Original Published on Sep 07, 2022 at 14:34
By Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
In late 2020, Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) offered the Town of Swan Hills the opportunity to bid on the leases to run the Freeman River, Trapper Lea’s, and Edith Lake provincial campgrounds. The Town had existing agreements to run the Krause Lake group campsite and Freeman Lake campgrounds at the time, with Krause Lake being overseen by the Swan Hills Golf and Country Club. The Chrystina Lake campground had been maintained by the Swan Hills Treatment Centre, operated by SUEZ (now Veolia), but they were unsure if that would continue going forward due to the staffing cuts that had been announced a couple of months earlier.
The Freeman River, Trapper Lea’s, and Edith Lake campgrounds had not been maintained by the province for about a year by this time and were in need of maintenance and repairs. The Town would have liked to be able to secure all of the campgrounds in the area but could not afford to shoulder the cost and employee hours to manage all of these sites. In addition, the Town especially could not afford to independently carry out the necessary maintenance or make all the required repairs. With these considerations in mind, the Town decided to focus on the Freeman River and Trapper Lea’s campgrounds while inquiring as to whether SUEZ would be interested in carrying on with maintaining Chrystina Lake.
Over the next few months, the Town secured an agreement with SUEZ to continue looking after the Chrystina Lake campground for the next five years. By the end of April 2021, The Town had negotiated five-year lease agreements for Freeman River, Trapper Lea’s Cabin, and Chrystina Lake campgrounds with the option for a five-year extension. As part of these agreements, AEP committed to performing significant maintenance and repairs, including replacing the cookshack and vault toilets at Trapper Lea’s and the Freeman River’s vault toilets. The agreements also included providing furnishings (fire pits, picnic tables, garbage cans, etc.) in good working order based on AEP’s available inventory.
While concrete completion dates for the improvements to the listed sites were not part of the agreements, the province has made significant improvements to the campgrounds in the Swan Hills area, with further enhancements planned going forward. According to Bridget Burgess, Communications Advisor with AEP, “Alberta Environment and Parks is committed to supporting conservation and creating outdoor recreation opportunities for Albertans to enjoy.” As such, they are investing $970,000 to refurbish campsites and infrastructure in the region (including the Eagle River Campground).
Here’s a brief rundown of AEP’s completed and planned improvements to the campgrounds in the Swan Hills area:
· Freeman River: The vault toilet has been replaced.
· Freeman Lake: There have been some improvements to the toilets with plans to replace them entirely. The existing campground will be refurbished to create more sites, the garbage bins will be replaced, and parts of the road will be repaired to modernize the campground.
· Krause Lake: The fallen trees knocked down from a microburst a couple of seasons ago were cleaned up with the wood donated to service campgrounds in the area. Sections of the open-hearth fireplace are to be refurbished, including reinstalling the mortar and stone masonry.
· Trapper Lea’s: The cookshack and the vault toilets have been replaced. A fence has also been erected around Trapper Lea’s cabin for safety reasons as the building is no longer sound.
AEP has also purchased bear-proof Hid-A-Bag bins and will be installing them at Freeman and Krause Lakes after the Labour Day long weekend.
Things are definitely looking up for the campgrounds in the Swan Hills area, be sure to check them out when you have the chance.