Chants of ‘start it over’ and voices on loudspeakers could be heard coming from the parking lot outside the Servus Arena Thursday night.
Hundreds of Central Albertans rallied in Red Deer demanding the proposed Bighorn Park project process start over.
The protesters took issue with a wide range of topics related to the proposed $40-million provincial park and the government getting involved in protecting the land.
Bentley-resident Ryan Brown, who helped organize the rally, said he thinks the biggest problem with the proposal is that the details are wrong.
“The details are very vague and open to interpretation and there is a lot of them for future consideration,” he said.
“When the only thing we have to go off of is the track record of the government dealing with the land-use issues and proposals – then that is just not satisfactory to anyone in the area or anyone that uses the backcountry.”
Garett Schmidt, director of Alberta Off-Highway Vehicle Association, was one of the speakers at the event. He said the number of people who oppose the Bighorn Park project is not being considered.
“We have almost every single municipality, town, country, First Nations, recreational groups, and those that live off that landscape, including outfitters and guides and trappers. Every one of them is opposed – not to the preservation of our landscape – but to this process, and the way you all are being treated,” he said.
“That’s the really big thing. You guys are being vilified because you simply disagree and that’s completely unacceptable in today’s society.”
Janice Lee from Rocky Mountain House attended the rally on horseback. She said she feels the current government is overlooking the years of work already done on protecting the area.
“Instead of continuing on with the plan that they have been ironing out for 15 years, a new person comes in and just decides that this is the way it is going to be and we’re not going to consult and we’re going to overlook how the people feel about it and just push through with what they want,” she said.
“It’s not that people don’t want to protect the headwaters and don’t want to protect the backcountry, they just don’t want it governed so strictly.”
The Alberta government previously called off in-person sessions in favour of telephone town halls after officials alleged they were verbally harassed.
But on Tuesday the government announced four public information sessions to be held on the proposal.
The session in Red Deer is taking place Sunday, Feb. 3rd at Westerner Park from 1 to 4 p.m. Another session is in Sundre on Feb. 4th from 4 to 7 p.m. Two other sessions are planned for Drayton Valley and Edmonton on Feb. 1st and 2nd.