The McKinnon Flats Stewardship/Partnership Proposal was initiated by Calgary Fish & Game Association (CFGA) in April 2020 as a response to the release of the Alberta Environment & Parks (AEP) proposed alternative management initiatives for existing park property considered for removal from the Alberta Parks System. The AEP Lands Branch Recreation Area – McKinnon Flats river access and recreational use property had been considered for future Alberta Parks development with a new road construction as a part of the Bow River Access Plan Therefore, the CFGA advanced an “Expression of Interest” to explore a partnership in the development of policy and management for McKinnon Flats under either current public land use and/or a possible future Alberta Parks designation.
The new McKinnon Flats road is under construction in the fall of 2020, and once complete in December will allow for an expanded seasonal use of the property. The CFGA – McKinnon Flats Stakeholder Proposal presents the case for an alliance of stakeholders to forge a master development plan to protect the historical and archaeological importance of the property while meeting the needs for expanded recreational use.
Discussions have taken place between AEP and CFGA to explore what could be accomplished within a stewardship/ partnership agreement. The first step was to define supplemental capital improvements needed to maintain the integrative of the property. The McKinnon Flats Capital Improvement Projects proposal was prepared to prioritize infrastructure improvements to meet not only river access and enhance recreation use but also protect sensitive wildlife habitat and historical artifacts.
Priority 1 Developments
- River Access Site Restrictions– The focus of site improvements is to contain vehicles into a designated river access staging and short-term parking area and restrict access to the downstream river edge gravel bar and shift long-term parking to a new parking lot.
- A New Parking Lot – The existing overflow parking lot will need to be reconfigured to accommodate 20 or more truck-trailer units and an equal number of single-vehicle units.
- Homestead Site Development – There is a need to prepare a development plan to recognize the historical importance of the McKinnon family and plan for the LK Ranch homestead site to become a western heritage interpretation center.
Although not discussed in the McKinnon Flats Capital Improvement Project proposal, it is evident that security is fundamental to the protection of infrastructure improvements and wildlife habitats at the property. Therefore, the following items are added to Priority 1 Development:
- Property Restrictions – Lockable gates at the entrance to the McKinnon Flats property, and possibly at the entrance to the river access staging area and the entrance to the homestead site. Possible electronic surveillance and secure perimeter fencing may be considered.
- Law Enforcement – An enhanced law enforcement commitment by local government agencies.
Priority 2 Developments:
Expansion and enhancement of recreational opportunities will be dependent on the development of a McKinnon Flats Master Plan (MFMP) by stakeholders. A master plan is needed to guide future site development within a recreational land use lease agreement. CFGA believes a property maintenance agreement can be developed to support Priority 1 Developments, but a more comprehensive land use disposition will likely be needed for an expanded range of recreational pursuits.
The following lists current and future development opportunities:
- General Social Gatherings – McKinnon Flats has become a recreational playground for local communities. Langdon, and to some degree Chestermere residents are the prime users. With increased use, amenities, such as garbage bins and picnic tables need to be considered.
- Casual Water Sport Activities – Access to the river and the activities it brings, such as float-tubing along the full length of the shoreline is an attractive pastime. Vehicle containment within parking lots will make a need for a pathway system along the shoreline.
- Mountain Bike Trail Use – An increasing outdoor pursuit at the property. A system of designated trails and their upkeep needs to be managed by local groups under MFMP guidelines. Conflicts with walkers, dogs, and horses need to be avoided with multi-user trail designations.
- Wildlife Watching & Photography – The abundance of wildlife and the tranquility of the property needs to be maintained within the scope of a multi-use recreation property.
- Camping – Consideration needs to be given to a payer-use camping facility as well as casual overnight camping sites for river users.
- Hunting – Big game bow-hunting and game-bird hunting is now possible on the property. The new road will extend river access later into the fall and allow for Bow River waterfowl hunting from the property that starts in November each year. Regulation change and site-specific restrictions may be needed to accommodate expanded hunting opportunities.
- An Interpretive Centre – An historical and archaeological interpretive centre could be developed to meet both education and site administration needs.
- Winter Sports Activities – A variety of winter outdoor could be integrated into the MFMP
- Seasonal Grazing – Cattle grazing would offer income while alleviating the risk id grass fires. Cross-fencing of the property will be needed.
The Calgary Fish & Game Association decision to move forward on this initiative to spearhead the McKinnon Flats Stewardship Alliance is dependent on support from stakeholder groups and the development of a McKinnon Flats Master Plan that meets recreation needs and the GOA objectives for the property development and maintenance.
A Public Lands Stewardship Agreement will be needed to be in place by the end of 2020 to apply for grants to complete Priority 1 Developments projects and property maintenance in 2021.
A more detailed Public Lands Disposition/Leese Agreement is possible in the future that would allow for Priority 2 Developments. This will only be possible with a formalized stakeholder agreement and a commitment to secure sufficient funding to meet financial commitments as the holder of the lease.