Does the county have a business plan for Horseshoe Canyon?

Dear Editor,

Does the county have a business plan for Horseshoe Canyon? I’m not certain that it does. Kneehill County has already spent 722,933.63 on the initial purchase of the canyon in 2016. The county intends to spend another 750,000 dollars of county funds towards this pet project and the province should hopefully kick in another 600,000 dollars in grants. All of this money was already budgeted prior to any sort of business plan being put forward.

In county council discussion, the suggestion was made to make parking paid therefore restricting access to the canyon in the hope to generate revenue. The basis for this venture is to capitalize on the fact that Horseshoe Canyon sees a vast number of visitors, potentially in the hundreds of thousands. It is suggested a full-time parking attendant serve as an ambassador to the county generating spin-off revenue. It is not known how many of those visitors are residents of Kneehill County, or how many of those residents are being counted several times because they regularly hike in that area.

I don’t know how many people visit the canyon on a regular basis, but one thing I believe very strongly is that county residents whose tax dollars purchased the canyon should not have to pay to access something they already own. If it is agreed that Kneehill residents will not/should not be charged for this then it should be established what sort of revenue will be gained from this venture. The cost of having a paid parking attendant for a day use facility from 8 am to 10 pm needs to be considered. As well, it should also be considered what months access will be restricted and the canyon will be closed. The cost of building a potential cafe, staffing and whether the business can operate in the black also needs to be a consideration. Also, there has been a suggestion that this will create spin-off revenue, but spin-off for what? Will farmers expect to sell more grain? Maybe generate more campers at the Swalwell dam? I don’t see the logic in this sort of investment and I would like to see a proper business proposal before allocating 1.35 million on a project that is going to charge taxpayers to visit a natural area that they already own. If the thought is to gain tourist dollars recent events have shown that tourism is not going to be as lucrative as it may have seemed in 2016. Doesn’t the county have anything better to spend our money on?

Christopher Morton

Swalwell, Ab