September 4, 2020
From: Mike Dickinson
I am writing to urge your government and Alberta Parks to continue providing trail maintenance, grooming, and event support for cross-country skiing and the Canadian Birkebeiner at the Cooking Lake Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area (CLBPRA). I also ask Alberta Parks to continue providing cross-country ski trail grooming and facilities in other Alberta parks and recreation areas such as Kananaskis.
Continued support of cross-country ski trail grooming and maintenance will contribute directly and materially to achievement of the government’s business plan. According to Budget 2019: Ministry Business Plans for 2019 – 2023, Alberta Parks’ plans include:
Outcome 3 – What We Want to Achieve: Public Well-being
Alberta’s natural environments offer educational and recreational experiences that positively contribute to human health and quality of life. These same experiences contribute to a diversified economy through sustainable recreation and tourism opportunities. The ministry provides Albertans, and visitors, opportunities to explore natural landscapes, engage in nature-based experiences or outdoor recreational activities, and learn about Alberta’s natural heritage through access to Alberta Parks, public lands and educational, interpretative and experiential programs and services.
Key Objective 3.1
Improve recreational access management through effective public lands management, introducing an Alberta Trails Act and establishing a trail fee to restore and create trails.
Performance Measures and Indicators
Parks with government supported cross-country ski trails and facilities will attract Albertans and other users, contributing to usage, satisfaction and quality of life metrics. Skiers both locally and internationally buy equipment and travel to groomed trails, contributing to the economy.
As a life-long cross-country skier I can personally attest to the physical and mental health benefits of cross-country skiing. I am involved with a number of cross-country skiing organizations, including the Edmonton Nordic Ski Club, Nordiq Alberta, the Canadian Birkebeiner Society and the Alberta World Cup Society. I am an accredited Level 3 competition official and have been involved with events from the local level to World Cup races. This involvement and the many people I have met as a result have shown me the positive power of cross-country skiing on individuals and communities in Alberta.
Cross-country skiing is a widely accessible and welcoming activity, doable by everyone from the very young to Olympians to old shufflers like me. Cross-country skiing is embraced by Special Olympians and Paralympians. This is extremely important as the need for increased diversity and inclusion are important to a better society. Speaking of Olympians, Alberta cross-country skiers like Beckie Scott, Sara Renner, Chandra Crawford and Brian McKeever have brought international honour and glory to our province and country. All of these users need trails and grooming supported by the government if we are to continue reaping the benefits of cross-country skiing.
Cross-country skiing has been growing in popularity since I started, and at an increasing rate. Children and adult lessons fill up quickly at clubs across the province. More retailers carry equipment because there is more demand. Experts are predicting that the boom in summer outdoor activity that we have seen because of the pandemic is likely to carry over to winter activities. Rather than reducing trail maintenance and grooming budgets, continued or even expanded government financial support will pay dividends for Albertans and for the government that astutely anticipates and invests in the priorities of voters.
I understand that the government is in a dire financial situation at present. My impression is that many organizations and individuals in the Alberta cross-country ski community are willing to discuss partnerships and different shared cost options to continue to fund the trail maintenance and grooming that is vital to our sport. I urge Alberta Parks to reach out to representatives of the ski community to discuss how we can work together to meet this need.
Cross-country skiing is a great activity for individuals and communities. Continued government support of trails and facilities is the type of investment that will contribute to a better and lasting quality of life for Albertans.