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Reflections on the GSMG Open House
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TOPIC: Reflections on the GSMG Open House
#265
Reflections on the GSMG Open House 5 Years ago  
N.B. The following was written as a personal opinion piece as a member-at-large.

This past week I took the opportunity to visit the Ghost Stewardship Monitoring Group (GSMG) annual open house in order to get a sense of the positions taken by various stakeholders involved. I had conversations with representatives from the Ghost Watershed Alliance Society, the Climbers’ Access Society of Alberta (CASA), the Rocky Mountain Land Cruiser 4x4 Association (RMLCA), Calgary Dirt Riders, the Municipal District of Bighorn, the Alberta Wilderness Association, and Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (AESRD). This only represents about a third of the signatories that form the GSMG, and what a diverse group it is. After speaking with several individuals, it was apparent that it is simply not possible to have 100% agreement amongst the various user groups. But they are all passionate about maintaining responsible access to this area, and some, such as the dirt biker representative, emphasized the value of educating their respective membership to stay on designated trails.

From a climber’s perspective, the Ghost represents some of the best ice climbing in the world, and a unique rock climbing experience that is very different from the Bow Valley. While climbers and other soft-tread users have often been diametrically opposed to ATVers, we do not live in a simple world, where it is pedal heads versus metal heads, or self-propelled versus motorized. The RMLCA representative gave me a refined perspective on the disagreements they have had with other motorized user groups. He pointed out that single-track dirt riders crave a very different track from quadders, who in turn do not want the same terrain as the 4x4 group. With so many different ideas on what access means, and a past history of dissension, it is no small feat that the GSMG continues the fight for maintaining responsible access to the Ghost.

I also spoke at length with the AESRD representative. I told him that I had taken three hours to fill out the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) survey, but the cynic in me had little faith that individual submissions were going to be considered. We spoke at length about some of the recent and upcoming changes within the provincial government that may impact climbers’ access. The suite of changes includes the merger of Alberta Environment with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (ASRD), the change in enforcement from ASRD to Alberta Justice, the impact of moving to a single energy regulator, and the upcoming provincial budget cuts. While I actually came out of this discussion feeling a bit more optimistic that access beyond the Big Hill would be unchanged, it was countered by the strong potential for significant personnel changes within the government, which could reset the clock and potentially nullify many of the past efforts of CASA.

As a bottom line for climbers, hikers, scramblers, and mountain bikers, there may come a time in the near future where the soft-tread community must mobilize on short notice to provide volunteers for critical activities, such as the annual stream survey or trail maintenance in the Ghost. You may also be compelled to provide input on future public consultations. And while the Ghost has been the focal point of much of the discussion on climbers’ access in Alberta, respondents to an informal survey I posted have also indicated they are also concerned with maintaining access to the Castle area and within the Bow Valley. Further to this, staying on designated trails in the Ghost, not just out of respect for the existing regulations, but also out of respect for your fellow climbers is imperative. Quite simply, we do not want to give the opportunity for an uninformed politician to paint us with the broad brush as those we criticize.
Ken Lee
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#267
Re:Reflections on the GSMG Open House 5 Years ago  
Well put, Ken.

Thanks for letting us know how the open house went!
Mark Carlson
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