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Editorial: Conservation pass

There seem to be many pros and cons associated with the Alberta government’s new conservation pass for visiting Kananaskis Country.

There seem to be many pros and cons associated with the Alberta government’s new conservation pass for visiting Kananaskis Country.

On one hand, the additional revenue generated by the user fee will help pay for conservation-related expenses and management, not to mention search-and-rescue efforts. In a year after K-country experienced unprecedented visitation and a strain on resources, this revenue could go a long way toward mitigating traffic and garbage concerns, as well as ensure more environmental and wildlife protection.

On the other hand, the fee could potentially deter Albertans who are already hurting economically from visiting some of our province’s most spectacular areas. The Alberta Wilderness Association called the conservation pass a “cash grab” and warned it will result in increased visitor demand and pressures in other provincial parks ,where there is no such user fee.

While the pass does not apply to anywhere in Rocky View County, the hamlet of Bragg Creek is just a short drive east from where the conservation pass will be in effect. Anyone who visits the West Bragg Creek day-use area after June 1 will be subject to the $15-per-day or $90-per-year pass.

That will certainly cause some grumbling among many Bragg Creek residents who enjoy these trails on a regular basis. But the non-profit organization that maintains West Bragg Creek’s trail system says it’s not all bad news.

Bragg Creek Trails (BCT) president Conrad Schiebel said he was initially concerned about the negative impact a user fee could have on the donations his organization receives. But he said his conversations with the provincial government have shown some promise groups like his will be able to benefit from the program's revenue.

From our newsroom’s point of view, paying a user fee to visit some of our favourite parks and recreation areas in Alberta is frustrating, but we understand why it has been implemented. We just hope the government will be transparent with the revenue the conservation pass generates and that it will be used exactly as promised.