Kananaskis Country will be shut down for up to three weeks -- during prime camping season -- because of G-8 summit security concerns, the Calgary Herald has learned.
G-8 officials say the lengthy closure is needed to clear K-Country of intruders prior to the summit, as well as tear down "security infrastructure" following the event.
Campers, however, are furious.
Calgary resident David Gillette hoped to book a camping trip for his church group at the Little Elbow River campground -- more than 50 kilometres west of the summit site -- but was turned away.
Gillette had hoped to book a camping trip from June 13 to 18, well before the summit.
"We were going to try to arrange a family camping trip . . . but they told me 'nope, it's closed,' " Gillette fumed. "I'm a family man (and) a church man. I don't think I'm radical about anything -- except I get really ticked when I hear my camping trip has being cancelled. This whole G-8 nonsense is crap."
The G-8 summit, an annual meeting of the seven major industrialized democracies and Russia, will take place from June 26 to 27 in Kananaskis Village.
Security will be ultra tight, due to the violent demonstrations at previous summits, as well as the very real threat of terrorist attack.
G-8 security officials had previously suggested K-Country would be shut down for only 10 to 14 days leading up to the summit. However, a G-8 security spokesman now says securing this remote, wild area will be a labour intensive, time-consuming task.
"It takes some time to secure a site -- you just don't move in the morning the meeting starts," said RCMP Corporal Jamie Johnston.
"The area will have to be cleared. We need to know the area is going . . . to be safe -- that there will not be risks waiting for us in the woods."
The province shut down K-Country for several days last summer because of the high danger of forest fire -- a move that earned the ire of many campers.
Next spring, beginning as early as June 13, RCMP and Canadian Forces soldiers will begin setting up a security perimeter around Kananaskis Village.
They will search the area for explosives with bomb dogs and set up a vast network of high-tech, yet unidentified "security infrastructure" designed to nab those who try to infiltrate the summit site.
Johnston said parts of K-Country could remain off limits to the public until July 7, which would mean no camping over the Canada Day holiday.
He said the extra closure time is needed to remove security equipment and troops from the area.
However, the province has said that it plans to take some G-8 leaders on a series of eco adventures both before and after the summit.
The extra days of closure following the summit suggest some leaders may stay at Kananaskis Village after the summit ends.
Businesses affected by the shut down of K-Country, including campgrounds, guides and outfitters, expect to receive financial compensation from Ottawa.
G-8 summit spokesman Mike O'Shaughnessy, however, said Friday officials are still working out the details of the compensation process.
"We hope to have this resolved in the near future," O'Shaughnessy said.
Officials with the Little Elbow River Campground declined to comment.
Johnston said G-8 security officials are trying to balance the needs of campers and local businesses with the need to protect the world leaders during the summit. He said officials have not yet decided which areas of K-Country will be closed completely and which will only be monitored by security officials.
Gillette, however, said G-8 leaders should hold their summit somewhere else -- and leave Kananaskis to campers and others who appreciate the most.
"If they're worried about security, then go to a security facility (for the summit)," he said. "Don't go up into a prime camping area, close it down, just so you can marvel at our mountains."
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