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Alberta puts $5.2 million into Kananaskis Country for campsites, river access

KANANASKIS, Alta. — The Alberta government is putting $5.2 million into a redevelopment plan in Kananaskis Country as part of the park system’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips said the plan will turn the Lower Kananaskis River and Barrier Lake in the northern end of Kananaskis into a world-class water recreation area.

“This is an area that a lot of people use in terms of paddling, river surfing, rafting,” Phillips said in an interview. “That use has really grown in the last decade or so, to the point that we’ve got people parking in all kinds of places and erosion down to the river on too many trails.

“Redeveloping it and putting forward a new plan for that area means that we’re able to balance some of the recreation demands with conservation values.”

The construction in Kananaskis, a popular recreation region west of Calgary, will start next year and be completed in phases through 2021.

Phillips said it includes new campsites, new river access points, trail and parking lot redevelopment.

“They are moving a lot of the human activity a little closer to the river because, along Highway 40, there’s a lot of wildlife movement,” she said.

The plan includes upgrades to the Barrier Lake visitor centre, and the construction with a local association of a new white-water training facility that would be used to hold events and support athletes who are training on the river.

The announcement was applauded by several outdoor groups that use the area.

Kananaskis Country, which includes more than 4,000 square kilometres of provincial parks and recreation areas, was officially created by former premier Peter Lougheed on Sept. 22, 1978.

“It was world-class at the time and now we need to invest in it to bring it up to today’s standards,” said Phillips. “The previous government ignored a lot of our park’s infrastructure and that’s unfortunate.

“We want to make sure we can make good on the legacy and vision of creating Kananaskis in the first place.”