New signs and a security guard posted by Three Sisters Mountain Village (TSMV) land caught Canmore residents by surprise after years of hiking and biking through the private land without issue.
After property destruction, felled trees, a mine-shaft break-in, and parties in private ponds, TSMV is taking action to define property boundaries and warn trespassers.
"Things were getting to a level where liability was becoming a real concern," said Chris Ollenberger, director of strategy and development. "We've caught people with fires out in the wildlife corridor, camping with food out … at some point, we need to protect the community and our property."
In one case, Alberta Environment and Parks notified the landowner that a bear found an abandoned cooler in the wildlife corridor — packed with food.
Last summer, a group of teenagers broke into a mine shaft, creating a dangerous situation for rescue crews.
The biggest problems areas are near the unfinished golf course, Ollenberger said.
On their regular walk, residents Susan Hlasny and Peter Jancewicz spotted a security guard and a vehicle. Curious, they approached the man and asked what was going on.
"We went over to talk to the guy, and he said that the owners wanted people to know that it was private property and that we weren't supposed to go on it," Jancewicz said.
They said they found the whole thing a little fishy.
In May, town council voted down two area structure plan changes as part of the proposed Three Sisters Village and Smith Creek projects. The developments would have doubled Canmore's population over a decade.
Opposition was widespread and created deep-rooted mistrust along the way. Online, commenters were raising eyebrows about the new signage and heightened security on the TSMV private land.
"If there's suddenly misuse of the land, I'm suspicious," Hlasny said. "People have been going there for years. So this suddenly come up — I don't know."
Resident Tiffany Meyer said it's bad optics, but she has seen an uptick in disorder herself so she sees the land owner's concern too.
"I've seen wood that was used to make fires," Meyer said. "It was burnt, you know, which terrifies me with this summer and the heat and the dryness and what's going on."
Meyer wishes TSMV would engage residents instead of barring access.
"This town's growing, there's nothing we can do about it," Meyer said. "So, how do we make that OK, how do we support the wildlife here? And how do we support the community and let the people in Three Sisters Mountain Village use this area? We live here."
Landowner guesses conservation pass part of problem
The Bow Valley has seen a lot of changes in recent months. The provincial government put the Kananaskis Conservation Pass in place and nearby Quarry Lake is now a paid lot, too. Ollenberger believes people are looking for free places to explore — people who may not be familiar or as courteous as locals.
TSMV has been in touch with the province, and RCMP on these issues. Ollenberger added they are hoping this move will begin an education campaign of sorts to direct people to legitimate recreational areas.
"[The province] has seen an uptick in people trying to get around the fee to use Kananaskis area," Ollenberger said. "It's a widespread problem. It's not just Three Sisters in particular."
There are sanctioned trails within the private land, Ollenberger added. Loki, a popular biking spot, is maintained by Canmore & Area Mountain Bike Association and use by the public is welcome.
"Some of the informal shortcuts that go through private property, just like when people don't want people traipsing through their back yard … we have to look after the community safety and our property as well," Ollenberger said.