Should the province ban all boats from Big Lake? That’s one protective measure the province has floated as part of its proposed plan for Lois Hole Park, and you’ve got just three days left to let them know what you think of it.
Alberta Parks released its draft management plan for Lois Hole Centennial Provincial Park back in July. The 60-day public comment period for it wraps up Wednesday.
More than one hundred people came out to an open house on the plan at the Enjoy Centre last November.
The 133-page document lays out a 10-year vision of the park and outlines how parks officials will develop it, said Terry Krause, land and resource management co-ordinator with Alberta Parks.
“I always like to think of it like a mini-constitution telling you what to do.”
The plan emphasizes that the prime purpose of Lois Hole Park is conservation, noting that it protects “a unique and important wetland ecosystem and connects people to nature through education and low impact nature-based experiences” and serves as a model of how biodiversity and urban development can co-exist.
It also notes that the park is under threat from agriculture, pollution, homes, roads, invasive species, and park-goers.
The trick now is to figure out how to balance public access with nature protection, Krause said.
The plan calls for temporary, seasonal or longer-term closures of parts of the park to protect sensitive species or areas, and to restrict visitor access to designated trails. Off-highway vehicles would continue to be banned, and Alberta Parks would pursue a ban on motorboats under the Canada Shipping Act.
An online survey on the plan floats several ways the province could restrict park access. The park might not close any part of the park and instead rely on education, for example, or it might limit the type or number of boats allowed on Big Lake. It might also close Big Lake to “all forms of water-based recreation” from ice break-up to freeze-up.
That last option would be a pretty extreme step, Krause said.
“I’m not sure if Parks would even support it.”
Krause said that part of the survey was meant to test what steps the public would support when it came to ecological protection, and that he expected to see a lot of strong opinions on it. It would be years before these sorts of restrictions would be necessary, as the park didn’t have the density of users needed for them yet.
Dave Burkhart of the Big Lake Environment Support Society said he wasn’t wild about a lake ban.
“I could see closures of certain areas for certain periods, but I certainly wouldn’t want to see a complete lake closure.”
Krause said the province hoped people would read the plan and comment on how well it balanced conservation and recreation.
BLESS members were glad the province had finally made a plan for Lois Hole Park, said Burkhart, who had been compiling the group’s comments.
“It’s gone for 12 years without a plan,” he said, and that’s restricted conservation and development efforts in the park.
Burkhart said BLESS was concerned that the plan wouldn’t be backed by the necessary enforcement, however, and wanted an explicit ban on motorboats written into it.
City parks planner Margo Brenneis said she was glad this plan was being made, as it would help St. Albert with its own plans for this region as part of its rewrite of the Red Willow Park West master plan.
“People see this park as part of St. Albert,” she said, and make frequent use of it.