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EDITORIAL: Plan ahead to stay safe when visiting K-Country

One of the greatest parts of Alberta is the pristine parks that call the province home. During the summer the trails in these areas are a beloved commodity for many Albertans.
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One of the greatest parts of Alberta is the pristine parks that call the province home. 

During the summer the trails in these areas are a beloved commodity for many Albertans.

The secret of their beauty is out— Alberta Provincial Parks have seen a sharp increase in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, and their popularity is expected to continue to grow for many years to come.

Living in Cochrane provides easy access to some of the most beautiful parks in Canada, including Kananaskis.

K-Country, like many parks, has seen an exceptional growth in visitors during COVID-19.

The popular provincial park had an estimated 5.4 million visitors during 2020, an all-time high, according to visitation numbers provided by Alberta Environment and Parks. 

However, this increase in visitors has been matched by a sharp rise in rescues and emergency calls.

From 2019 to 2020 calls were up 40 per cent by the end of the year, and this year they are on target to surpass the previous record.

On the weekend of June 26, Kananaskis Public Safety responded to 21 calls alone.

These calls involved hiking, biking and rafting mishaps, accidents commonly seen by Kananaskis Public Safety. These rescues were only exacerbated by the heatwave that rocked southern Alberta causing temperatures to surge to above 35 C and hikers to experience heat stroke.

While the calls Kananaskis Public Safety respond to span a variety of factors, many of them share one common denominator— Lack of preparedness.

While it is great to see new people getting out and exploring the great outdoors, it is important to plan ahead and hike trails within your ability.

When heading out into the wild it is critical to be prepared and minimize the risks you face when taking on new trails.

Ensure you are ready for anything and have the proper tools in place for a hike— These tools include proper clothing for the weather, water, a source of light that is not from your phone, extra food and snacks, a way to start a fire if needed, bear spray and a first aid kit.

It is also essential to let someone know your hiking plans and when you expect to return home.

Some accidents are unavoidable, but by being prepared for the worst-case scenario you can stay safe while visiting Kananaskis and other Alberta Parks.

We still have a full summer ahead of us and escaping to the open air of Alberta’s beautiful parks is one of the best parts of the season.

Have fun, be prepared and stay safe.