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Despite pushback from Albertans, government says Kananaskis Conservation Pass on track for success

Popularity of Kananaskis Country not dampened by introduction of park pass this summer.
Government says Kananaskis Conservation already a success, but critics report otherwise. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

Critics say the government is putting a price on nature, but the UCP says the Kananaskis Conservation Pass introduced this spring is already enhancing conservation, public safety and services in Kananaskis Country.

The Alberta government introduced the Kananaskis Conservation Pass ($15 daily, $90 for the year) on June 1. Since then, more than 253,000 passes have been issued, generating more than $10 million in revenue. That puts the initiative on track to meet its anticipated annual revenue of $15 million in its first year.

At a news conference this week, Environment Minister Jason Nixon said every dollar from the pass is going toward enhanced visitor experiences, trail maintenance, visitor services, search and rescue operations and waste management, but critics aren't so sure. 

New Democrat Opposition critic Marlin Schmidt says he's received dozens of complaints from park users around unsafe and crumbling trails, and garbage bins left overflowing. With over 4,000 square kilometres of mountains and foothills under various conservation protections, there's much left to be desired on maintenance, according to Schmidt, who says visitors tell him change is only noticeable around parking enforcement.

The Kananaskis Conservation Pass is said to support more education and enforcement, allowing government to hire 20 additional conservation officers to support public safety.

"We’ll see many more new projects in future thanks to the pass," Nixon said.

Revenue from the Kananaskis Pass builds on the Alberta government’s $70-million capital investment into parks and public lands as part of Budget 2021. About 20 per cent of this capital funding, or about $15 million, is being directed to improvements in Kananaskis Country, including $1 million for planning and design upgrades to the Canmore Nordic Centre.

Nixon says capital investments will create more than 330 direct jobs and support improvements to trails, facilities, day-use areas, campgrounds and other recreation infrastructure in provincial parks and public lands across Alberta.

Alberta’s government is also introducing a new reporting line, 310-LAND, which consolidates 15 regional and department lines into one number Albertans can call to report parks and public land violations and public safety incidents.