Wapiti Recreation Area Management Plan
Over the past 50 years, various organizations have extracted gravel from the public lands in the Wapiti River Valley. Today, all but one of the gravel pits (leases) have been depleted.
In August 2016, working in close consultation with Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) and Alberta Transportation, the County of Grande Prairie Council approved a draft Management Plan for the Wapiti Recreation Area (also known locally as the depleted Wapiti gravel leases).
The Plan: to provide low-impact outdoor recreational opportunities through remediation of the gravel pits, resulting in the creation of new habitat and ecosystems.
Where: the land includes the 130 hectares of gravel leases on the north side of the Wapiti River, south of the power line, east of Highway 40, and west of the water line running from the Aquatera water storage site to Grande Prairie.
How will development be phased? The 75-hectare portion (Phase I) closest to Highway 40 is fully depleted of its gravel. The remaining 55-hectare gravel pit (Phase II) to the east will not be ready to convert to recreational use until the rest of the gravel has been extracted by the holder of the existing lease, Wapiti Gravel Suppliers.
The area is located within a Key Wildlife and Biodiversity Zone (KWBZ), meaning there are several environmental sensitivities in the area. Permitted recreational opportunities must minimize disturbances to land and wildlife and must encourage remediation of the natural ecosystem.
With thorough planning and proper management, the land will become a unique recreational resource that will encourage enjoyment of the natural world and environmental stewardship. Activities proposed include snowshoeing, walking and cycling trails; a picnic area; a playground; an outdoor classroom; and an Indigenous component. After the gravel is depleted from the second portion, fishing from a dock and non-motorized watercraft will be allowed in a newly constructed waterbody.
Possible plans include future connectivity to a non-motorized trail from Clairmont to the Nitehawk Year-Round Adventure Park. Also under consideration for the area in general (requiring further research and consultation), are a mountain bike park, an off-leash dog area, a space designed for camping or tenting, and possibly model airplane activities.
Due to environmental sensitivity, the Province has mandated that no motorized vehicles or hunting will be allowed anywhere in the Wapiti Recreation Area.
Public consultation on the Wapiti Recreation Area Management Plan took place in November 2017 and included a public meeting followed by an online survey (the survey was open to all residents, landowners and recreation users in the County of Grande Prairie, City of Grande Prairie, MD of Greenview and surrounding municipalities). Prior to that, the County obtained confirmation from the Aboriginal Consultation Office that adequate consultation had taken place with Horse Lake First Nation.
Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) gave verbal confirmation that it is now in the process of assigning the recreation lease in the County’s name, thereby giving the County responsibility for the site. Once the County receives official word, it will commence work on the site. County Council approved $150,000 for the development of an Implementation Plan in its 2018 interim budget.
Site development will be completed in stages, as one gravel pit is still in use. The Province has identified the area as environmentally sensitive, so no motorized vehicles or hunting will be allowed. Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV) will still be allowed on unoccupied public (crown) lands north of the gravel leases, which are under provincial jurisdiction.
The first stage of development includes multi-use trails for snowshoeing, walking and cycling, as well as a day-use area. Additional components will be determined upon further analysis of public feedback. The County’s Parks & Recreation department anticipates working with local special interest groups as part of this process.
For more information about the Wapiti Recreation Area Management Plan, contact Christine Rawlins, Parks and Recreation Manager at 780-532-9727 or by email at email@example.com.