Saskatoon Mountain Natural Area will soon be better protected. The province has agreed to turn the area near Beaverlodge into a provincial recreation area, which will bring in stricter rules and stronger enforcement of regulations.
Work to get the area reclassified started nearly a decade ago in 2009, and a plan for recreation and conservation was developed with the County of Grande Prairie in 2012. Public consultation was also done in 2014, resulting in a draft plan.
Reeve Leanne Beaupre says she appreciates the work that’s been done to get to this point.
“It’s been a long time coming, but we certainly know it was an effort that was well worth doing because it’s a jewel in the area and we want to make sure that it’s protected for our grandchildren and grandchildren to come.”
The County has been concerned about the area due to vandalism and random off-highway vehicle activity. The change won’t affect hunting and OHV activity on designated trails, but will set out a strategy meant to protect plants and animals in the area.
“It will actually conserve those ecosystems that are of high value in the area,” explains Beaupre, “as well as create some options for the user groups that are presently in the area and continue to want to use Saskatoon Mountain in the ways that they have used it in the past.”
A trail network for local groups will also be developed, and informal trails not included will be closed and reclaimed. Upgrades to day-use facilities, picnic benches, fire pits, and washrooms are also in the works, and the province will consider developing a campground with powered sites in the future.
“Reclassification of Saskatoon Mountain will provide greater protection of the land while enhancing recreational opportunities for families and visitors to the area,” says Minister of Environment and Parks Shannon Phillips, who made the announcement Tuesday. “Our government is listening to Albertans who said they wanted to see improvements to public safety and new nature-based recreation.”
The natural area is currently 1,000 hectares in size, and will be expanded by another 311. A draft management plan will be started this year.