Athabasca’s (Alberta) Tourism and Economic Development (TED) Committee is not happy about Athabasca County introducing a moratorium on new or expanded RV parks, according to the Athabasca Advocate

TED Committee members requested the June 20 meeting to have their Athabasca County representatives, Deputy Reeve Warren Griffin and Councilor Penny Stewart, relay concerns about the lack of consultation on the moratorium back to county council. The concerns arise after county council voted during its June 12 meeting to introduce a moratorium on applications for new RV parks and RV park expansions within Athabasca County.

Boyle mayor and TED committee member Colin Derko said he was a bit insulted the county did not consult the committee before making this decision.

“We probably should have had some input,” Derko said during the meeting. “I put my reputation and my council’s reputation on the line based on the fact that we’re here trying to drive tourism and economic development and all of a sudden one of our tools has been taken away from us.”

Stewart said she does not disagree with the concern, but noted it was not a decision county council made lightly. She explained the county made its decision due to the difficulties with handling the negative effects of all the the RVs that come to Athabasca County in the summer.

“This has been very contentious within the county and it wasn’t an easy decision. But we have some issues in some areas of the county that are out of control,” Steward said during the TED meeting. “Wandering River, who has probably a population of about 800, goes to 3,200 in the summer. You want to talk about density and impact on those residents. They stay here, they don’t pay taxes, they don’t really contribute, they beat up our infrastructure.”

Stewart added the county does not have the sewage facilities, dust control and bylaw enforcement in place to handle all of the extra population. The measure is temporary until the county can review and change its land use bylaw to address the issues, Stewart said.

However, TED committee member at-large Garry Szmyrko said there is an economic benefit to people visiting Athabasca County in RVs.

“What people don’t understand, if you don’t have that level of tourism you’ll never have future economic growth,” Szmyrko said, adding the people who visit Athabasca County in the summer do contribute to the local economy. “Those people come with maybe a cooler of food, but they’re buying gas, they’re buying services, most of them even buy their groceries.”

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