New park opens on former ranchland

Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, between Cochrane and Calgary, is now open to visitors.
Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park covers 1,300 hectares of land between Calgary and Cochrane. (Alberta Parks)

A new provincial park between Cochrane and Calgary is now open to visitors.

Premier Ed Stelmach opened Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park on Tuesday afternoon.

The Alberta government purchased more than 1,300 hectares of ranchland from the Harvie family in 2006 at half the market value. Over the past five years, that land has been transformed into a park, which the province hopes will be a hit with walkers and cyclists.

"It's taken a little bit of time, but we wanted to do it right," said Tourism Minister Cindy Ady in recent interview with CBC News.

"I just think we are going to love this park. I have had a opportunity to hike it myself... and it is just stunning. I am just so excited that people get to pack up the family and go now."

Fish Creek Provincial Park in south Calgary sees three million visitors a year and this new park should be comparable, she said.

"Unlike Fish Creek Park this is a piece of land that has never had anyone but one family ranching it. While Fish Creek had a whole bunch of commercial and recreational [use] before it formed into a park, this one we got to start from scratch and do it right."

The park preserves and protects some significant natural and cultural features, including examples of endangered ecosystems and rare species, First Nations and early ranching settlements.

The park runs along the north shoreline of the Bow River between Calgary and Cochrane. It is surrounded by ranchland and will still allow controlled grazing.