services Centre, William Watson Lodge renewal, upgrades to many popular day-use areas and trails, and flood recovery projects. Recent improvements to local transportation infrastructure include Highway 40 upgrades and ongoing work to widen Highway 1A near Morley.
All revenue generated will be used to improve the overall visitor experience in Kananaskis and will pay for trail maintenance, search and rescue operations, visitor services and the upkeep of facilities at day-use areas and campgrounds. The fee will also go toward increasing on-the-ground education and enforcement with additional conservation officers, and will allow for the reopening of visitor centres that were temporarily closed last year.
“Kananaskis has seen a dramatic increase in vehicle traffic and visitors over the past several years, and this is putting significant pressure on wildlife, land, facilities, services and on public safety. The conservation pass will help manage visitor demand and support investments in Kananaskis that ensure this world-class mountain destination remains beautiful, accessible and protected for generations to come.”
Fees will be $15 per day or $90 per year (per vehicle). The conservation pass area includes provincial parks, public land in Kananaskis, provincial campgrounds and day-use areas in the Bow Valley corridor. The fee will also be used to facilitate the expansion of protected area within Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park.
Included in the new investments will be $1 million to begin planning work on upgrades to the Canmore Nordic Centre with the intent of making further capital investments in future years to improve this world-class sporting facility.
“As a local government which shares its physical boundaries with K-Country, Kananaskis Improvement District Council supports implementation of the Kananaskis Conservation Pass. We recognize that public services come with costs and that user fees are a proven and effective tool for allocating these costs to those who benefit from them. KID Council believes this program will provide the sustainable funding required to ensure that facilities and services within Alberta’s playground continue to be maintained and enhanced for both current and future generations to enjoy.”
“COVID-19 has resulted in many Albertans looking to the outdoors for their family recreational activities. While it is great to see Albertans outside enjoying the natural beauty of this province in a socially distanced manner, the overuse of natural areas will eventually result in environmental damage and a reduced user experience if significant resources are not put into managing the area appropriately. The new Kananaskis Conservation Pass will ensure funds are available to maintain a high-quality outdoor experience for millions of visitors in the years to come.”
Introduction of the conservation pass responds to feedback from Albertans in an online consultation from November 2020 to January 2021, which asked the public for ideas to help shape the future of sustainable recreation on Crown land. Two-thirds of survey respondents were supportive or neutral of fees to help maintain and protect Crown land used for recreation.
Every dollar of revenue generated from the Kananaskis Conservation Pass will be reinvested in the region. Tracking the revenue from the pass as a dedicated revenue initiative ensures expenditures are linked to the program for which the revenue is being charged. Through the annual audit and reporting process, assurance is provided that fees are used to reinvest in programming as intended.
- The Kananaskis Conservation Pass will go on sale June 1.
- Anticipated revenue from the pass is approximately $15 million annually. All funds will be directed toward conservation and service improvements in Kananaskis through a dedicated revenue initiative.
- The pass will be available at alberta.ca/ConservationPass and at Kananaskis visitor information centres during operating hours.
- First Nation individuals with status will be exempt from the pass as will others who need to stop in the area for business purposes, such as facility operators and disposition, permit and contract holders. Recipients of AISH will also be exempt.
- More information about exemptions and how to apply will be available on alberta.ca/ConservationPass closer to June 1 implementation.
- The pass would apply to parks and public land within the conservation pass area – pending Bill 64, the Public Lands Amendment Act, passing in the legislature.
- The recently announced Eastern Slopes random camping fee does not apply to Kananaskis country. There will be no overlap of these fees.
- The new Kananaskis Conservation Pass will also eliminate the cross-country trail grooming parking pass program.