Province partners with Alpine Club of Canada for backcountry hut-system in Castle Parks

By Aaron Mahoney/Lethbridge News Now
April 16, 2018 - 4:39pm

LETHBRIDGE - Minister of Environment and Parks, Shannon Phillips, announced on Monday, April 16, that the Ministry of Parks is developing a world-class, backcountry hut-to-hut system in Castle Wildland Provincial Park in partnership with the Alpine Club of Canada.

The backcountry huts system will be comprised of three modern, sustainable huts in key locations - two in the south Castle area and one near Bovin Lake - and outhouse facilities will also be constructed at the sites.

One of the huts will be designed, constructed and located to be as fully accessible as possible for users with limited mobility, helping further break down barriers to parks access.

It will be the first accessible backcountry hut in Alberta's provincial parks.

"When the Castle Parks were created last year in the southwest corner of Alberta, it was a vision that those parks would provide valuable ecosystem functions with respect to headwaters protection. They were a 40-year long conservation ask on behalf of many different groups, including wilderness advocates, outdoor recreationists, and others," Phillips said.

The 103,000-hectare Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park were established in January 2017, and more than $20 million in funding over four years has been designated for access routes, inclusion projects, camping, signage, picnic areas and hiking trails in the parks.

"We also knew the area is a prime destination for many, many, Albertans and could be used to bolster the local economies in places like Pincher Creek, Crowsnest Pass, Lethbridge and elsewhere," Phillips continued. "Today's announcement is a continuation of that vision for those parks."

A release states the Alpine Club of Canada runs the largest network of backcountry huts in North America and has the required expertise to manage the hut system in Castle Wildland Provincial Park.

Total funding for the project is $700,000 over two years, and the ACC will be responsible for the operations, maintenance and administration of the backcountry huts.

Alpine Club of Canada Executive Director Lawrence White says they're excited to partner with the province of Alberta in bringing affordable backcountry accommodation to the public.

"This new recreational offering in Castle Wildland Provincial Park will be a draw for many Canadians who wish to experience the best of what Alberta's natural landscape provides," White said.

Construction and installation is set to begin in the spring of the first backcountry hut, with fall 2018 targeted as an opening date.

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