Bullets, garbage and waste among concerns in wilderness west of Calgary

Fecal matter, bullets and the debris from target practice, crowded camping too close to water, garbage, burned and damaged trees — those are some of the problems highlighted by the Ghost Watershed Alliance Society in a new report. 

The not-for-profit group says the area just northwest of Calgary is being hurt by a surge in pandemic-era camping and a disrespect of the land. 

It wants to see more camping facilities built, garbage bins and toilets installed, dumping stations for human waste from RVs, more enforcement and even the creation of shooting ranges. 

“We would notice every single side road or possible place you could pull off the road there would be a tent or an RV or a truck or some kind of evidence of recreation, said Sharlene Fritz, a member of the society. 

“And so they were just packed. And then there’s one seven-kilometre stretch on the way, Facilely Road. On one August Saturday, we were coming back and we counted 198 vehicles just in that seven-kilometre stretch.”

The report includes pictures collected during random visits to random camping sites that show makeshift toilets, waste and toilet paper spread throughout the forest, the burned remnants of target practice and more. 

Some of the spent ammunition found by the Ghost Watershed Alliance Society this past summer. (Ghost Watershed Alliance Society)

The group says it has gotten worse as crowds flock from nearby Calgary amidst ongoing restrictions from COVID-19.

It also says there are concerns about the impact on water quality in the area and the impact that could have on downstream communities, including Calgary. 

The society has sent its concerns to Jason Nixon, the minister of environment and parks, as well as the local MLA, Miranda Rosin. 

Neither Nixon nor Rosin responded to requests for an interview, but Nixon has expressed concerns about the behaviour of some people in Alberta’s wild places this summer. 

“We’ve seen an increase in unsafe and irresponsible behaviour on the part of some visitors,” he said.

“This includes garbage left behind, parking on roadways, blocking emergency vehicle access, illegal campfires, criminal behaviour and completely dangerous and harmful activities. This is in no way acceptable.”

The Ghost Watershed Alliance Society says a cost sharing model should be explored to improve and construct facilities. 

“We are strongly encouraging exploration of a recreation economic model that may include both government and user contributions,” reads the report. 

One idea floated by the group is a licence for random camping on Crown land, similar to a hunter’s licence, with fees going toward capital investment, maintenance, upgrades, eduction of users and enforcement. 

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