Even though it was early on a Sunday morning, the energy level was high as some 50 hikers set out a little after 8:00 a.m. on September 15 for the summit of Table Mountain high above Beaver Mines Lake in the Castle Special Place, southwest of Pincher Creek, Alberta.
The hikers carried an 88-foot-long banner that read PROTECT THE CASTLE. They unfurled it once they reached the top of Table Mountain.
About noon a small aircraft appeared, and participants whooped and waved as the plane made multiple passes to record the scene.
Despite being declared a Special Place in 1998, the Castle remains the only one of 81 Special Places that has not received its final legal designation as a protected area. In the intervening 15 years, recreational and industrial pressures in the Castle have increased, and the ecological health of the Castle has declined.
Recently, there have been vigorous public protests over Spray Lake Sawmills’ clear-cut logging in the recreational heart of the Castle, and in what is considered core grizzly bear habitat under the grizzly bear recovery plan. Spray Lake Sawmills’ clear-cuts were clearly visible from the summit of Table Mountain.
This clear-cut logging, and the Castle’s declining ecological health, are of particular concern given the Castle’s status as a vital “water tower” for the Oldman River basin.
“It turned out to be a perfect fall day, and a great opportunity to make our point”, said David McNeill, one of the hike organizers. “We wanted to do something social and enjoyable that would reinforce our message that we want to see the Castle properly protected.”
“We trust and expect that the Government of Alberta’s soon-to-be-released draft South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) will recommend that the Castle be protected as a combination Wildland and Provincial Park”, added Gordon Petersen of the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition.
The Bert Riggall Environmental Foundation and the Castle-Crown Wilderness Coalition co-sponsored this event.
Photos by Robin Pisko:
Photos by Susan Guerra: