Bighorn seeks Jura Creek parking restriction
Thursday, Jun 13, 2013 06:00 am
The MD of Bighorn is asking the Province to restrict vehicle access to an informal trailhead at Jura Creek, a popular Bow Valley hike on Highway 1A east of Exshaw, to resolve an unsafe situation before someone is killed or injured.
Bighorn council approved a motion during a council meeting Tuesday (June 11) to formally ask Alberta Transportation and the RCMP to close the area to parking and to enforce traffic laws in the Jura Creek area to manage what has become a safety hazard.
The Jura Creek trail, which is not a formal, recognized trail, has long been a destination for serious hikers, families, tour operators and geology field schools. A quick search of the Internet turns up numerous references to Jura Creek which, aside from the parking issues, is easily reached, beautiful and offers remarkable geological features, including fossils and a short slot canyon.
The Canmore Museum and Geoscience Centre offers a Jura Creek brochure along with guided tours, although those hikes are not being offered this season.
Even the MD of Bighorn has Jura Creek listed on its website, along with Heart Creek trail and Grotto Canyon, on its Things to Do page as “popular destinations.”
And the trail is growing in popularity. But that is creating a larger problem as more people park their cars in the ditch, under the power line and along the access road to the Graymont plant. The plant sits across the highway from the trailhead.
Buses are also known to stop along the highway and unload passengers who then cross the highway.
All of that, combined with the large trucks connected to the region’s rock industry that travel the highway, has municipal officials concerned about public safety.
Both Bighorn Reeve Dene Cooper and Councillor Paul Ryan said the mix of heavy truck traffic and recreational motorists at the site is a hazard.
“It is a safety issue now. I’m very concerned about safety on that road,” Ryan said.
Prior to Tuesday’s decision, the MD had been working with the Province to build a parking lot at Jura Creek, with Graymont offering equipment and materials to help construct it.
Alberta Transportation had provided a design for the intersection and parking lot, however, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development required the MD to undertake a land survey and a First Nation’s consultation process, as part of the requirements to approve a lease.
The survey alone was expected to cost $7,500, according to Bighorn’s Chief Administrative Officer Martin Buckley.
Buckley said the MD requested those conditions be waived, but he added SRD refused.
“We understand that Edmonton is stringent on these requirements and will not waive them,” Buckley said, adding the MD needed to “step away from trying to acquire a disposition on that land and instead seek Alberta Transportation and the RCMP to enforce regulations.”
And as traffic and highways are a provincial responsibility, Buckley noted the MD should not use tax dollars to fix a provincial problem.
Instead, he said, the MD had little choice but to request the access points be closed and enforced to ensure safety.
“There is a feeling, however, that the MD cannot completely walk away from a safety issue, regardless of whether it’s our jurisdiction or the Province’s,” Buckley wrote in a report to council.
Jennifer Lambert, a Graymont spokesperson, said the MD’s move to request the informal parking areas be closed and enforced is a good start, but she added she’s concerned that will only push the problem elsewhere.
“The question is where does that push it to? Where will people park to access Jura Creek?” Lambert asked.
She said she expects the number of vehicles parked along the Graymont access road will likely increase, especially as organizations like the Canmore Museum promote the hike and parking at that location.
Museum Director Debbie Carrico said Wednesday (June 12) the museum plans to pull the Jura Creek brochure from its shelves and from its website.
“It will hurt us financially,” Carrico said. “It will have a definite effect on our programming.”
While the museum uses its brochure and guided hikes as fundraisers, Carrico said Jura Creek also represents a key location to share the geology of the Bow Valley.
“It’s an important location for sharing the geology of the Bow Valley region. It has the geological significance to what we do and who we are,” she said.
Canmore RCMP Sgt. Ryan Currie said once they received the MD’s formal request for enforcement at the Jura Creek site, the detachment would begin with an education campaign before moving towards tickets and fines.
“It’s not fair to change something and then start writing tickets,” he said. “If people have been allowed to do it forever, I don’t think we’d go out there and change it immediately with fines.”
Currie said according to the Traffic Safety Act, stopping or parking on a boulevard, meridian or ditch could result in a $57 fine. A judge has the authority to change that amount, he said.
Buckley said the MD administration plans to notify user groups or organizations that would be affected by this decision.