K-Country visitor fees now in effect

KANANASKIS – Albertans sick of sitting at home looking to get out into that sunshine will have to pay, starting Tuesday, if they plan to escape to a popular provincial recreation area.

The province brought in a fee for kanasakis county and the bow valley corridor after a flood of visitors left litter and damaged vegetation in their wake last year.

READ MORE: Alberta government to introduce user fees for Kananaskis

While the province says the new park fees will help improve the parks, an ecotourism professor thinks the cost will have Albertans staycationing elsewhere.

“Anytime we add a fee onto accessing the outdoors, that works as a deterrant,” said Joe Pavelka from Mount Royal University.

“It’s not really going to help the mental wellness picture here. Having said that, again, for those people that are absolutely committed to Kananaskis, this is going to be welcome news because it’s going to shed some of the crowd.”

The province brought in a fee for Kanasakis county and the Bow Valley Corridor after a flood of visitors left litter and damaged vegetation in their wake last year.

RELATED: Record number of visitors led to increase in garbage, poor etiquette in Kananaskis

“Really there’s this resource gap between what Albertans have come to expect and what we can deliver. And so the hope is the Kananaskis conservation pass will fill that gap,” said Michael Roycroft, the Kananaskis regional director for Alberta Parks.

The $15-daily, $90-yearly fee is projected to bring in $15 million this year.

Roycroft doesn’t expect the new fees to discourage people from visiting.

“Last year alone we saw a 43 per cent increase over the summer months. So, that visitation trend has been going up for the last decade and at this stage, I’m not sure it’s going to dissipate too much. It might flatline a bit.”

Roycroft says the money will go toward capital investments in the Nordic centre and Yamnuksa trail, as well as additional staff to clean, rescue, and provide information.

Pavelka says that educational component is key with the new herd of outdoor enthusiasts.

“My hope would be that Alberta Parks sees this as an opportunity to develop a long-term accessibility strategy. We now know that people value nature and they value going into nature and this particular trend is not going to dissipate overnight.”

He says if it’s done well, in three to five years we could have a much more outdoor-sophisticated population.

Park passes can be bought online or in-person and they cover everyone in one vehicle.

Just to compare—park passes to Banff and Jasper cost $10 a day for a single adult, and $69 for a year.

Group passes are $20 dollars a day and $139 for the year.

And if you plan on camping on public land, you need to buy an additional $30 annual pass.

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