Province stepping up enforcement against increasing abuse in Ghost-Waiparous, other areas
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02:32

Province stepping up enforcement against increasing abuse in Ghost-Waiparous, other areas

The province says it's reinvigorating its onslaught against increasing abuse of wilderness areas along the eastern slopes, including the Ghost-Waiparous area northwest of Calgary.

With an infusion of enforcement cash, campers and users of off-road vehicles can expect stepped-up policing this May long weekend and other peak summer periods in areas like the Ghost-Waiparous and McLean Creek, said Rob Simieritsch, regional resource manager with Alberta Environment and Parks.

"We have heard the concerns and have identified those concerns," said Simieritsch.

After several relatively quieter years, those concerns, he said, include off-roaders invading streams, using banned areas and illegal random camping.

"We need to focus more enforcement on the TransAlta Road and Burnt Timber areas," said Simieritsch.

But he also said that stepped-up presence of provincial officials, in conjunction with RCMP, will also extend to the McLean Creek and Livingstone-Porcupine Hills areas.

As part of $239 million infusion into parks and public lands, he said $2 million has been earmarked for the hiring of additional officers, though he couldn't provide a number.

"It is a substantial increase from the past years," he said.

Some of those who live in the Ghost-Waiparous area have been calling for just that, along with more investment in the trail infrastructure and enforcement of usage rules.

One of those is Hugh Pepper, who helped craft an access management blueprint more than a decade ago, a plan he says that's been neglected at the expense of the environment.

"The present situation is alarming ... enforcement is the missing link," said Pepper, a member of the Ghost Valley Community for the past 40 years.

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He said crackdowns a decade ago reduced landscape abuse and numbers of users, but added numbers of off-roaders and campers are now on the upswing.

Trash and human waste left by random campers is threatening the watershed, as are increasingly capable off-highway vehicles whose operators either ignore bans on restricted areas or aren't aware due to poor signage, said Pepper.

"As the number of people and level of technology increases you have an expanding problem — you have four-wheel drive vehicles that can get to the top of mountains," he said.

"It's a yearly orgy that unfolds before our eyes."

In cleaning up the TransAlta Road area alone last June, the group said it hauled out 1,450 kg of metal and charred vehicle bodies, along with nearly 40 cubic metres of garbage.

Few of the bridges envisioned in the management plan have been built, leading off-roaders to tear up stream beds. Volunteers can't afford to build what the province hasn't, said Pepper.

He suggested off-roaders be charged a user fee with revenues plowed back into infrastructure and monitoring, something seen in Ontario and parts of the U.S.

Simieritsch agreed use in the areas is trending up, but so is the province's response to it, with plans for better signage, a bridge over a sensitive section of Waiparous Creek and other improvements.

"Admittedly, it probably hasn't advanced as much as envisioned but we're leaning into it now," he said.

More enforcement is needed in Ghost-Waiparous, said Ken Spring, president of the group Calgary ATV Riders.

But he said his club been active in diverting riders away from rivers, maintenance, cleanups and other stewardship.

"There's only so much we can do, the funding for this comes out of our own volunteers' pockets," said Spring.

BKaufmann@postmedia.com

source : Calgary SUN
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