According to one outdoor enthusiast, the new parking lot in West Bragg Creek is the ... well, it's not as pristine as it ought to be.
The freshly paved $2.5-million lot is a popular hangout for cattle that graze in the area and they are making their presence known.
"The cows were pooping in the parking lot, they were peeing in the parking lot. There were a number of parking stalls that had been tainted with cow poop and cow pee and I don't think anybody would want to park in those spots," said Bob Truman, who was checking out the area for a bike ride on the trails.
The cattle are allowed to be in the area, part of a government grazing allottment, but Truman would like to see them removed from the lot — either cancelling the grazing rights, forcing the grazers to take them to the western portion of the allotment, or fencing off the lot.
"They have lots of space out here without having to use the parking lot, because I don't think the parking lot pavement is that nourishing for the cattle anyway," he said.
Peter Tucker, the president of the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association, says the cows have been there for a long time.
"When they're here they're wandering around, obviously at will, defecating, urinating, grazing on some of the infrastructure — so some of the posts and new vegetation that has been planted in the lot," he said.
Tucker's group is working with stakeholders, including the ranchers who have the grazing rights, to move the cows away from the new lot.
"In those discussions, most recently with the grazers, we have made recommendations three times to public lands, to have them graze the cattle in the western part of the allotment," he said, adding those discussions have not been successful.
Tucker says the argument for maintaining the grazing rights in the area is that it's a historical use and he acknowledges the ranchers, who pay for the rights, are legally entitled to operate there.
"But I think if you look around at the parking lot, it becomes fairly more obvious that the critical mass of land use has shifted and the historical use, in many people's opinion, has less power now than it has in the past," he said.
Truman says he grew up on a farm and is sympathetic to the work of cattle ranchers.
"I think though that the situation at West Bragg Creek is taking the Alberta cowboy culture just one step too far by allowing cattle to come in here and wreck the place for all the thousands of people that want to come here and recreate," he said.
A spokesperson for Alberta Environment and Parks said they are aware of the situation and have been in discussions with the ranchers. They have also moved corals from the east end of the lot to the west in order to minimize contact.
"We're aware that there are recreational users who are unhappy with that and we are looking at a variety of options or possibilities, including fencing and those Texas gates or cattle guards," said Scott Lundy.
He said making changes takes time and planning.
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