Parks Canada is asking residents to start a new Christmas tradition, or continue a new one, while helping protect Waskesiu from forest fires.
From Dec. 1-23, free permits are available for residents who want to chop down their own Christmas tree from the Waskesiu Community Fuel Break area. Residents must have a valid park pass to enter the area.
“We’re responsible for ecological care and safety in our national parks, and we take wildfire preparedness very, very seriously,” Parks Canada Communications Officer Barb Riley said. “There are benefits to wildfire on the landscape, but certainly not around the townsite.
“Besides,” she added. “It’s a really fun activity to do as a family or with a group of friends.”
Parks Canada first cleared the community fuel break area in 2001, but the trees soon began to grow back. In 2016, Prince Albert National Park started allowing residents to cut down their own Christmas trees to help keep the area free of too many trees.
“They cut down a bunch of trees, but since that time, trees have started to grow back up again,” Riley explained. “The invitation was sent out to local residents to come and help maintain the community fire break by bringing home a coniferous tree.”
The number of participants has increased substantially since that first year, and Riley said it’s a great way for friends and families to get together in a safe environment.
There are some limits. Residents must acquire a pass to take part, and chainsaws are strictly prohibited.
“It’s a safety concern, unless you’re prepared to take care of your own first aid, because we don’t have an EMT office open in the winter,” Riley said.
Residents are asked to bring handsaws instead of chainsaws. Park officials also suggest they bring a sled to help haul their tree away.
For more information about the Christmas Tree Harvest, contact the Prince Albert National Park Visitor Centre at 306-663-4522.