During the summer months, Aspen Beach Provincial Park, located about 15 minutes west of Lacombe along Gull Lake, is full of sun seekers and water recreationalists.
In the winter the provincial park is home to ice fishing, snowshoeing and several groomed trails for cross-country ski enthusiasts.
It is the recent actions of recreationalists during these winter months that’s leaving Alberta Parks conservationists scratching their heads.
District Conservation Officer of the Red Deer District Parks Enforcement Branch Logan Van Imschoot said there have been individuals illegally operating off highway vehicles (OHVs) within the provincial park.
“This has caused damage to parkland and the groomed ski trails,” he said. “Aspen Beach Provincial Park has very sensitive wetlands and shorelines that are habitat to a variety of species. Alberta Parks wants to protect and preserve these lands for wildlife and maintain the natural habitat of the provincial park.”
The use of OHVs, including all-terrain vehicles like quads, side-by-sides and snowmobiles, in the provincial park is illegal according to provincial parks regulations. Any use of a motorized vehicle within the boundary is strictly prohibited and does come with an attached fine.
The use of OHVs along provincial highways, like Hwy. 12, is also illegal according to the Traffic Safety Act. This includes the highway surface and ditches parallel to the highway.
Van Imschoot describes the illegal use as ‘excessive’, and ‘intentional’. Individuals are going to the extent to move barricades to enter the park and are blatantly ignoring the yellow signs marking the provincial park boundary. Others are entering the park from the nearby highway.
The illegal use has been not only damaging the land but also putting a hamper in maintaining the cross-country ski trails, officials said. Alberta Parks has been attempting to establish a cross-country ski program at Aspen Beach, but the initiative has been met with lots of vandalism. The program is volunteer run.
For this reason, Aspen Beach Provincial Park does not have an area for individuals to unload or load their OHVs. Access for this purpose can be found at Brownlow’s Landing and other specified locations around the lake.
So far conservation officers have issued several violation tickets to those on OHVs caught in the park. The next enforcement step after a violation ticket is a seizure of the OHV itself.
Van Imschoot would like to remind individuals visiting the area to be respectful of the provincial park by not operating OHVs or motor vehicles for the purpose of off-roading within the provincial park boundary.
“Other activities such as dog walking and snowshoeing can cause damage in these areas,” he said. “Please remember to keep your dogs on a leash at all times and stay off the groomed cross-country ski trails.”
Residents in the area are encouraged to report if they see anyone operating an OHV within the provincial park limits to the 24-hour enforcement line at 403-350-5066.
For more information about Aspen Beach Provincial Park call 403-748-3939.