Problems at trailhead growing worse
Jura Creek offers spectacular hiking and a beautiful and easily accessible slot canyon, but the lack of proper parking is creating a headache for the MD of Bighorn and Graymont.
Hikers have always parked on a gravel road near the Graymont lime plant east of Exshaw, however the number of people exploring the canyon has increased, leading to a larger number of vehicles including commercial tour buses stopping and parking alongside the 1A Highway.
MD of Bighorn Councillor Paul Ryan said the topic came up at a recent Bighorn Corridor Environmental Committee trucking subcommittee meeting.
“The MD will have to take a role because it is a safety issue. When you have vans and bus drivers unloading people on the side of the highway, it is a safety issue,” Ryan said.
Bighorn Reeve Dene Cooper said Alberta Transportation supports building a parking lot at Jura Creek, but he added, doing so is not simple as the land is on Crown land and will require a lease.
“Alberta Transportation has told us what that location will look like and where it will be located, you can’t just build a parking lot,” he said. “Someone would have to take responsibility.”
Graymont spokesperson Jennifer Lambert said the situation is growing worse.
“The volumes have increased considerably,” she said. “It is a huge safety hazard due to the fact that a lot of people, and it is not just the odd family coming to go out for the hike, you’ve got large bus loads of people that will come out and unload 20 or 30 children that want to go on the hike and they’re crossing the highway.”
Lambert said Graymont has four rock trucks each with two dump boxes hauling on average of 11 to 15 loads a day back-and-forth between its quarry at the Gap and the plant, which sits on the east edge of Jura Creek.
“From our standpoint we have no vested interest in it other than the safety of the general public. The last thing we would need to have anything go south because our name happens to be all over it because of where people choose to park,” she said.
Many hikers have stopped parking in front of the plant on a gravel access road, instead moving a short distance east to what has become an illegal parking lot.
“It’s an area that is cleared off but it looks like a place you can park that is easily accessible but that is just as dangerous,” Lambert said.
Graymont has offered material and equipment to the MD of Bighorn to help construct a parking lot when the time comes, Lambert said.
What is happening at Jura Creek is similar to what occurred at Rat’s Nest Cave, which led Alberta Transportation to build a parking lot off the 1A Highway in 2005.
“We’re looking for the potential of corrective measure but not taking action yet,” Cooper said, referring to Jura Creek.
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