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Critics ask why no details on government plan for parks management

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EDMONTON -- The Alberta government has yet to release details on how it will “optimize” the province's parks by getting other people to run them.

It's been almost a year since the plan was revealed in the budget and Alberta Parks is to begin accepting reservations March 4 for this summer's camping season.

Despite repeated requests from politicians, environmental groups and The Canadian Press, Alberta Environment won't say with whom it's signed new parks management contracts, what the contracts contain or how many there are.

“It's hard to trust in the process when there's a significant lack of transparency,” said Grace Wark of the Alberta Wilderness Association. “This has been the standard that's been set throughout.”

Last February, the United Conservative government announced a plan to fully or partially close 20 provincial parks and seek third-party partners to run another 164 of them. The areas for which partners couldn't be found would lose park status and revert to general Crown land.

Critics feared the move was a prelude to reducing access or selling the land. In the face of fierce public opposition, the government announced in late December that no parks would be delisted and that partners for 170 parks had been found.

Many of Alberta's 473 parks and recreation areas have had some kind of third-party management for years. Wark said that includes at least 70 sites on the list released in December.

The government said in December that “more than a dozen” new deals had been reached. That left a potentially large number of parks still in question.

A list of partners has been released, but which agreements are new and which are old isn't specified, said Wark.

“The government hasn't released one clear list of who those partners are.”

On Jan. 7, Alberta Environment spokeswoman Jess Sinclair said government lawyers were considering privacy concerns. Nothing has since been released.

The Canadian Press most recently asked for information on the new deals last Monday.

Others are asking the same questions.

“We haven't been able to get anything from them,” said Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society... Read More