Private Grab of Public Land in Ghost Waiparous

Alberta Wilderness Association

An application by a private company to lease 160 acres of public land in the Ghost Waiparous is nearing the approval stage with almost no public knowledge. This is one of a growing number of such lease applications throughout Alberta's Eastern Slopes, with little scrutiny and minimal opportunity for public comment. AWA is asking the Alberta government to put all such developments on hold until its long-awaited land-use framework is completed.

Lazy H Trail Company of Cochrane has applied for a 99-year lease of 160 acres of wilderness public land for a private resort development that could cater to as manyas 600 people per day. The site is remote, on the north side of the Ghost River's headwaters, only about 6 km east of Banff National Park, near Lake Minnewanka. This precedent-setting attempt to grab a quarter section of prime public real estate through Alberta's Tourism Recreation Lease (ATRL) process could be approved without any input from the land's owners, the Alberta public.

"In the past year AWA has been researching how our Eastern Slopes wildlands are being quietly urbanized by private interests," says AWA Director, Vivian Pharis. "This proposal is one of the most blatant examples of what is happening."

The proposed resort would be a hodge-podge of tent frames, cabins, a 50-room lodge, toilet and shower facilities, horse facilities and RV sites. Planned development originates atop a ridge overlooking the Ghost River, then sprawls down a benched slope and flows out across the rocky plain of this small river. Ninety RV sites, with toilet and shower facilities, are proposed for the flood plain.

The Lazy H proposal has been allowed to proceed before the province's new land-use planning process is completed. The proposal flies in the face of the most recent plan for the region, the 1988 Ghost River Sub-Regional Integrated Resource Plan, which states that "The overriding principle for all zones is to protect the valuable water resources of the eastern slopes and to provide for public land and resource utilization in a manner consistent with principles of conservation and environmental protection."

"This proposed development has important implications for water quality in the Ghost River, which forms part of the water supply for the City of Calgary," says Nigel Douglas, AWA Conservation Specialist. "The value of this area as a wildlife corridor has also been ignored."

The proposal lies in the M.D. of Bighorn, where designated development nodes have been established to confine recreational development. But Lazy H does not fall within such a node. Nevertheless, the M.D. did issue approvals for buildings currently on site and some new portable structures, even though some construction had occurred without permits, resulting in provincial "stop orders" being issued.

For more information, contact:
Vivian Pharis, AWA Director (403) 932-2124
Nigel Douglas, AWA Conservation Specialist (403) 283-2025