Heading to the Ghost Country for free random camping on Crown land will be a thing of the past if Bill 64 passes through the Alberta Legislative Assembly.
The Alberta Government has proposed establishing fees for random camping in the Eastern Slopes, including popular nearby locations.
Starting June 1, it is proposed each camper, 18 years and older, would be required to pay $23.25 plus GST for a 3-day camping pass and $33.25 plus GST for an annual pass.
The pass would be required to random camp on public lands in the Eastern Slopes from Grande Prairie to Waterton Lakes National Park and includes any random camping on Crown land west of Hwy. 22 (see map below).
The passes would have to be purchased in advance online or at any location selling fishing and hunting licences.
Alberta Environment and Parks minister Jason Nixon says the fees collected will be used to upgrade infrastructure, improve education, fund conservation officers on the ground, enhance public safety, and ensure better environmental and waste management.
Press secretary Paul Hamnett says net revenue from the passes is expected to reach $1.7 million in the first year and climb to $2.7 million in subsequent years as compliance increases.
Hamnett says fees haven't been charged for at least the last few decades, dating back to when it was administered by the Alberta Forestry Service.
"The popularity of random camping has grown substantially in recent years, resulting in increased activities that have an impact on the environment (i.e. damage to lands or garbage) and issues related to managing people, such as camping beyond 14 days (or squatting) and dealing with human waste," he says in a written statement.
The government previously announced the hiring of 50 additional parks and land employees, including 20 new conservation officers.
In March, the government also confirmed there would be two full-time recreation engagement officers in the Ghost this season. There was one last season.
Campers will be asked to show proof of payment (printed pass or mobile app) to enforcement officers if asked. Initially, campers may be provided information but compliance will come to be expected, and fines will be issued, if necessary.
The fees will not be charged if camping on public land outside of the camping pass area or in a campground, using public land for the day for other recreational activities, and accessing public land for authorized work or volunteer duties
First Nations people with Status cards will be exempt, and north of the Red Deer River it would not apply to Metis Settlement members, recognized Métis harvesters, and Aseniwuche Winewak Nation (Grande Cache area) members.