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Concerns heard regarding campground expansion near Cold Lake First Nations

Although concerns were heard regarding the expansion of a campsite in the MD of Bonnyville, council opted to move ahead with approving the request following discussions during a recent public hearing. 

BONNYVILLE - Although concerns were heard regarding the expansion of a campsite in the MD of Bonnyville, council opted to move ahead with approving the request following discussions during a recent public hearing. 

On May 28, during an MD of Bonnyville council meeting, council approved the expansion of a campsite owned by Paul Gullackson. The additional 50 RV campsites are intended for recreational use - but the expansion caused concerns for neighbouring landowners. 

MD administration received letters of concern from Cold Lake First Nations (CLFN), located north of the campgrounds. 

Both parties, Paul Gullickson and CLFN representatives, expressed their dedication to maintaining good neighbourly relations. 

Kim Warnke, CLFN policy analyst, addressed council on behalf of the Nation and their subsidiary, Primco Dene.  

“The development is supported in spirit by both parties, however we have a few concerns.” 

Concerns included septic and blackwater dumping, trespassing, noise pollution, fire safety, encroachment, and due to other upcoming construction projects in the area and housing shortages there were also concerns of the camp sites turning into a work camp.  

Warnke continued, “The applicant's website makes it clear that year-round leases are available. The lack of controls around the operating months raises the risk that the property will become a de facto work camp, with or without the operator's knowledge.”  

Coun. Dana Swigart validated the legitimate concern of the sites turning into a work camp and warned Gullackson that work camps require an application.  

Gullackson made it clear that the recreational sites are designed as a family camp, not as a work camp. 

Warnke brought up off-road trails popping up that connect the campsite to the neighbours' parcels.  

Gullickson also shared his concern for the trails allowing for easy trespassing on both sides and says he has encountered people trespassing.  

In response, Gullickson has made trail blockages with stumps, and uses video surveillance.  

Gullackson referenced his 11 years running campgrounds, his personal licensing to design and install sewage systems, and the campground’s history – clear of any illicit dumping incidents. 

“These lands are used by CLFN members to practice their treaty rights, and contain historical gathering spaces on nearby parcels, and given the proximity of the development to nation lands, we would request a perimeter be established to clearly identify the property line for guests.” said Warnke, which was supported by both council and Gullackson. 

Gullackson responded, saying, “I have a very good working relationship with First Nations, and I know most of the councillors and a lot of the people on staff there... I’m sure there’s no issues that can't be resolved between them and us by sitting down and having a talk.” 

A motion by Deputy Reeve Josh Crick was made to approve a development permit for a 50 site campground expansion within NW-7-63-1-W4M as a discretionary use, with conditions.Conditions include: minimum setbacks, lighting direction, adherence to Alberta Safety Codes, compliance with noise and nuances bylaws, unobstructed emergency vehicle access, and Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority approval. 

Work camp approved 

Later in the meeting, a Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. work camp was also approved for recommission, highlighting a possible demand for that type of accommodation. 

The provincially approved work camp has no adjacent landowners, as it is surrounded by crown land. 

Three sleeper units will be replaced at the site. The work camp has been unoccupied since 2019 and is now approved until July 31, 2027. 

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