Province announces Kananaskis day-use area upgrades, shuttle bus service, park expansion

Several popular hiking and climbing areas in Kananaskis will be closed this summer as the province spends $4 million on upgrades, Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon announced Friday.

Grassi Lakes area to be closed this year for improvements

The aquamarine blue of Grassi Lakes near Canmore, Alta., attracts visitors from around the world. The popular hiking area is one of several to be closed this year for improvements to parking lots, trails and other infrastructure, the province announced Friday. (Kathryn Marlow/CBC)

Several popular hiking and climbing areas in Kananaskis will be closed this year as the province spends $4 million on upgrades, Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon announced Friday.

The Grassi Lakes and Goat Creek day-use areas will be under construction starting in early April.

"We are updating trails, parking lots and other facilities in the area to address public safety issues and park congestion while improving the visitor experience," said Nixon.

In 2020, Kananaskis had an estimated 5.4 million visitors — more than Banff. Family-friendly hikes in the Grassi Lakes area make it one of the most visited places in K-Country.

"These are very popular locations, which is why they need this level of a renovation to take place," said Nixon.

That's also why the plan is for the construction to be done in one season, so the areas can reopen next year. In the meantime, visitors usually hitting these spots will have to head elsewhere.

"There will be an education component that Kananaskis officials are focused on," said Nixon. "Making sure we can direct people to new alternatives inside Kananaskis they might not have experienced yet."

Starting April 1, the following trails and climbing areas will be closed:

  • Grassi Lakes Trail.
  • Junkyard Trail.
  • Ha Ling Trail.
  • Miner's Peak Trail.
  • Goat Creek Trail.
  • East End of Rundle route.
  • Reclaimer mountain bike trail.
  • Riders of Rohan mountain bike trail.
  • Access to High Rockies Trail from Goat Creek.
  • Ha Ling climbing area.
  • East End of Rundle climbing area.
  • Grassi Lakes climbing area.

New Canmore bus route, park expansion

In addition to these changes, the province is spending $994,000 from funds raised through the Kananaskis Conservation Pass to start a shuttle bus from the Town of Canmore to Quarry Lake Park, which has paid parking, the Canmore Nordic Centre and the Grassi Lakes day-use area.

"We know that there is no practical way to build adequate parking to accommodate the volume of visitors who love to access these special sites," said Canmore Coun. Joanna McCallum.

The bus, which will be another route on Canmore's free local transit system, is set to launch in 2024 and run for three years, offering hourly service from the May long weekend to mid-September.

"If it proves successful, it becomes a template for possible future transit solutions and options for the broader Kananaskis Country in the future," said Michael Roycroft, who is with Alberta Parks.

The province is also expanding the Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park by 246 hectares (610 acres). The area is a corridor for elk, deer, coyotes, cougars, black bears and grizzly bears.

Nixon said the expansion won't have an impact on existing recreational access to the area or affect traditional Indigenous use, including hunting.

With files from Helen Pike


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