Part of a popular campground in Kneehill County will be taken over by a neighbouring municipality after a decision at Kneehill’s regular council meeting on Feb. 23.
Councillors heard a report from Shelby Sherwick, manager of parks & agricultural services, regarding Tolman West Campground, which the provincial government announced last year it was closing.
“Following the March 2020 announcement from the Province of Alberta regarding full and partial closure of Alberta parks and campgrounds, administration presented information on sites located in Kneehill County, including Dry Island Buffalo Jump – Tolman Bridge Campground (Tolman West Campground),” stated the staff memo.
“Tolman West Campground is located along Highway #585 and is part of the Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park along the Red Deer River.
“There are roughly 18.5 acres in the Tolman West portion, and this portion includes a picnic shelter, outhouse, water station and boat launch onsite. It is currently configured for about 15 group sites.
“Because the main campground is located on the Tolman East side, the Tolman West side serves as an extension to the main campground with group site camping and the overnight occupancy numbers support this.
“There may be opportunity for improvements to be made, however improvements and return on investment appear to be limited for the Tolman West portion by the terms outlined in the leasing considerations.
“Following discussions with Starland County administration, there is indication that there is interest from Starland County in assuming operation of both Tolman East and West campgrounds.
Correspondence has indicated that the province will only enter into agreement with one municipality.”
Staff stated considering the amount of work Kneehill staff would have to do to handle Tolman West while Starland was already running the east side, it appeared best to allow Starland to take the lead.
Coun. Debbie Penner asked if the campground included a gun range. Sherwick noted there is a privately owned gun range across the road from Tolman West.
Coun. Ken King noted he knows there is a lot of public interest in the Tolman campground and agreed with staff that Kneehill step aside for Starland, but also noted that if Starland decides to walk away, then Kneehill should take over the campground.
Councillors unanimously agreed to withdraw interest in assuming operation of Tolman West Campground and councillors agreed Starland County be permitted to operate Tolman West Campground within the boundary of Kneehill County.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter