Hundreds came out to the Alberta government’s information session on its controversial Bighorn Country parks proposal Sunday at Westerner Park. Robin Grant/Red Deer Express

Bighorn provincial parks session held in Red Deer

Hundreds came out to Westerner Park’s Harvest Centre Sunday afternoon

A three-hour information session on the Alberta government’s controversial proposed Bighorn Country parks took place in Red Deer Sunday afternoon.

The Harvest Centre at Westerner Park was set up to provide information, including sections on the new Wildland Provincial Park, new, expanded or amended parks, recreations areas and public land-use zones.

Officials listened to the public’s questions and concerns while notetakers recorded what was said.

Rick Blackwood, an assistant deputy minister for Alberta Environment and Parks, said the information sessions are not meant to ‘sell anything to the public. The aim is to show the public what’s involved with the proposal and get feedback, he said.

“What we are talking about today is simply a proposal,” he said.

“We will be taking all of the information we hear from these sessions, all of the notetakers comments, even all of the personal interactions that we’ve had, and feeding it back into our system and then when the survey session closes on the 15th, we’ll take all of that information and see how it aligns with what was proposed with part of the proposal.”

Blackwood encouraged people to take the online survey, which is available until Feb. 15th.

Significant opposition to the $40-million proposal has been mounting since it was announced last November. The plan would create four provincial parks, four provincial recreation areas and a new public land-use zone area.

More than 1,000 people came out to a rally opposing the proposal in Red Deer on Thursday. The protesters took issue with a range of topics related to the proposal.

READ MORE: More than 1000 rally against Bighorn proposal in Red Deer

Despite the opposition, certain environmental groups support the plan, saying it could protect endangered animals, such as the wolverine, grizzly bear and bull trout as well as headwaters in the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

Hundreds filled the Harvest Centre Sunday to learn more about the proposal. Many still weren’t convinced it’s the best course of action for Bighorn Country.

Mike Doll from Airdrie said he believes the information session is ‘smoke and mirrors.’

“This government doesn’t give a damn what happens and what our comments are and what our feedback is as the public. They are going to jam it down our throats no matter what,” he said.

“This information session is just going through the motions. Had this been truthful and honest, the informational settings would have been a lot more public where we could access all the information way earlier than this. It’s too late at this point.”

Darcy Schatschmieder said he has been using Bighorn Country for the past 50 years to hunt, camp and use off-highway vehicles like the ATVs. He thinks the proposal is a bad idea.

“It can’t possibly work. They are basically forcing us to do what they want us to do and not giving us a vote,” he said.

“You do see people who abuse the area but there are a lot more people out there that clean up after those people and respect the area,” he continued.

“If the government is worried about that, maybe they should spend more money enforcing the laws out there. If they are going to waste $40-million, why not use it for something like that.”

But in a telephone town hall in mid-January, Minister Shannon Phillips, of Alberta Environment and Parks, said the proposal would not affect designated OHV (off-highway vehicles) trails in the provincial and wildland parks.

“Some of our $40 million proposed investment is to improve existing trails and support the local user groups that have been doing this work for decades without government support,” she explained.

READ MORE: Environment Minister clarifies misconceptions in Bighorn proposal

But Tom Hibbs from Red Deer said he has difficulty believing what the government says.

“They promise this and that but the record from down south is that they don’t do what they say, so how can you trust them is all I got to say.”

 

Just Posted

Team Alberta ends Games strongly with 44 medals in week one

Alberta is currently sitting in second place of the medal standings

PHOTOS: Alberta male team takes silver in Winter Games relay speed skating

Alberta was close behind Quebec in the team relay speed skating finals

Alberta was crowned champions in Wheelchair Basketball at Canada Winter Games

Ontario won silver while Quebec took home the bronze medal

Let the Games begin!

Team Alberta takes home gold and silver in speed skating on day one

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Red Deer RCMP seek assistance in locating missing elderly male

Mr. Routly’s family is concerned due to the fact that he suffers from a mild form of dementia

A ‘warm embrace’ for grieving parents at funeral of seven young fire victims

Mourners offered love and support to Kawthar Barho, mother of seven children

Pink Shirt Day a reminder to ‘T.H.I.N.K.’ before posting on social media

‘Be Kind’ message on shirts sold for anti-bullying activities of Wednesday, Feb. 27

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

WATCH: Pet therapy brings calmness to Winter Games athletes

Canada Winter Games in Red Deer continue on until March 2nd

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

Child advocacy centre raising funds through Dream Home Lottery

The child advocacy centre in Red Deer uses its resources to help kids all over Central Alberta

Trudeau tells Canadians to listen to clerk in SNC-Lavalin matter

Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick delivered a blunt assessment at the House of Commons justice

Most Read