'These spaces belong to all Albertans': Retailers ask province to reverse parks decision
Published Friday, March 6, 2020 11:26AM MST
EDMONTON -- Three Alberta retailers want the government to reverse its decision to close some provincial parks.
Campers Village, The Fishin' Hole and Track 'N Trail published a letter Friday asking Premier Jason Kenney and Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon to reconsider the closures and engage in consultations with the public.
"Hundreds of Alberta businesses depend on the economic benefits that access to Alberta Parks and natural spaces create, from providing outdoor gear and recreational vehicles, to offering training, tours and experiences," the letter reads. "Closing or limiting these spaces will have a measurable negative impact on the health of these businesses. The potential savings of $5 million from a budget in excess of $56 billion is negligible and will have an impact on the quality of people's lives that far exceeds the financial savings to taxpayers."
Doug Dea, manager of locally owned retailer Camper’s Village, says the economic impact to various sectors of the economy must be considered.
“I think when we look at economic benefit of these parks in terms of creating tourism and having people do local holidays, you think of the expenditure of things like fuel and groceries. Outdoor goods that people may need, that’s definitely a benefit to tourism. But its a benefit to people in terms of their health and wellness," Dea said.
The group says that outdoor enthusiasts contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the Alberta economy each year.
The province announced its plan on March 3. Ten parks will be completely closed to the public and another ten will see partial closures — including the removal of comfort camping facilities.
In February, it announced that the management of 164 of the province's 473 parks would be handed off to outside groups.
Parks advocates like Dea are urging the government to talk to Albertans about this plan.
“We’re concerned hasn’t been a full and comprehensive public consultation to inform the public of what the plan is and to seek feedback and input”, he told CTV News Edmonton. “Sort of the idea that as Albertans we can work together and find solutions to these problems and hopefully maintain these parks, recreation areas and natural areas for our future generations to enjoy.”
The united voice of these local retailers for one cause is unprecedented in Dea’s experience, but one they feel is essential.
“This is our business, the outdoors, but beyond that, we believe in the intrinsic value of these natural places. There’s benefit to people spending time in nature, and at the end of the day, that’s more important than business.
The government says the changes will save the province at least $5 million and will allow it to focus on what it calls high-value areas.