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John Zoeteman Park opens under Lions management

Fort Macleod Lions Club has taken over management of John Zoeteman Park. From left: Chance Alm, Bob Griffiths, Linda Alm, Crystal Alm, Murray Sopher, Lori Sopher, Al Decima and Joe Rigaux.

The popular John Zoeteman Park opens Monday, June 1 under new management.

Fort Macleod Lions Club has taken over campground management from the MD of Willow Creek.

“This was always a great campground,” park committee chairman Joe Rigaux said. “People love this campground. Our intention is we’re going to improve it.”

John Zoeteman Park has been closed in recent years due to a conflict between the MD of Willow Creek and the provincial government.

The Lions Club saw an opportunity to restore a popular campground while serving the Fort Macleod and district community and worked out a lease agreement with the MD of Willow Creek.

“Lions will take on a project like this,” Lion Griff Griffiths said. “There are lots of Lions campgrounds around.”

Any money raised by the Lions Club through management of the campground will be put back into the Fort Macleod and district community through various club projects.

John Zoeteman Park covers about 20 acres along the banks of Willow Creek.

Although the Lions Club has taken over the campground, the name remains John Zoeteman Park.

The Lions Club have already opened 15 new sites to bring the total number of rustic camping sites available to 30. The Lions plan to open another 30 sites over the next two years.

“We didn’t split any sites,” Rigaux noted. “We had the room to add 15 sites. The existing sites were not impacted at all.”

Campbell Cats donated the equipment and manpower work to the Lions Club.

Fort Macleod Fish and Game provided new picnic tables at no charge.

Further improvements will be made later this year.

“We will be planting 500 trees down here,” Lion Murray Sopher said.

The Fort Macleod Lions will acquire the trees from Lions Foundation Canada as part of an effort to plant one million new trees across the country.

In addition to the unserviced camping sites, John Zoeteman Park has camp kitchens, a ball diamond and swing set.

The Lions have longer term plans to upgrade the playground equipment.

Camp sites are available on a first come, first served basis at a cost of $20 a night or $120 a week. The maximum stay is 14 consecutive days.

Park gates will close from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., and the Lions expect campers to keep noise to a minimum during those hours.

Fires are permitted in the available fire pits or in camp stoves. Firewood will be available on site, by donation.

Dogs must be on leash at all times, and campers are to clean up after their pets.

Campground hosts will be on site throughout the summer to handle registration and answer questions.

The government has placed some restrictions on campgrounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic so the opening is limited.

Only self-contained units will be allowed at John Zoeteman Park while the public health orders for COVID-19 remain in place. Tents are not allowed at present.

The public health orders require the park’s public washrooms and two camp kitchens to be closed, and campers are required to collect and remove their own garbage.

Camping units are required to be 30 feet apart to meet requirements for physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For information,  contact Michelle at 403-892-3560.