Beginning June 1, 2021, visitors to Kananaskis Country will be charged an access fee to use the parks.
Jason Nixon, Alberta Minister of Environment and Parks, announced the Kananaskis Conservation Pass in a Tuesday afternoon press conference. Minister Nixon noted that, as visits to Kananaskis increase, action needs to be taken to protect the area.
Kananaskis Country saw five million visits in 2020, which is one million more than Banff National Park.
The increased visitation has brought challenges such as more litter, traffic, overcrowding, human-wildlife conflict, injuries, and illegal parking issues. There has also been more strain on critical services within Kananaskis, such as search and rescue operations.
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According to a news release from the Alberta government, the introduction of the Kananaskis Conservation Pass will enable Alberta Parks to improve the overall visitor experience in Kananaskis. The fees collected will help pay for trail maintenance, search and rescue operations, visitor services, and the upkeep of facilities at day-use areas and campgrounds.
“The fee will also go toward increasing on-the-ground education and enforcement with additional conservation officers, and will allow for the reopening of visitor centres that were temporarily closed last year,” reads the news release.
Fees will be charged per vehicle, and will cost users $15 per day or $90 per year. The government anticipates that the pass will generate approximately $15 million in revenue annually.
Different from the Parks Canada passes used to visit areas such as Banff, the Kananaskis Conservation Pass will be registered to license plates instead of households. This is being done in an effort to reduce the amount of vehicles traveling into K-Country.
First Nation individuals will be exempt from the pass, as will anyone who needs to stop in the area for business purposes, such as facility operators and disposition, permit, and contract holders.
The conservation pass area includes provincial parks, public land in Kananaskis, provincial campgrounds, and day-use areas in the Bow Valley corridor. The fee will also be used to facilitate the expansion of protected areas within Bow Valley Provincial Park.
Since 2013, Alberta has invested over $160 million to improve Kananaskis, including the new Kananaskis Emergency Services Centre, William Watson Lodge renewal, upgrades to many popular day-use areas and trails, improvements to local transportation infrastructure, and flood recovery projects.
The pass will be available online and at Kananaskis visitor information centres during operating hours, starting June 1.