Kananaskis saves on track to surpass record year set in 2020


“It’s all about planning – you have to be able to take care of yourself until we arrive,” Vonk said.

KANANASKIS – Lifeguards are on track for their busiest year ever in Country K, having experienced their toughest year yet in 2020.

From 2019 to 2020, calls increased 40% by the end of the year, and this year they are on track to surpass that record, said Darren Vonk, public safety specialist with Alberta Environment and Parks Kananaskis. .

The popular provincial park welcomed an estimated 5.4 million visitors in 2020, a historic high, according to the number of visits provided by Alberta Environment and Parks. This increase in the number of visitors has been accompanied by a sharp increase in rescues.

Summer 2021 is shaping up to be the busiest year yet in the Kananaskis region. Kananaskis Public Safety has a team of five public safety specialists with 12 conservation officers assisting with rescues.

“We’re definitely stressed out for the staff, but we’re doing there,” Vonk said. “We work long full days and it doesn’t slow down until September or October when the seasons really change. “

He expects these busy weekend trends to continue to grow each year.

“The word got out. Hiking has become all the rage in recent years.

On the weekend of June 26, the team responded to 21 calls over two days regarding riding accidents, people getting caught in the Bow and Elbow rivers, quad biking and off-road motorcycle accidents at McLean Creek. , mountain biking accidents, heatstroke hikers and other precarious situations.

Heat stroke turned out to be a major problem during the heat wave, Vonk said, appearing to come from people walking in temperatures above 30C with minimal water. One group even saw a dog die of heat stroke near Canmore.

“There has never been a quiet moment this weekend,” Vonk said.

Vonk said emergency calls are largely on the rise because the Kananaskis area has seen a surge in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. He added that the recently introduced Kananaskis Conservation Pass does not appear to have had an impact on the number of people visiting the park.

“We haven’t seen a decrease in the number of visits due to the pass,” Vonk said. “These are bumper-to-bumper cars in all the popular places and new places seem to be popping up every week.”

Vonk said some places in K-Country were producing more incidents, including Yamnuska Mountain, which is closed this summer, the east end of Rundle Mountain, and Prairie Mountain located near Elbow Falls.

“Everyone has found the outdoors which is amazing but… a lot of people go out there to do these hikes and races and they just don’t have that experience or that experience and they are aiming for big goals and they’re getting into hot water very quickly, ”Vonk said.

The three biggest calls they get are related to hiking, rafting, or mountain biking. This trend has been in place for three years.

Vonk said the main contributing factors to the incidents were hikers wearing inappropriate footwear as they made their way to the trails.

“This is the main factor that contributes to people twisting their ankles, rolling their ankles and in turn slowing them down or immobilizing them completely,” Vonk said. “It turns into a late call or a backcountry evacuation because they can’t go on anymore.”

Late calls, when a hiker does not return for a while, are also situations they often respond to.

“People may underestimate how long a certain goal is going to take or they ignore the fact that a lot of places in the park don’t have cell service,” Vonk said.

The best way to support public safety and stay safe is to plan ahead before you go on a trip, Vonk said.

Rescuers remind people to have the proper and necessary tools for every hike, including some type of flashlight, appropriate clothing for the weather, sunscreen, water, a map or a GPS and a compass.

“It’s all about planning – you have to be able to take care of yourself until we arrive,” said Vonk.