If you're planning on heading out of the city on this Canada Day long weekend, you may want to venture out to a National Park, as on July 1, admission will be free at all Parks Canada administrated places across the country. However, despite no admission fees, you may want to plan.

Construction

Those travelling to Banff National Park should be aware of construction in the Lake Louise area, which may mean traffic delays and disruptions throughout the summer. Construction on Lake Louise Drive, which sees approximately one million vehicles per year, began in late May and will continue through the fall.

"Construction work will occur Monday to Saturday during daylight hours, 7:30 a.m. until 8 or 9 p.m. (depending on the month). Work will not be conducted on long weekends," Parks Canada stated on its website.

It was also noted that until July 8, paving on Lake Louise Drive may be occurring at night.

"This additional night work will help to lessen traffic impacts during the day. Paving may take place every evening, seven days a week. Single-lane alternating traffic will be in effect."

Visitors to the area throughout the summer can expect single-lane alternating traffic and delays of up to 30 minutes on Lake Louise Drive. Longer delays are possible during peak periods of high visitation, which are typical during summer months and when the weather is favourable. Motorists are asked to pay attention to signage before arriving at the Lake Louise exit.

"This signage will provide more timely updates throughout the summer season. In extreme congestion or emergency situations, vehicles may need to be assessed, filtered and safely redirected. This may mean visitation can be restricted to specific users, such as those with bookings or reservations."

In addition to this, asphalt pavement resurfacing work began on the promenade along the Lake Louise lakeshore on Monday.

"This work will be split into multiple phases to allow for visitors to access sections of the lakeshore promenade while other sections are undergoing work and will be closed."

Parks Canada and the Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise will work together to limit disruptions to visitors.

"Please respect all signage, barricades, and flagging personnel. Asphalt resurfacing will take place during daylight hours and is expected to last four days. Please note, that weather and other impacts may influence scheduling."

RCMP warning motorists about impaired driving

Alberta Mounties has issued a warning to motorists that drinking is a choice that can have serious consequences. On average in Alberta, one in five drivers involved in fatal collisions have been drinking before the collision.

"This compares to an average of about one in 20 drivers involved in injury collisions (MADD Canada)."

During the 2023 July long weekend, in Alberta RCMP jurisdictions, 76 persons were injured in motor vehicle collisions and four people were fatally injured; a total of 117 impaired drivers were removed from the roads by Alberta RCMP that weekend.

Before getting behind the wheel this long weekend, motorists should remember:

"It is important to remember that these laws apply to all motorized vehicles, including boats and off-highway vehicles (OHV)," said Sgt. Darrin Turnbull, Alberta RCMP Traffic. "With a summer long weekend comes the opportunity to spend time enjoying OHVs while camping or boating on the lake. In any case, you should never operate a motorized vehicle if you have been drinking or using cannabis. If you suspect someone is driving impaired, call 9-1-1."

Fire bans and restrictions

As of June 22, the fire danger in Banff National Park was considered high and the park is under a fire advisory.

"Report any suspicious smoke or illegal campfires to Banff Dispatch at (403)762-1470," Parks officials added.

While there is no fire ban in place in Banff National Park, campfires are only permitted in designated Parks Canada metal fire rings or boxes.

"Designated fire pits include: Parks Canada metal fire rings, Parks Canada metal fire boxes, and cook stoves within cooking shelters. Designated fire pits do not include: creating your ring using rocks. At no time is it permitted to use a rock ring in place of these designated metal fire pits."

Random fires are never allowed. Officials are reminding visitors that enjoying a campfire safely in a national park means that one should keep campfires small and only in designated fire rings or boxes, never leave your campfire unattended, and always remember to completely extinguish campfires with water.

"Soak it, stir it, and soak it again until it is cool to the touch before leaving it."

The City of Calgary remains under a fire ban, however, on Thursday afternoon, The City of Airdrie said that it has moved from a fire ban to a fire advisory, though the outdoor watering ban is still in place.

"This change is due to reduced fire risk, because of greener grass/trees and rain in the near forecast. A fire advisory means no permits for burning will be approved," The City stated.

However, it was noted that the Airdrie Fire Department will postpone hydrant training and other training that requires water usage until the water system returns to its normal state in accordance with level four restrictions.

"Please keep fires small and only in designated fire rings or boxes. Never leave your fire unattended. Completely extinguish fires. If you have collected rainwater—soak it, stir it and soak it again until it is cool to the touch before leaving it."

Within Alberta Parks, a fire ban is in effect for Ghost River Wilderness Area, west of Airdrie.

Wildlife warnings

Banff National Parks officials have issued a warning after grizzly bears were noted to frequent the Moraine Lake Parking Lot and Day Use Area.

The warning issued last week on Thursday stated that the grizzlies have also been spotted around Lakeside Trail, Consolation Lakes Trail, and the area.

"Special caution is recommended while travelling in this area due to the following," officials stated.

Those travelling in the area are reminded to pay attention for bears when travelling in the area and to also:

  • Travel in groups
  • Make noise while hiking
  • Keep all pets on a leash
  • Carry bear spray and know how to use it
  • Maintain a safe distance between you and any bear.

Visitors are asked to report all bear sightings to Banff dispatch: 403-762-1470.

There are also several bear warnings and closures in the Kananaskis area to be aware of.

  • Boulton Creek Campground has a bear warning due to black bear activity in the area.
  • A portion of the Bill Milne paved bike path from the Kananaskis Golf Course to Kananaskis Village also has a bear warning due to multiple bears in the area.
  • Canmore Nordic Centre has a bear barning due to numerous black bears being observed in the area
  • William Watson Lodge and surrounding areas also have a bear warning due to several bear sightings in the area
  • King Creek Day Use Area and King Creek Ridge Trail are closed due to multiple bears frequenting the area.
  • YMCA Camp Chief Hector and surrounding areas are under a bear warning due to numerous black bears have been observed in the area.

Alberta Parks officials have noted that bears can be encountered anywhere in the Kananaskis Region at any time. To avoid a surprise encounter with a bear:

  • Make plenty of noise and travel in groups.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Look and listen for bears and their signs.
  • Keep your pet on a leash.
  • Carry bear spray. Make sure it’s easily accessible, and know how to use bear spray.

Alberta parks officials warn of messy conditions in K-Country

On Thursday, Alberta Parks officials said that snowpack melt in Kananaskis is a few weeks behind typical melt this year.

"It may be summer, but snowy trail conditions persist and avalanches continue to be possible. Many backcountry locations cross and/or travel through avalanche terrain."

The advisory is for areas above 2100m in the Spray, Kananaskis or Highwood Valleys. Officials said that snow can make even easy-to-moderate trails difficult. Know your limits and hike within them. Safety is your responsibility.

"Expect challenging conditions and more snow on trails than usual. Proper footwear and equipment are essential. Avalanche hazard still exists on steep terrain. Your group should have the skills, knowledge and training to travel in avalanche terrain. Snow-covered trails present a slip hazard and risk of injury."

The advisory stated that:

  • Sturdy footwear and snow cleats are recommended.
  • Snow-covered trails may be difficult to follow. Skills in route finding and navigation may be required.
  • Deep, unsupported snow will make sections of trail impassable at warmer times of day and could create hidden hazards below the snow surface. Hard snow surfaces crossed in the early morning may become impassable for the return trip a few hours later.
  • The risk of rapid snow melt, flash floods, landslides, and falling rock/snow/ice increases during heat or rain events.
  • Water crossings may be challenging or unsafe as snow melts.
  • Carry an emergency communications device. Cellular service is not available in all areas.
  • Leave the details of your plan with a responsible person.

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