KANANASKIS – After back-to-back weekends of increased visitation in the Kananaskis region, Alberta Parks will begin to actively manage parking at several of its most popular day use areas beginning this long weekend.
Starting Saturday (Aug. 1), parking lots at Barrier Dam and Grassi Lakes day use areas will be managed by traffic control staff to ensure vehicles are not parked along roadways and that emergency vehicles have access.
Kananaskis Country area manager Debbie Mucha said the key message for visitors to the region is to plan ahead, arrive early and have a backup plan.
"On weekends, many of our popular areas, such as Barrier, Grassi Lakes and numerous other areas, they can fill up by mid-morning," Mucha said. "Have a few different locations researched, or be familiar with, that you can also go to if you find your No. 1, No. 2 and maybe even No. 3 spot is full."
K-country is trying to get the message out with a parking control advisory that was issued Thursday (July 30), social media messages and up-to-date information available through Alberta 511. Alberta Parks is also working with municipal partners, Alberta Transportation and RCMP.
The advisory stated traffic control staff will be present at Barrier and Grassi on weekends and as needed until Sept. 8 and that parking limits will be enforced at Grotto Mountain and Yamnuska day use areas.
"We are really hoping with education that people will not be parking on highway shoulders, especially at the sites we will have parking control at," Mucha said. "There is a potential for enforcement to occur."
Not only is it dangerous for the public to park on the shoulders of highways like the 1A, but it restricts the ability of emergency services to access sites when responding to calls for help.
"We want the cooperation of the public because it is critical for us to maintain access for emergency vehicles – ambulance, fire, RCMP, conservation officers and public safety – they need quick access to respond to incidents," she said. "That is why we are putting a real focus on some of these popular sites."
Earlier this summer, Alberta Parks closed the Yamnuska day use area, trail and climbing routes to give Kananaskis Public Safety a break from responding to record numbers of rescues in the region – including several on that mountain in one day.
Emergency services experienced difficulty accessing that area due to vehicles parking along the shoulders of the highway and access road.
Alberta Parks also issued an advisory on July 17 warning visitors of vehicles being damaged at trailheads and items stolen. Outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to lock their doors and remove any valuables from their vehicles when parked at day use areas or overnight.
While it mentioned Baldy Pass, Heart Creek, Wasootch and Yamnuska parking lots, officials said it applies to the entire region.
Public safety specialists are also encouraging outdoor enthusiasts to be prepared, and that includes for the heat, over the long weekend and to choose pursuits that are within their capabilities. Officials advise to wear appropriate clothing, to have proper equipment including maps, to wear solid, study footwear and to have enough calorie-rich food.
There are also a number of wildlife warnings in place throughout K-country, including the closure of the Bill Milne paved bicycle trail due to a bluff charge bear encounter and multiple bears in the area feeding on buffaloberries.