Dear Senior Parks Planner,
I strongly support the Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park Draft Management Plan. I believe the designation of the area as parks will conserve invaluable habitat and wildlife. I also emphatically commend the Management Plans’ recognition of the need for recreation management, and the need for ongoing collaboration with recreational groups to implement and manage the plan. Both of these goals are in the interests of mountaineers, ice, and rock climbers.
Ice climbers, rock climbers and mountaineers have a long standing history of activity in the Castle Park area dating back to the mid 1970’s. One of the more popular ice climbs, Blue Angel, is even included in the first popular North American ice climbing guide -- Yvon Chouinard’s “Climbing Ice”, published in 1978. It is also one of the few areas close enough for day trips for the vibrant and growing climbing communities in areas like Lethbridge and the Crowsnest Pass.
Nevertheless, I hope you will consider two issues with the Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park Draft Management Plan.
I disagree the identification of climbing and mountaineering as “extreme and emerging sports” in the second sentence of section 6.4. The vast majority who take part in these activities are well trained and responsible, severely limiting the risks. Consultation with any of the local emergency response groups would bear that out. These activities are also far from emerging. They are woven into the fabric of our province's history and for decades climbers from all over the world have come here, contributing to the economy and the region’s development. The proliferation of climbing gyms in Alberta and the addition of climbing to the next Summer Olympics also attest to how mainstream the activity has become.
I am also concerned with the proposed restrictions on motorized vehicle use for access to the area. The delineation of the boundary between Castle Provincial Park and the Provincial Wildland Park effectively restricts access to a significant ice and rock climbing area in the Castle River Valley.
Historically climbers and mountaineers accessed the Blue Angel ice and rock climbing areas with motorized vehicles via a road in Castle River valley. The road was destroyed by a flood event, and subsequently climbers have used 4WD vehicles in the summer and snowmobiles in the winter to access the areas. We also understand the area has become popular with recreational OHV users, leading to concerns with environmental impact. I would encourage the Province to reinvest in the road similar to the model in the Ghost Public Land Use Zone (specifically, a road for licensed vehicles with an axle width of greater than 65 inches that allows snowmobile access to the staging areas in the winter.) I believe re-defining the road would limit the environmental impact and lead to a staging area that would provide access for many activities including climbing, skiing, and hiking.
I hope my issues with the Castle Parks Management Plan will be considered and reflected by changes in the final Park Management Plan. I also appreciate the openness of Alberta Environment and Parks and applaud the efforts to solicit feedback from park users and the recreational community.