Editorial – We love the north

Jeff Burgar

Driftwood recently washed up at Devonshire Beach. Would this happen at Sylvan Lake?

Many people from Alberta love to spend summer weeks taking holidays in the northern regions, in the Shuswap or Okanagan. There is also a clutch of southerners that love Saskatchewan’s Last Mountain Lake region.

Or northern Saskatchewan with about a million lakes. We here in Alberta have many places to “get away from it all.”

Over the past 20 or 30 years, the so-called “staycation,” has taken hold in our north country. This is the idea one does not have to travel far away for a nice holiday.

Our provincial government has accommodated such thinking, to a certain degree. In various years, roadside campgrounds were developed. Most are now closed under the argument they were too expensive. There has never been any kind of master plan we know of encouraging camping and boating on Alberta’s main rivers, at least as far as northern Alberta is concerned.

And of course, it’s almost a 50-50 chance a camper venturing into a provincial park will be welcomed with open arms. Or barraged with a gaggle of rules! Or both!

Most people who enjoy the very few Alberta lakes, or even lakes across North America, have learned the importance of natural lakefront habitats. Yes, there are still those who absolutely insist a summer vacation must involve a lovely sandy beach and sandy bottom swimming area. Preferably groomed and weedless. For the rest, grass is fine, as are floating docks in deeper water.

One popular such park, Hilliard’s Bay on Lesser Slave Lake, made history of a sort years ago when it was decided a small part of the small sandy beach would be seeded in grass. Take that, you silly beach lovers!

Most of the grass didn’t flourish. People being people, the beach got used anyway. Sort of a similar effort is currently underway at Slave Lake’s Class 1 [not many of those anyplace in Alberta!] beach, Devonshire. When cars, trucks and bonfires were allowed on the beach, it was usually spotless. Not that we are saying that was good or bad. Then fun was banned.

And now the photo shows the present day. Can you imagine how long this “look” would last at Sylvan Lake? It can also be found on Alberta rivers. Along with lots of sand for those determined.

There is talk of compromise at Devonshire. Some natural areas. Some not so natural.

Maybe one of these days such talks will be part of a more wide-ranging discussion of tourism right across northern Alberta. It’s long overdue.

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