It’s instinctive. Is it Canada Day? A family celebration? Or just a lazy weekend? Let’s go to the park!
Our national parks have become widely recognized symbols of Canada and our love of the outdoors. But substantial parks in many of our cities are justly famous as well: think of Vancouver, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax . . . the list goes on and on. And here in Alberta, we’ve built an impressive list of provincial parks as well.
Some are tiny. Our own Park Lake, created as part of our irrigation network, has been recognized as Alberta’s first. Some, like Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, are much larger and more impressive.
And others, like Writing-on-Stone Park or Dinosaur Park, have a particular historical or cultural importance. And then we have Cypress Hills Inter-provincial Park — in partnership with Saskatchewan — preserving a unique ecosystem, untouched by the last ice age.
Our parks may be one of the defining features of being Canadian — just try to get a reservation in any of our national parks this weekend, or this summer!
So it’s gratifying to see our federal government putting money into projects like upgrades in Waterton Lakes National Park and better transportation systems in heavily-used Banff.
Closer to home, city council readily agreed earlier this year to put aside the money to build the amenities needed to complete Lethbridge’s latest attraction, Legacy Park. Custom-designed through ongoing consultation with Lethbridge residents, it’s due to open next summer.
But while Lethbridge — with many well-maintained parks — and the federal government have been steadily investing in park maintenance and improvements, Alberta’s provincial governments have not. Through a series of cutbacks, they closed a number of smaller parks and recreation areas. Indeed, Park Lake park was once on the hit list. Until recently, that is. Since taking office, Lethbridge cabinet minister Shannon Phillips has been working to bring our provincial parks up to scratch — and to create new ones, including park status and facilities for southern Alberta’s long-threatened Castle River watershed.
Over the last week, our environment and parks minister confirmed an investment of $18.7 million in upgrades and repairs to a list of Kananaskis Country parks and protected areas. Anyone who’s been there will recognize K Country as an amazing, multi-use public area that’s well worth preserving.
Despite our challenging climate, many Albertans take pride in the gardens, shrubs and trees they nurture on their property year by year. They’re ready to spend the time and money needed to keep them healthy and growing.
So, too, with our public parks, be they civic, provincial or federal. They preserve some of our most striking geography, they help safeguard our water and our endangered species — and they’re accessible to almost everyone. Like everything else, our parks are supported by taxpayers and users. But many Canadians would say their value is beyond measure.
And on significant occasions like Canada Day, we appreciate our parks even more.