Changes for all Special Areas parks

The Special Areas parks are open for business, just not all services are totally functioning yet due to provincial restrictions… but they’re coming.

One of those people who is ensuring safety for the public as best as possible is John Armstrong.

Armstrong is a Community Peace Officer for Special Areas and according to the Special Areas website “focuses on enforcement activities in municipal parks, (he) is responsible for protecting park property, maintaining the public peace and helping ensure the safe and secure use of municipal parks for all users. Officer Armstrong also acts as Supervisor for the Board’s municipal parks, coordinating all fishery activities with agency representatives from Alberta Environment & Parks.”

In other words, he is extremely busy.  Blood Indian Park,  Prairie Oasis Park, and Gooseberry Park are the main regional parks within Special Areas. Like the rest of the province, the pandemic has greatly changed everyone’s summers and holiday time. 

It has been a challenging start to the summer season. With revenue being down as initially officially parks were told that they would remain closed for the rest of the summer, it has been a challenge to get everything going again. Not a lot of notice was given after the government reversed its decision, but Armstrong  and his smaller than normal crew have been diligently working hard to get everything prepped. It started with some restricted lifted May long weekend where park gates were opened. 

“We went from no campers at all to a lot of camping,” explains a busy Armstrong. “We liked to be prepared.

“We’re ready (though).”

Armstrong says the staff is down because they didn’t hire earlier due to pandemic concerns. The potential staff fortunately got work elsewhere but when restrictions were lifted, it left many people like Armstrong in a bit of bind. 

Fortunately his staff has been working extremely hard to get things done. Large group campsite for example are now able to be reserve. Prairie Oasis Camp Kitchen Site and the Bullpound Loop Group Site (403-854-5625); Gooseberry Lake Park Group Site A and Group Site B (403-577-3523) are now open to have reservations. 

Armstrong says everything has been sanitized and cleaned as much as possible and they will do their best to continue to do that but with heavy volumes, visitors will have to take their own precautions.

“Our staff wear masks all day, full length gloves…it’s all manual,” explains Armstrong. “We are wearing the cloth masks and we are trying to be responsible and wearing the rubber gloves and using sanitizer on our hands all the time.”

All sites available for public use will operate on a first-come, first-serve basis for the 2020 season. For current park and campground information, contact the Special Areas Parks Line at (403) 779-2155.

The following changes will be in effect as of June 12:

- All boat launches and marinas will be open to public use, including at Prairie Oasis Park;

- All playgrounds and play areas will be open to public use;

- All day use areas will be open to public use, including at Prairie Oasis Park;

- Camping in tents will be permitted;

- Small group camping will be permitted in small group campsites.

At Gooseberry Park, campground and day use area is now open to the public as of June 15. The spray park is not expected to be operational until July. Special Areas is providing operational support for 2020 at the campground and spray park facilities.

At Blood Indian Park, the Trading Post will be opening on a limited basis as of June 19. The spray park is expected to be operational in July.

At Prairie Oasis Park, the Concession and Store will be opening on a limited basis beginning June 26.

We encourage all visitors to our parks and campgrounds to come prepared and to follow public health recommendations to help limit spread of COVID-19. Follow physical distancing guidelines by staying 2 meters apart from other visitors, especially in day use and high-traffic areas. Equipment in playgrounds and other public spaces will not be cleaned or sanitized between users, so all users should clean hands before and after use. Reduce congestion in high-traffic areas and respect all capacity limits in facilities and buildings.

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