Dry Island Buffalo Jump eyed as Eco-Tourist destination


Birds, animals, and twisty trails winding through the deep river valley. Just the way we like it.

But a tourist hotel, interpretive signs, and marked walking paths at Dry Island Buffalo Jump? Might not be the way we like it.
If an expensive steering committee, dreams and plans, politicians, and other special-interest groups see their influence bear fruit, the new face of Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park (DIBJ) will not only differ from "just the way we like it", but could evolve into what Canadian Badlands visionaries call "another iconic Alberta tourist destination."
That's Big League Talk, eventually putting DIBJ right up there with the Rockies and the Badlands, both of which attract hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.
But getting DIBJ to iconic status will be, as Canadian Badlands' Jody Lamb said, "A long and carefully planned process."
It's a process, an open house was told in Trochu last week, that will respect, protect, and preserve the 4000-acre park in all its pristine natural beauty.
Seeing DIBJ develop has attracted keen interest. The Trochu meeting was attended Alberta Tourism, Alberta Parks, Canadian Badlands, the Red Deer River Canoe and Kayak Club, Boomtown Trail, the Red Deer Naturalists, the Tolman Badland Heritage Rangeland Ranchers' Association, and elected officials from Kneehill County, Trochu and Three Hills.
A first inclination might be to cry, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
But with Canadian Badlands holding a powerful mandate to, as CB Director Cindy Amos puts it, "foster tourism development as an economic tool that protects natural resources", an untapped resource like DIBJ doesn't stand a chance of remaining a rustic, gravel-road, one-gate park.
Careful growth
With DIBJ being described as the most underdeveloped park in the provincial inventory, planners want a go-slow, take-care approach to develop what everyone at the Trochu meeting repeatedly called a gem, a treasure well worth protecting.
Area rancher Walter Stoneman believes the park's great potential will draw eco-tourists and birdwatchers.
"But," he said, "park access is terrible. Trails are not marked. There have been no significant improvements since the park opened in the 70s. Yes, it's a great place, and yes, we need to share it, but we can't do a good job without improvements."
Perhaps to alleviate fears that the park might become Disneyland North, organizers have connected to as many stakeholders as possible to ensure everyone is reading the same script from the same page.
That script, still at the pre-draft form, sings the praise of DIBJ's fragile ecosystem and its diversity of tourist attractors: history, archeology, birds, plants, animals, and magnificent scenery.
Steering committee consultant Douglass Legg from BC said that development could include trails and scenic viewpoints, an interpretive program, and a variety of park-based spring and fall activities such as canoe clinics and river etiquette.
Mr. Legg's take on development was similar to what others said at the Trochu meeting: "We have to be careful to think of what will harm the park and be sure to avoid it. We dare not lose this jewel, but if not done properly, we will."