Sylvan Lake Provincial Park may soon become part of the Town’s portfolio once more.
On Monday evening during a Regular Meeting of Council at the Municipal Government Building in Sylvan Lake, Chief Administrative Officer, Betty Osmond received unanimous approval from the Mayor and Council to move forward with a formal proposal to the Province for the divestiture of the park.
Sylvan Lake Provincial Park, located on the south shore of the lake, runs parallel to the Town of Sylvan Lake’s downtown district and the recently developed Centennial Park and is a popular destination for an estimated 761,223 visitors annually.
Established in 1932 shortly after the Provincial Parks and Protected Areas Act, the park was part of the Province’s portfolio until it was transferred to the Town in the early 60’s. The ping pong park was later reinstated as a provincial park in 1980. In 2009 the Province and the Town agreed upon the deregulation of the Centennial Park portion of the Sylvan Lake Provincial Park with an agreement stating the land must remain and be maintained for public recreation purposes.
In the same year the Town received ownership of Lakeshore Drive from the province and embarked on a downtown redevelopment project. The $24,000,000 project saw the realignment and development of the iconic lakeside roadway which is set to be fully completed by 2017.
Administration from the Town of Sylvan Lake and Alberta Parks have been working closely over the past eight years to determine the intent of the provincial park and the most appropriate uses for the park. According to a report from Director of Community Services, Ron Lebsack, presented to Council during the meeting – over the past two years discussions between the Town and the Province have seen increased interest in moving the lands from a provincial park to a municipal park.
“These ongoing discussions and communications have resulted in the administrations reaching an agreement in principle on the transfer of the lands,” said Lebsack in the report. He explained the Town will seek to enter into an agreement for the acquisition of the park lands similar to the agreement signed with Centennial Park which will see the lands maintained and preserved for public recreation.
“The Town of Sylvan Lake is looking to diversify our economy in an area we already have strength, that being tourism,” said Lebsack. “The Town has a proven track record of developing, operating and maintaining lands for public recreation and tourism.”
In the report, Lebsack also references the creation of Rotary Lighthouse Park expressing an interest by the Town to connect the area to the provincial park via an uninterrupted pathway. The Town’s recent $5.2 million acquisition of the former Wild Rapids Waterslide Park also came with a commitment to preserve the land for public recreation. The Town is currently looking into acquiring other lakefront assets for public recreation.
“The acquisition of the Provincial Park lands would allow for us to do a complete, integrated plan for the entire area with the goal of ensuring public access to the lakefront,” said Lebsack in the report.
He added part of the motivation for the request is a desire to meet public service expectations. Lebsack explained the Town continues to receive complaints regarding the general condition of the park along with a lack of upkeep and maintenance to the trail system and the undulating ground contours around the retaining wall edges. The Town also receives a number of complaints each year regard regarding lack of enforcement within the park. There is a degree of confusion over the laws, bylaws and enforcement.
“As a municipal park, the Town would then be able to address the enforcement, maintenance and safety concerns and provide much needed, ongoing preventative maintenance for the park,” said Lebsack.
Discussion of the pier also took place during the discussion in Council Chambers. As the entity falls under the category of a man-made structure located on the bed and shore of the lake, the Province would be unable to transfer ownership. The two parties have discussed the notion of the Town obtaining all bed and shore along the existing Sylvan Lake Provincial Park, including the pier, under a long term License of Occupation and the Province is in favour of pursuing this type of agreement.
Lebsack explained the Town’s request to acquire the acquire the Provincial Park does include a financial request component from the Province that is necessary to lessen the impact on local tax payers.
“We believe this is justified as the park will continue to be a major attraction to Albertans,” he added, explaining the request to the Province has outline the costs associated with the the Town’s acquisition of the Park in the amount of $1.96 million.
“The transfer of land will increase access to the lake, create opportunities to better manage park visitor experience, and contribute to the ongoing municipal efforts to expand local tourism economy,” said Mayor Sean McIntyre. “We’re anticipating a complete, integrated plan for the entire waterfront area, with the goal of ensuring quality public access to the lakefront.”
Jarvis Bay Provincial Park, located just North of the Town of Sylvan Lake, will remain a provincial park under the government’s care.