Concerns grow for off-highway vehicle users in Castle Provincial Parks


 Hundreds Gathered for a town hall meeting in Bellevue Tuesday night to express concerns over the NDP’s future plans for the Castle Area, the most contentious issue: phasing out the use of off highway vehicles, Sarah Komadina reports.

A celebration for the Alberta government has turned into anguish for many off-highway vehicle enthusiasts.

Steps to strengthen protection in the Castle Wilderness area, about 250 kilometres from Calgary, include plans to phase out all OHV use in five years.

READ MORE: Off-highway vehicle enthusiasts fight proposed ban in new Alberta parks 

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“We have seen a lot of disturbance… And (in) year one, we would be closing the out the illegal trails,” Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said.

More than 600 people, travelling from Medicine Hat, Edmonton and Calgary turned out for a Town Hall meeting in Bellevue Tuesday to voice their concerns.

“There’s people that respect the trails, maintain them, there’s thousands of dollars and volunteer hours that go into maintaining those trails,” said Troy Dezall, a board member of the Alberta Off-Highway Association. “We have to be careful because if they block off one area, they will keep making their way up Alberta.”

“It just makes me almost terrified to think that my kids or other (people’s) kids may never get those memories again,” OHV enthusiast Kolby McCole said.

READ MORE: Alberta to expand Castle area parks, phase out off-highway vehicles

The NDP says the Castle Wildland Provincial Park and the new Castle Provincial Park will protect over 100,000 hectares of land and 200 rare or at-risk species.

The next phase involves two months of consultation to develop a firm management plan.

READ MORE: Doubts raised about plan to protect Alberta wilderness area 

“That is exactly why we put out a draft, to hear from the public and get comments on what people would like to see done,” Phillips said. “I have also received hundreds of letters to our ministry office.”

Phillips wasn’t at the meeting, but the opposition MLA for Livingstone-Macleod was, and he wants more time for feedback.

“I asked for a 120 days consultation… and for the government to come out in that 120-day period to hold that town hall, to give the general public, the end users who have never had the chance to be consulted, an opportunity to voice their opinions to perhaps offer better solutions,” MLA Pat Stier said.

READ MORE: Alberta government moves to protect vast Castle wilderness 

Many from the meeting are waiting for that solution. Hundreds have signed a petition and sent letters to get their point across.

“I think this sends a clear message to the government that we are concerned,” Dezall said. “They’re not listening to us. I don’t know who they’re listening to, but it’s not us.”

Alberta NDP, Wildland Provincial Park sparks anger to Remove ORV Trails

Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Anna Kroupina Photo
Premier of Alberta Rachel Notley speaks at the January 20th press conference at the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village Museum in Pincher Creek where the final boundaries for Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park were unveiled.
Pass Herald Reporter

“Lock her up.” The words, shouted out by a male heckler in the crowd, cut through the air during Premier of Alberta Rachel Notley’s speech for the unveiling of the final boundaries for Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park at the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village Museum in Pincher Creek on Jan. 20.

The provincial government’s announcement of the park’s boundaries and conditions were met with polarized responses of both backlash and support. Notley and Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips spoke to a full house of approximately 200 people at the Museum. Piikani Nation Chief Stanley Grier expressed the great significance the land holds to Piikani people, calling it a “historic day for this region.” Renee Richards out of Lethbridge spoke in support of the parks creation from the perspective of a frequent visitor to the area.

Castle Provincial Park and Wildland Park comprise approximately 1,000 square kilometers of protected land, intended to preserve the aquatic habitats and biodiversity in the area, including over 200 rare or at-risk species. The government will also continue working closely with Indigenous populations, for whom the Castle area holds meaningful cultural, historical and subsistent significance.

OHV phase-out

The parks welcome low-impact recreation activities like hiking, organized camping and regulated hunting, trapping and sport fishing. However, OHV enthusiasts feel their wishes and input have been blatantly disregarded and consider a phasing out unreasonable.

“Wild spaces have always been one of most precious treasures in Alberta. In our province, the landscape is part of who we are. We are campers, we are hikers, we are mountain bikers and we are much more,” said Notley, which prompted a yell of, “quadders, snowmobilers,” from a male in the crowd.

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The government has released a draft management plan for the parks in which they propose a two- to five-year phase-out of off-highway vehicle use on the trails, an outdoor sport that plays a vital role in the lifestyle and economy of the Crowsnest Pass and surrounding area.

Mayor of Crowsnest Pass Blair Painter said that the impact of OHV prohibition in Castle Park will be “huge” for the community, adding that “it drives our economy.”

Wildrose MLA for the Constituency of Livingstone Macleod Pat Stier echoes the sentiment.

“There will be some impacts, I believe, to businesses in the Crowsnest,” he says. “There will be impacts in terms of traffic, there will be concerns about a change of revenues to tourism industries down there. Even the off-highway vehicle distributors, I imagine, would be affected.”

Motorized sport enthusiasts and the towns that depend on OHV tourism feel shunned by the decision and express a blunt lack of consultation on the government’s part.

Although Phillips indicated that alternative infrastructure will be established in the area to accommodate OHV enthusiasts where they can take part in the sport “in places where it is environmentally responsible to have that activity,” president of the Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad Gary Clark sees a bleak future for motorized vehicle use in the area, considering that the Porcupine and Livingstone Range are also calling for the reduction of trails in the area.

“Why build more trails when you have a good, solid trail system now that can be further developed? That’s a much lower cost than building new trails,” he adds.

Clark says that the government is disregarding the important role that OHV use plays in the community.

continued below …

“They don’t seem to realize the economic benefits that OHV use brings into this community,” he says. “I just don’t understand where their heads are because they seem to be putting the cart before the horse.”

Since the group’s creation 20 years ago, the Quad Squad has been an instrumental player in promoting responsible OHV use, and creating and maintaining trails in the Castle area with the intent of ensuring the conversation and preservation of the forest, waterways and backcountry. The organization oversees over 1,300 km of trails in Southwest Alberta and has built over 30 bridges that protect fish habitats in the park area.

Clark concedes that as with anything, there are riders that stray off trails and don’t follow proper OHV regulations, but he encourages better enforcement and signage rather than punishing the entire OHV community for the mistakes of a few.

Insufficient consultation

The draft management plan has been designed following a consultation period that was launched after the initial announcement on Sep. 4, 2015. Minister Phillips stated that the government sought input from key stakeholders to inform the draft management plan, including environmental advocates, hunting and fishing advocates, the Alberta Off Highway Vehicles Association, as well as the Crowsnest Pass Quad Squad.

However, the Alberta Fish and Game Association and the Quad Squad have a very different impression of the government’s collaborative intent.

Clark indicates that while the government did make steps to seek his recommendations and opinion, his input was falling on deaf ears.
“I believe that they have tried to do a public consultation process, but I also feel that they haven’t listened to what we’ve been saying,” he says.
According to Clark, he had many concerns with the overall process that the decision was made.

continued below …

“I was put on the Management Board, which was supposed to be making recommendations to the government, and as far as I’m aware, I haven’t voted on any recommendations,” he says. “So I’m not sure why this board was even convened because the government is obviously not listening to what we are saying. That is my main disappointment with the NDP government.”

Brian Dingreville, 2nd vice president of the Alberta Fish and Game Association, expressed similar concerns, stating that the government released the draft management plan while discussions were still ongoing.

“Over the last several months, meetings took place with the provincial government with regards to a draft that we were supposed to come up with and present to the provincial government, which would then be brought forward to the public and we would be given opportunities to discuss it,” he said. “The meetings have not concluded, firstly, which is a total slap in the face because it tells me that they have no regard or any respect for any of the people that were involved in the working group.”
While hunting, fishing and trapping are still allowed under the draft regulations, Dingreville indicated that he has lost confidence in the government given that the Quad Squad was initially told that there would be OHV trails available for use.

“So does that mean that in a couple of years, we’re going to get booted out?” he says. “I have lost total respect for anything that they have said the past. I have no respect whatsoever for the NDP government at all. None.”

Pat Stier also expressed concern with the government’s lack of transparency and consultation with stakeholders.

continued below …

“I think there could have been a broader amount of consultation held throughout the province on such radical changes,” says Stier. “What is their long-range goal and plan? No one seems to know that. They just seem to be doing herky-jerky moves once in a while. I understand the worries and concerns of the business owners and the impacts to the Pass. I only hope that we can figure out a way to move forward and that it will help our economy and not negatively impact it.”

While the press conference was teeming with environmental advocates, children, the Piikani Nation and supporters of the parks creation, there was a general sense of being ignored on the side of OHV groups and other users of the Castle area. The Pass Herald received a call from the Notley office one hour prior. The Alberta Fish and Game Association was informed of the press conference the evening before it would take place, and The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass was informed only 18 hours prior.

“In my opinion, there was really no consultation between our two municipalities that this was going to take place or that we were fairly engaged with any portion of this consultation,” says Mayor of Crowsnest Pass Blair Painter.

“Ninety percent of the people involved in the working group are working people, so for us to make a decision to get to that would be very difficult. They had no regard for us as a working group whatsoever,” said Dingreville.

On the other hand, Piikani First Nation had time to prepare a dance for the press conference, and conservation activists such as Stephen Legault from Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative had time to make it to Pincher Creek from his place of residence in Canmore.
Draft planning

In addition to land use restrictions, a fee structure will also be discussed at the consultation phase of the project.

“The fee structure will most likely be similar to what we have in other parks,” says Rick Blackwood, Assistant Deputy Minister with Alberta Environment and Parks. “We try to have consistency across the parks system, but during the consultation phase those are all the types of things that we’re still trying to sort out.”

A 60-day online public consultation period has launched where the public can provide input on the parks’ features. While several sections included a box to type in an original response, the majority of questions require multiple-choice answers on a “strongly agree” to a “strongly disagree” scale. Concerning the use of OHVs in the park, it’s not a question of “if”; it’s a question of “is a transition period necessary?”

The public can participate in the Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park Draft Management Plan Survey here:

COHV Celebrating Canada’s 150 Birthday

Respecting the Environment and Sustainable Trail Development

Toronto, Ontario – The Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle Distributors Council (COHV) is taking part in Canada’s year-long Sesquicentennial Anniversary celebrations with the announcement of a $150,000.00 sustainable trail development funding program open to provincial ATV/ROV side-by-side and/or off-road motorcycle (ORM) Federations across Canada

The COHV grant contribution for the “Celebrate Canada 150 – Respecting the Environment and Sustainable Trail Development” funding program is up to 70 percent to build or refurbish motorized recreational vehicle trails in each province across Canada.

Projects involving construction, upgrade, renovation or rehabilitation of all-terrain vehicle / off-road motorcycle / ROV side-by-side vehicle trails are eligible.  More specifically these projects include:

  • New trail construction; Trail upgrade/improvement;
  • Bridge and water crossing installation and upgrade;
  • Trail signage installation;
  • Trail rehabilitation.

This funding program applies to the 2017 calendar year. As such, projects should be “shovel ready” and of a scope and size that can be completed by December 15, 2017 by the successful applicant.

Across Canada trails are stimulating tourism and recreation-related spending. Local trail users and visitors provide direct economic benefits to hotels, restaurants, retailers, gas stations and other businesses as a result of increases in trail activities.

COHV, its member companies and provincial federations want to leave a lasting legacy that will show Canadians we are proud of our accomplishments and what it takes to build an off-highway vehicle (OHV) trail that’s both fun and sustainable during Canada’s 150 year celebration.

For more information check out:


“EASTMAN 2017” Membership Renewal Time

 Riding Season is Fast Approaching!

It’s hard to believe that another year has passed by for Eastman ATV Association.  It was a very busy and productive 2016, with a very exciting riding season, the Ride for Mom, a lot of trail work and new members joining Eastman. We finished out the year with ninety two paid family memberships. We would like to thank you all personally for coming out and making Eastman a great group to ride with. We are laying out the groundwork for the future of our sport, as there is certain to be changes on the horizon to the locations where we can ride.

Please know that by supporting Eastman ATV Association and being an organized club we have a voice and an opportunity to show the general public that the sport of ATV riding can be a family sport and a great way to get out and safely explore this great Province of Manitoba.

We will be facing many new challenges in the coming year. By continuing to support Eastman and working as a team we are sure to accomplish great things for our sport and our communities. I would also like to hear ideas and ways we can improve our club, for all to use and benefit from for many years to come.

Please take the time to visit our website and fill out your membership application renewal for 2017, at The Annual General Meeting for Eastman ATV Association will be on April 2, 2017, we will be looking for you to come out and be involved! Please bring your ideas and support, as this is your club, be a part of its future.

By being a paid member of Eastman ATV Association, you are also a paid member of the All Terrain Vehicle Association of Manitoba (ATVMB).  The Annual General Meeting of the All Terrain Vehicle Association of Manitoba will take place on Saturday, March 18, 2017.  This is an opportunity to learn about what ATV Manitoba has been doing on behalf of all ATV Enthusiasts and to hear from guest speakers.

We will be looking for you on the trail this summer and please remember this is your club, as a paid member of Eastman ATV Association you have a vested right and an opportunity to make a difference and to be a part of the development and decision making process for the future of the ATV Community here in Manitoba.

Renewal Eastman Membership 2017

We accept Visa, Master Card and PayPal.

*** Please note the we will be handing out the membership cards at the Eastman ATV Association AGM in April. Date and location to be announced shortly. *** 

Thank you!
Deborah Nicol
President, Eastman ATV Association

Help support responsible riding, “Join Today”

ATVs are not toys

Highlighting the accomplishments and challenges of ATVing in Manitoba by  

Armando Brambilla sits on top of his ATVArmando Brambilla is the president of the All Terrain Vehicle Association of Manitoba (ATVMB).— Photo courtesy Armando Brambilla

The All Terrain Vehicle Association of Manitoba (ATVMB) was formed in 2009 to address the rapidly growing sport of ATV riding in Manitoba. Its mandate is to promote safe, respectful and environmentally conscious ATV use; to represent the interests of the ATV community in Manitoba; and to develop a designated ATV trail system in the province. Armando Brambilla is president of the ATVMB. He shared some information about what the association has accomplished and is currently working on, as well as what’s next.


ATVMB is pleased to report that we are seeing success in trail development, with two newly designated trails in southeastern Manitoba and additional projects in the works.


ATVMB will be submitting an application for funding that will cover trail projects in southeastern Manitoba managed by the Eastman ATV Association and the Woodridge ATV Sandhogs. Another project will be in the Interlake area, managed by the South Interlake ATV Club, and the Belair ATV Club will manage a trail project in the Belair Forest.


Lack of sufficient funding has been a major challenge. We are fortunate to receive an annual grant from the Canadian Off Highway Vehicle Distributors Council, which is how we manage to stay afloat. We have accomplished quite a lot with very limited revenue and are looking into various options for sustainable funding that will allow us to grow the organization, support ATVMB clubs and continue to develop designated trails across Manitoba.

We also struggle with club formation and low member numbers. There are over 34,000 registered machines in Manitoba; however, it seems that the majority of owners may not see the value in being organized. ATVMB is working hard to turn this around and is confident that as our designated trail system progresses, riders will see the value in membership.

On a positive note, we have a great working relationship with the Manitoba Government, and ATVMB is recognized as the “voice” of recreational ATVers in Manitoba.

An ATV drives on Interlake Pioneer TrailBrambilla recommends riding the Interlake Pioneer Trail, which runs through the heart of the Interlake region.— Photo courtesy Armando Brambilla


We believe young riders should be required to take an ATV rider safety course to ensure that they have a clear understanding of how to operate their machine, wear the proper riding gear and ride a size/weight appropriate machine. As much as people like to refer to them as such, ATVs are not toys.

Mandatory safety training would require a legislation change, which we believe will happen at some point in the future.


Manitoba has beautiful and varied landscapes which are a pleasure to explore. There is something I find extremely relaxing about cruising down a trail with friends and family, seeing the outdoors and stopping to enjoy a snack or lunch while socializing. These all have a very positive impact on my mental well-being.


A 45-minute drive east of Winnipeg has you on trails that allow you to experience the lifecycle of a forest. The trail begins in an area of low shrubbery, progresses to tall Jack pines and touches the shores of ancient Lake Agassiz, which is a wonderful scenic viewpoint.

If you head north of Winnipeg on Highway 59, you can ride in the Belair Forest among majestic Jack pines on miles of sandy trails. For a great destination ride, hit the Interlake Pioneer Trail, which runs through the heart of the Interlake region. This trail was once a rail line and is over 100 years old, thus giving the rider the experience of traveling the path of our ancestors. The 106-kilometre trail runs from Gross Isle to Fisher Branch and is a multi-use trail, enjoyed by motorized and non-motorized trail users in the summer and snowmobilers in the winter.


The best way to get involved is to join an ATVMB affiliated club or to form one in your own area of the province.

For local information, visit and for national information,

Manitoba Outdoors Show – Feb. 10 – 12, 2017

Eastman ATV Association will be promoting the Ride for Mom and Eastman at the Manitoba Outdoors Show.  Please come out and show support, man the post and have some fun meeting new people and talking about what we all know and love – ATVing!

Date – February 10th – 12th

Place – Red River Exhibition Place

Admission – Adults $10.00, Children 16 & Under FREE

Free Parking

Stage & Pool Demonstrations

Show Hours – Friday 4pm – 8pm, Saturday 11pm – 5pm, Sunday 11pm – 5pm

Ride for Mom June, 3, 2017

The Second Ride for Mom being hosted by Eastman ATV Association, is being held on June 3, 2017. Eastman will be supporting CancerCare Manitoba Foundation for Breast Cancer Research, where all funds raised stay in Manitoba.

If you would like to come out and be a huge part of this amazing event, we would appreciate your volunteer time. Please go to our site at and register today! We will place you where needed to help make the Ride for Mom a huge success.

If you have any questions, please contact me.

Deborah Nicol
Chair, Eastman ATV Association
Ride for Mom

21 Year Old Dies In Snowmobile Collision

When a 21-year-old male did not return home by snowmobile, after leaving a residence in Ile Des Chenes Monday night, his family members went looking for him.

The male was headed for home at approximately 10:30 pm December 19, but didn’t arrive. On December 20, at approximately 5:45 pm St. Pierre RCMP received a report of a snowmobile collision. The male driver of the snowmobile was located the next day in a ditch off of Highway 207 near the intersection of Pine Grove Road, in the RM of Tache. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Although he was wearing a helmet, poor weather conditions that night may have been a factor in the collision. RCMP say there was low visibility with heavy blowing snow that night. The investigation into the cause of the collision is still under investigation.

Category: Local News
Written by Tammy Plett


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