July 19th, 2024

Park visitation strong despite Cypress Hills fire ban, Reesor Lake blue-green algae concern

By Tim Kalinowski on August 11, 2017.


While Reesor Lake is now under a blue-green algae advisory (as of Aug. 10), and the Cypress Hills continue to be under a total fire ban, visitor numbers are still excellent this summer, says Mike Ratcliffe, head of visitor services at Elkwater-Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.

“I would say our visitor numbers are actually quite strong,” confirms Ratcliffe. “I think what has made us a little stronger is our day visitation. With the hot weather in Medicine Hat there has been a lot of people trying to escape it and find some water to be around. The amount of equipment we have been renting out with our boat and bike rentals is definitely increased this summer.”

Ratcliffe does say however, the park has had to take stronger precautions because of heat — banning all fires in park boundaries and restricting visitors from certain areas due to the extreme fire risk.

“The recent moisture has eased the (fire) risk but it is still pretty high,” he confirms.

According to Ratcliffe, the situation is much more severe on the Saskatchewan side of the park, with all public use now forbidden in the West Block except for one access leading directly to Fort Walsh. Alberta park staff have co-operated with their Saskatchewan partners by closing all park access roads leading toward the Sask. side of the Cypress Hills, including Battle Creek Road and Highway 271 to Graburn Road at the provincial border.

The Reesor Lake situation is slightly different, says Ratcliffe. The blue-green algae warning there is still an advisory, not a complete prohibition on potential visitors.

“It is not a critical situation, but people are being advised it’s not really safe for swimming or recreational use.”

According to Alberta Health Services, which posted the advisory on Thursday, it is best if visitors to Reesor Lake avoid all contact with the blue-green algae, avoid swimming or wading (this includes pets) where the algae is visible and avoid consuming fish from the lake.

Ratcliffe emphasizes the advisory applies only to Reesor Lake, not the other water bodies in the park.

“It is just Reesor Lake right now that is under an advisory,” he says. “None of our other lakes are under that advisory; so people can come out to Elkwater, swim, boat and enjoy.”

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