The McKinnon Flats Stewardship Partnership is a result of discussions between Calgary Fish & Game Association (CFGA) and Alberta Environment & Parks (AEP) dating back to the Spring of 2020 when proposed alternative management initiatives for existing park and provincial recreation property were being considered. 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. The McKinnon Flats Stewardship Partnership (MFSP) agreement came into effect in January 2021 where both parties will collaborate on a Master Development Plan for the recreational property into the future.
The new McKinnon Flats road construction was completed in December of 2020 and once opened to the public in the spring of 2021 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.
The first step of the MFSP 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.
River Access Restrictions and Parking Lot Expansion:
Expansion of the overflow parking is not considered viable under existing development constraints. Therefore, the focus is to integrate expanded parking into a designated riverfront parking and river access site. The proposal will double the parking assignment, a staging area to prepare boats for river access and a laneway across the gravel bar to the river edge. Large rooks and a fence will be used to contain vehicle traffic within the site. Excavation work is planned for the Fall of 2021. with completion in 2022.
Priority 2 Developments:
Expansion and enhancement of recreational opportunities will be dependent on the development of the McKinnon Flats Master Plan (MFMP) by and expanded group of 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.