Park Place Lodge
RDEK Regional Parks

The RDEK Regional Parks Plan is being amended to include two new parks: the Morrissey River Access in Electoral Area A and Elko River Access in Electoral Area B.

The RDEK is working with Tourism Fernie on the development of both river accesses, which are expected to see upgrades in 2024 and will be maintained seasonally through the AmbassadorWild program.

RDEK Regional Parks

In the early 1970s, the RDEK embarked on developing its regional parks system, initially acquiring crown lands at Wycliffe and Tie Lake for park facilities. Despite a significant study in 1975, no formal park plan or implementation strategy was adopted. The present regional parks system reached completion in the mid-1980s, culminating with the inclusion of the Elk Valley and West Fernie Regional Parks. In 1990, regional parks functioned as an extended service for funding, evolving further with the adoption of Electoral Area Regional Parks and Trails Service Area Establishment Bylaws in 2004, streamlining financing for new parks and trails.

As the regulatory framework expands to manage a growing system, the necessity for a comprehensive Regional Parks Plan becomes evident. In 2022, in response to outcomes from the RDEK A Sustainable Tourism Project and Fernie’s Tourism Master Plan, the AmbassadorWILD program was launched.

Fernie and the surrounding Regional District of the East Kootenay Area A region have witnessed sustained growth in tourism and recreation over the past decade, intensifying amidst the pandemic. This surge in outdoor activity usage necessitates collaborative efforts to address various needs and challenges for long-term success and sustainability.

Under the stewardship of Tourism Fernie, the Project receives vital funding from RDEK, thanks to the support of Area A Director Thomas McDonald. Director McDonald expresses satisfaction with Tourism Fernie’s efforts to enhance recreation for locals while responsibly managing natural resources for future generations.

RDEK Regional Parks to Include Elk River Accesses

AmbassadorWILD, an innovative program, champions sustainable tourism and recreation by preserving vital nature-based locations, gathering data for informed decision-making, and advocating safe and responsible outdoor experiences. Priority locations include key Elk River access points, Silver Springs, Heiko’s Trail, and the Coal Creek area, including the Ammonite. These priorities stem from feedback from RDEK residents, highlighting areas needing support and those popular with locals and visitors.

Jikke Gyorki, Executive Officer at Tourism Fernie, expresses excitement about this initiative, emphasizing its success in supporting maintenance and amenity projects, identifying issues, and engaging with the local community and visitors.

In April 2023, the program earned acclaim, receiving the Community Project Award at the BC Economic Development Association annual summit in Penticton.

RDEK Regional Parks to Include Elk River Accesses

Additional outcomes from the RDEK A Sustainable Tourism Project encompass a new composting toilet for Silver Springs, access and parking enhancements, trail signage and improvements, and the installation of trail counters and wildlife cameras to bolster sustainability efforts, with more updates forthcoming.

Managed by Tourism Fernie, AmbassadorWILD was developed in partnership with RDEK Area A, Elk River Alliance (ERA) and College of the Rockies’ Mountain Adventure Skills Training (MAST) Program. Sources of funding include RDEK Area A, Teck, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC, Targeted Regional Tourism Development Initiative funded by the Government of BC, Tourism Fernie and the Government of Canada’s Summer Jobs Program.

Photos: Tourism Fernie & Mary Giuliano

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