Year-round enjoyment of the Sheep River Valley by all Okotokians is encouraged with appropriate sensitivity to environmental impact and safety. Youth spending time outdoors in nature and exploring these natural areas will have intrinsic benefits for their healthy growth and development. However, when recreational use and the long-term survival of significant habitats conflict, protection of the resource must take precedence.
When the impact of these man-made forts, bike jumps or toboggan hills become a safety issue, or have reached a level of destruction to public property that diminishes the quality of that limited resource, the Town of Okotoks removes these man-made structures. At times, along with the tree forts, comes litter, boards with nails sticking out, broken glass, excavation holes, and fresh fire pits in dry grass areas. The Town needs to protect our citizens and wildlife from these dangerous objects that do not belong in natural areas.
Make-shift fire pits in dry grass areas can spark a grass fire and spread throughout natural areas including the river valley. This activity is environmentally destructive and not permitted.
Much of the damage caused by tree cutting and excavation is irreversible and will have long term impacts on slope stability, erosion and riparian functions. Some fort builders aren’t just using deadfall, they are also cutting live trees and using nails.
The Sheep River valley is a wildlife corridor dividing the Town of Okotoks from North to South. The length of the system is many kilometres long and cannot continuously be monitored. The Town of Okotoks appreciates our citizens’ eyes on our parks and pathways and in our natural areas to let us know if they see a camp fire or tree cutting activities on a scale that significantly impacts sensitive landscape features and ecosystems.
If you see tree cutting, bike jump building, excavations, camp fires etc. in our river valley or natural areas, please report to Municipal Enforcement 403-938-8913.
There are a number of benefits to protecting natural areas. These include environmental benefits such as maintaining healthy natural vegetation and habitat, which fosters an understanding of natural ecosystems. We must also protect nature’s water filter system that we rely on for the Town’s water supply.
The social benefits include recreation, relaxation and the fostering of an understanding of the importance of the natural world to our well-being.
Okotoks has a finite amount of quality natural areas and man-made activities encroaching into these habitats can be a detriment. As residents, we are so fortunate to live along the Sheep River Valley and it is a privilege to be able to access and protect these natural areas so that they are here for future generations.