Alberta’s Campgrounds’ Camping Regs Strict

May 15, 2013 by · Comments Off on Alberta’s Campgrounds’ Camping Regs Strict 

Red flags designate areas where fire bans are in force in the province of Alberta. Blue flags marks where fire prevention notices are posted. Map courtesy of

It’s the unofficial kickoff of summer this weekend in Canada, but it comes with some strict rules: campfire bans, liquor bans and temporary trail closures for off-road vehicles to protect spawning fish.

The May long weekend will see thousands of people head outdoors for some hiking, camping and other recreational activities, the Calgary Herald reported.

“There’s some safety concerns and then there’s some concerns with respecting the land,” said Jacalyn Ambler, a spokeswoman for Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. “One of the biggest concerns this season is going to be wildfires.”

This week, the province issued a fire weather advisory, canceling all burning permits in Alberta as a wildfire threatens the central Alberta hamlet of Nordegg.

It’s expected the fire bans will stay in effect across the province this weekend.

On Tuesday, there were bans across 50% of Alberta, from as far north as Fort McMurray to much of central and southern Alberta. There are also bans in 17 Alberta parks — including Bragg Creek Provincial Park, Fish Creek Provincial Park and Glennifer Reservoir Recreation Area.

Campfires are, however, still allowed in the national parks.

Omar McDadi, a Parks Canada spokesman for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay, said the fire risk is low to moderate in the Banff area.

“There’s no fire ban in effect,” he said, noting campfires are allowed with the proper permits. “Fires have to be in designated fire areas only.

“Our fire conditions don’t always reflect, because we’re in the mountains, the fire danger that’s maybe found elsewhere in the province, and that’s currently the case,” he said.

McDadi said the main campgrounds — including Tunnel Mountain campground in Banff, Redstreak campground in Kootenay and Kicking Horse campground in Yoho — are open and still have spots available for the long weekend.

“There’s still opportunity there,” he said.

Camping spots are also available in many provincial parks, despite the fire bans.

Susan Johnson, a spokeswoman for Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation, said while some campgrounds are fully booked, there are more than 170 provincial campgrounds that are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

“K-Country is quite booked up, but it’s still first-come first-served for a number of campgrounds there as well,” she said, noting the best option is to keep an eye on the reservation website or call the campsite operator to check availability before heading out.

Some of the provincial and all of the national park campgrounds have liquor bans in effect for the long weekend.

In addition, the province has closed some recreational trails due either to wet conditions or fish spawning in the nearby rivers.

“The Bighorn Dam Trail is closed and the Fall Creek area is closed to protect fish habitat down there,” said Ambler. “Both the trail and that area are really muddy.

“The Fall Creek area is an important spawning and hatching site for bull trout and, so, if the riverbed is disturbed, the eggs can be crushed. It’s a temporary closure.”

Albertans are also asked to take precautions to prevent wildfires across the province.

“Last year, 80% of our wildfires across the province were caused by human activity,” she said. “We’d like to get that down this year. We want people to be aware that not just campfires and burn barrels, but also things like cigarettes and off-highway vehicles, they can all cause wildfires.”


Canada Parks Packed on May Long Weekend

May 13, 2013 by · Comments Off on Canada Parks Packed on May Long Weekend 

The coming Victoria Day long weekend in Canada (May 17-20) is shaping up to be another busy one at the provincial campgrounds in Alberta.

“We encourage Albertans who are planning to spend the weekend camping at one of the provincial parks to check out one of our many first-come, first-served spots,” said Tourism Parks and Recreation Ministry spokeswoman Mary Lou Reeleder.

“Right now, the (reservation) campgrounds are at capacity because people can book 90 days in advance. But that can change as people cancel and plans can change,” Reeleder told The Calgary Sun.

Considered by many to be the unofficial start to camping season, the Victoria Day long weekend — also known as the May long weekend — draws thousands of people to the province’s hundreds of parks and campgrounds each year.

“People are encouraged to check for availability before they head out,” said Reeleder.

Fire bans are in effect at several provincial parks, including Bragg Creek, Big Knife, Buffalo Lake, Cooking Lake-Blackfoot, Dillberry Lake, Garner Lake, Gleniffer Reservoir, Jarvis Bay, Miquelon Lake, North Bruderheim, Red Lodge, Rochon Sands and Strathcona Science.

Liquor bans are also in effect at Aspen Beach, Cypress Hills, Dillberry Lake, Garner Lake, Jarvis Bay, Miquelon Lake, Pigeon Lake, Wabamun Lake and Whitney Lakes provincial parks.

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Manitoba Reports Weekend Campers Behaved, Mostly

May 22, 2012 by · Comments Off on Manitoba Reports Weekend Campers Behaved, Mostly 

It may have gotten off to a stormy start, but Friday and Saturday downpours didn’t keep the campers from enjoying the long weekend in Manitoba’s provincial parks.

The number of campers increased 7 percent from the same time last year, a provincial government spokesman said in a news release reported by the Winnipeg Free Press.

The campers weren’t all behaving, though. Nineteen people were evicted from provincial campgrounds, the official said.

On the wildfire front, there were no major fire starts reported.

The Marchand and Badger fires were both being held and crews continued to work on hot spots Monday.

Although fire and travel restrictions have been lifted in provincial parks and campgrounds, people should check with rural municipalities regarding regional restrictions, Conservation officials said.

They’re urging everyone to always be careful while outdoors to help prevent wildfires.

Manitoba has deployed a spotter aircraft and two CL-415 water bombers to Sudbury, Ontario, to assist with fire action that’s heated up there.

Alberta Parks Brace for Victoria Day Long Weekend

May 14, 2012 by · Comments Off on Alberta Parks Brace for Victoria Day Long Weekend 

Jesse Merriam and Ryan Ahlstrom had their long weekend all planned out.

Returning to a favorite spot, the Calgary, Alberta, roommates eyed a treed lot, away from the family crowds and with space for their party of 12.

“Our shenanigans can be loud and disruptive,” Merriam, 24, told the Calgary Herald.

They ended up paying for an extra space, away from their desired spot.

“We didn’t get the sites that we wanted,” Merriam said. “A lot of the good sites were filling up quickly.”

That was in March.

Time’s now nearly up to book a spot for the camping season’s first long weekend, May 18-21.

More than 30,000 reservations have been made at provincial campgrounds since February — up about a quarter during the same period last year.

About 1,400 bookings were made on opening day and things have stayed busy.

“People are calling now and it’s too late,” said Carol Herman, director of Riverbend Campground near Okotoks.

After a winter spent hibernating indoors, Herman said city slickers are always raring to break out their camping gear.

This year’s balmy winter has only fueled interest in the Victoria Day long weekend.

“I think it has to do with the weather,” Herman said. “Everybody is out in the garden already.”

“It’s been a very, very good start to the season for us,” said Erin Larson, spokeswoman for Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation

Larson believes the province’s online reservation system has boosted the number of pre-bookings in recent years.

Eight more campsites were added to the site in 2012 for a total of 59.

Another 78 group sites were included for the first time.

“That’s expanded the options for people for sure,” she said.

There are nearly 500 parks within the provincial parks system.

There’s still hope for those who haven’t booked. First-come, first-served sites are offered at 170 provincial campgrounds.

About 360 first-come, first-served sites are also offered at national parks in southern Alberta.

Three campgrounds are open in Banff on the May long weekend. However, Tunnel Mountain Village 1 is the only one still accepting reservations as of Sunday.

Park officials also say a dose of nasty weather may chase away fair-weather campers.

“Depending on the weather, we could do a lot better or a lot worse,” said Mark Merchant, spokesman for Parks Canada.

“We always have cancellations,” said Cassandra Hayward, general manager of Spring Creek Mountain Village, near Canmore.

Hayward suggests last-minute campers sign on to wait-lists immediately.

Camping fees are returned for cancellations if given 24-hours’ notice. However, there is a non-refundable, $12 fee.

Some say they’ll stick it out rain or shine — on one condition.

“It depends on how full the cooler is, of course” Merriam said.

Those planning a boozy excursion with Mother Nature will have to check out liquor bans scheduled for the long weekend.

Alcohol is banned in at least nine Alberta campgrounds including Cypress Hills, Jarvis Bay and Pigeon Lake.

The ban starts at noon on Thursday and goes until 6 p.m. next Monday.

Fire bans are also planned for Dilberry Provincial Park and Buffalo Lake Provincial Recreation Area.

RCMP say they’re expecting to be busy keeping notoriously wild spots under control.

Last year, traffic units laid 3,263 charges across the province from May 20 to 23.

Charges included speeding, impaired driving and non-hazardous violations such driving with a suspended license.

Staff Sgt. Patricia Neely said this year’s May long weekend crackdown is timely, given the “recent spate of fatal collisions.”

“There will definitely be a noticeable police presence throughout southern Alberta,” Neely said.


Temporary Alcohol Ban at Alberta Parks Expands

May 11, 2012 by · Comments Off on Temporary Alcohol Ban at Alberta Parks Expands 

Jubilee Park Campground at Wizard Lake near Leduc, Alberta, will now be added to several campgrounds across Alberta that will issue an alcohol ban this May long weekend.

The decision to slap an alcohol ban on campers at Jubilee Park this May long was reached after a 6-1 vote in favor of the ban during Leduc County Council meeting on April 3, the Leduc Rep reported.

So far, feedback has been positive as campers have started booking for the long weekend at Jubilee.

“We’ve had a lot of positive comments so far,” said Dean Ohnysty, director of parks and recreation with the county.

The ban will be a test pilot for the campground and once the weekend concludes, county administration was asked by council to compile feedback on how the alcohol ban was received to see if future bans will be issued on the May long weekend.

“We’ll do an evaluation after that weekend and see how effective it was,” added Ohnysty.

The Wizard Lake campground is the only Leduc County campground with a liquor ban. The other county-run campground — Centennial Park campground at Joseph Lake — won’t have a liquor ban in place for the upcoming May long weekend. Jubilee Park’s liquor ban will run from Friday, May 18 to Monday, May 21. Over the past couple of years, there has been a growing list of provincial campgrounds that have issued alcohol bans on the May long weekend. This year Pigeon Lake Campground, Aspen Beach, Cypress Hills, Dillberry Lake, Garner Lake, Jarvis Bay, Miquelon Lake Wabamun Lake and Whitney Lakes all have liquor bans in place.

The May long weekend is the unofficial kickoff to the camping season and because it is the first open camping weekend, some campers have a little too much to drink — one of the reasons for the ban.

“The May long weekend is the first weekend and campers are excited. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been cooped up all winter, so you get out and there have been some enforcement issues in these specific parks and that’s why there are liquor bans in place,” explained Susan Johnson, public affairs with tourism and recreation with the province.

There aren’t any additions to the number of provincial parks, which have liquor bans on for the May long compared to last year. The nine provincial parks that were chosen for a ban resulted because of past incidents. Jubilee Park is not a provincially run park, it is run by Leduc County.

“We look at it every year to see where the areas are we need to target. It’s pretty simple, in terms of these camping grounds, because they are close to urban areas and are easy access for people to get to,” stated Johnson.

Having liquor bans in place hasn’t affected the camper turnout on the May long at any of the nine provincial campgrounds in previous years.

“We’re booked. It doesn’t seem to hamper people’s experiences at all and there are certain people who will only go to campgrounds that have a liquor ban in place — people with small kids, families like the idea of having one in place,” said Johnson.

As for privately owned campgrounds across the province, it’s up to the owner to decide whether to slap a liquor ban on.

The best bet is to call the campground and ask, added Johnson.

Campground staff will notify all campers of the ban and anyone caught drinking in the park could be handed a $250 fine.

The liquor ban for the nine provincial campgrounds will commence at noon on May 17 to May 21.


Rain/Fire Ban Dampen the Fun for Alberta’s ‘Long Weekend’

May 24, 2011 by · Comments Off on Rain/Fire Ban Dampen the Fun for Alberta’s ‘Long Weekend’ 

It wasn’t only the rain that kept Albertans at home over the May “long weekend;” the fire ban was a big contributing factor too, the Medicine Hat News reported.

“Well half the fun of camping is a camp fire,” said Sandra Derring, at the gatehouse of Golden Sheaf Park.

They were not as busy as usual. “We had had lots of phone calls from people asking if we had a fire ban.”

There was plenty of warning from Environment Canada that it was going to be a wet weekend and Derring says for people planning to camp in tents they would have had to depend on a fire to keep them warm.

In Cypress Hills they only had 40% occupancy for the first long-weekend of the summer season.

“People either stayed home or went somewhere warmer,” said Peter Swain district manager at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park in a telephone conversation with the News on Monday. “Saskatchewan still had 350 sites available when I talked to them.”

Swain did not think the liquor ban contributed to people staying home.

“This is the third year of the liquor ban and it stopped the rowdies but others came back and expressed appreciation about the change,” said Swain. “This (the lower numbers) may just be the weather because the fire ban also meant it would be harder to keep warm.”

Gas City Campground was 90% full. They had a few campers who left early because of the rain but they were local people, said Kelvin Anhorn, facilities foreman for Gas City Campground.

Environment Canada is not forecasting a break from the rain until the middle of the week and even then it will not last more than a day.

‘Long Weekend’ Quiet, Say Alberta RCMP

May 23, 2011 by · Comments Off on ‘Long Weekend’ Quiet, Say Alberta RCMP 

Grumbling over fire and liquor bans have not led to widespread violations at southern Alberta campgrounds and off-road areas, which have remained quiet as far as enforcement is concerned during what Canadians call the “May long weekend,” the Calgary Herald reported.

In Kananaskis, some campers were already packing up to leave Sunday.

“It’s been quiet and our campgrounds are barely full,” said Const. Tammy Keller of Kananaskis RCMP. “Lots of people are already leaving. I don’t know if they’re going home to plant flowers or what, but it’s been a fantastic weekend from a policing standpoint.”

Even as late as Friday, forecasters were predicting rain all weekend rather than the sunny and hot temperatures that materialized Saturday.

Keller said the combination of expected cold and wet conditions along with the fire ban may have kept some people away.

“The forecast didn’t change until the last minute,” she said. “Maybe that was a factor.”

A provincewide fire ban was issued last week due in part to the fact so many firefighting resources have been sent north to deal with wildfires raging in and around Slave Lake.

Keller said she was not aware of a single ticket being issued for a violation of the fire ban in Kananaskis.

Cochrane RCMP have had only had minor infractions to deal with such as quad licence and registration violations.

“So far, so good,” said Constable Curtis Peters of the Cochrane detachment. “It is busier than normal, but there’s been nothing significant, nothing out of the ordinary in terms of enforcement.”

About 900 sites were closed this weekend at campgrounds in Yoho, Banff, and Kootenay national parks due to the larger than normal snowpack in the mountains this spring.

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development had looked at closing the forest land use zones of McLean Creek, Ghost, Willow Creek and Castle Special Management Area, where higherthan-average snowpacks and melting made the soil very susceptible to damage.

But with dry and windy weather that improved the conditions of trails, the province decided to allow all-terrain vehicles into the areas.

Some user groups, including the Rocky Mountain Dirt Riders Association, advised members to stay away from the trails anyway.

A liquor ban was also imposed in nine provincial parks over the long weekend.

Record Snowpack Delays Canadian Park Openings

May 11, 2011 by · Comments Off on Record Snowpack Delays Canadian Park Openings 

The long, cold winter is finally over, but its lingering bite is threatening to delay the start of camping season in parts of western Canada until after the May long weekend.

The large snowpack in the mountains has led the national parks to delay the opening of several campgrounds while reserving the decision on several more, The Calgary Herald reported.

And the province is considering a suspension of the off-road trails on forestry land use areas during the Victoria Day weekend.

Omar McDadi, a spokesman for Parks Canada, said several campsites, trails and day spots are sure to be closed during the weekend from May 21 to 23.

Among them; Two Jack Lakeside, Two Jack Main Campground, Lake Louise Tent Campground and the Kootenay National Park Redstreak Campground.

Others may yet be closed, depending on weather.

McDadi said parks officials are working to clear snow and debris in time for the long weekend, and hoped most of the main sites would be able to open.

“We had an amazing winter in the Canadian Rockies and through the mountain parks. It was the kind of winter we were waiting for, there was so much snow and so many things to do,” he said.

“The consequences of the great winter is that it allowed for incredibly big snowpack which remains in places in the mountain parks.

“Couple that with the cold spring we’ve had throughout much of the year and some of the avalanches we’ve had earlier this year that have, in some cases, caused damage in campgrounds.”

McDadi said campers should check the conditions at their favorite sites on the national parks website. Alternative camping sites could also be found on the Radium Hot Springs website.

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development is looking at suspending access to trails used by dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles in areas including Ghost-Waiparous near Cochrane and McLean Creek near Bragg Creek.

Previous years have seen heavy off-road vehicle damage, littered campgrounds and even burned furniture left behind during the May long weekend, which led to tough new area management strategies.

This year, with the snowpack and frost underneath the muddy top layer, serious damage could be caused if the traditionally high volume of off-roaders head out to popular areas with their vehicles.

The threat is so great that organized off-road groups have joined conservationists to support a suspension on use.

“Our local club supports a one-time ban over the May long weekend due to the exceptionally high snowpack and the condition of the trails,” said Aaron Bauer, trail maintenance director with the Rocky Mountain Dirt Riders.

“Our members spend thousands of volunteer hours a year maintaining the trails and we want to be a part of the solution, not the problem.”

Bauer said his club has advised members to stay away from the Ghost-Waiparous and McLean Creek areas, especially over the long weekend when off-road use is at its peak.

“There’s a potential to do a lot of damage to the trail infrastructure,” said Nigel Douglas, a conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association.

“The government needs to suspend all the areas, otherwise it will be that much worse for the areas that remain open.”

Douglas said he’s not surprised ATV user groups are supporting the call for a suspension of trail use.

“A lot of motorized vehicle users are worried about this,” said Douglas. “They want a sustainable trail system they can use in the long term.”

The Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association said it will support whatever the government decides to do.

Kathy Kiel, spokeswoman for Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, said a ban is being considered, but no decision has been reached.

Cochrane Search and Rescue had an application to use ATVs during a training exercise in Waiparous this weekend denied.

A limited exercise will go ahead, but the group had to resubmit its application to the province.

“We’re not even sure about using mountain bikes,” said Cochrane Search and Rescue spokesman Pete Maisonneuve.

“We should be OK to do foot searches and possibly use horses.”

Late spring snowfall has led to a higher than normal snowpack collecting in the Rockies.

According to the measurement the province uses, there is approximately 3 feet  of snow water equivalent in the snowpack at Sunshine Village ski resort, where Alberta Environment takes its reading.

If the entire snowpack melted, it would unleash 3 feet of water into the rivers.

“That’s above average,” said Carrie Sancartier of Alberta Environment. “Our big concern is if it rains. Rain is the main driver of flooding in Alberta.

“Right now, the snowpack is melting quite slowly, which is what we want to see. If it starts raining, the runoff would happen much faster.”

The city’s water department closely monitors the snowpack from May through mid-July and keeps in contact with Alberta Environment.

Senior planning engineer Frank Frigo said it’s difficult to know how bad flooding might be until it starts raining.

David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, said average to below-average precipitation is expected in June.

“It’s always tricky trying to predict precipitation,” said Phillips. “June is typically the wettest month, but it could be a dry June.

“With flooding, it’s all about the timing. If a big storm hits Calgary and hangs around at the same time the melt is at its peak, you have a recipe for flood issues.”

Phillips recommends living in the moment for now.

“You haven’t had four days of above 20-degree weather since Oct. 6 to 10. We’ve got wall-to-wall nice weather this week. Play hooky, call in sick and get outside while it’s here.”

Booze Ban Lifted at One Alberta Park

May 9, 2011 by · Comments Off on Booze Ban Lifted at One Alberta Park 

A liquor ban at a popular camping area near Calgary, Alberta, has been lifted for the May long weekend.

A temporary alcohol ban was implemented for the long weekend last year at the Ghost Lake Provincial Park, Global Toronto reported.

The decision has since been re-assessed for this year and officials say the ban is no longer needed there.

Bans will stay in place at nine other provincial parks May 19 through 23.

The province says at certain parks the ban is the most effective tool in preventing rowdy behavior.

Alcohol Banned at Alberta Parks for ‘Long Weekend’

May 9, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

May long weekend campers heading out to nine provincial parks in Alberta will be subject to a liquor ban.

The temporary bans will be in place from noon on Thursday, May 19 until 6 p.m. on Monday, May 23, the Toronto Globe reported.

Sites that fall under the temporary ban include:

  • Aspen Beach Provincial Park
  • Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
  • Dillberry Lake Provincial Park
  • Garner Lake Provincial Park
  • Jarvis Bay Provincial Park
  • Miquelon Lake Provincial Park
  • Pigeon Lake Provincial Park
  • Wabamun Lake Provincial Park
  • Whitney Lakes Provincial Park

“Most campers, who enjoy a glass of wine with their meal or a beer around the campfire, do so without disturbing their neighbors. However, at these select sites, temporary liquor bans have proven to be the safest, most effective tool in preventing inappropriate, liquor-related enforcement occurrences during the Victoria Day long weekend,” said Tourism, Parks and Recreation Minister Cindy Ady.

“Our goal is to ensure provincial parks are safe and enjoyable places for all of our visitors,” said Ady.

The province has implemented liquor bans at provincial parks on long weekends since 2004.

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