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Home » AMPPE in the News » MP Richards calls on Parks Canada to balance enjoyment of parks with ecological integrity

December 7, 2016 – The Crag & Canyon. Story by Daniel Katz.

Member of Parliament for Banff-Airdrie Blake Richards gave an address in the House of Commons on Nov. 24 expressing his concern that Parks Canada is not focusing enough on addressing the needs of the many visitors who arrive in Banff and Jasper National Parks.

Richards’s speech was given while Parliament discussed second reading of Bill C-18, an enactment to amend the Rouge National Urban Park Act, Parks Canada Agency Act and Canada National Parks Act.

The Tory spoke that while ecological integrity is extremely important, there needs to be a balance between that and providing a high-quality visitor experience or else the parks are not serving their purpose.

Member of Parliament for Banff-Airdrie Blake Richards.

Member of Parliament for Banff-Airdrie Blake Richards.

“They have to be considered as a package,” he said. “(Ecological integrity) cannot be the first and only priority, because without the opportunity for people to enjoy parks, they are not able to meet their fullest use.”

The federal Liberals’ plan to make admission to all of Canada’s national parks free in 2017 has drawn anxiety among stakeholders in the Rocky Mountain parks that a large influx of visitors will put a strain on infrastructure and severely impact visitor experience.

“For Banff, tourism is the economy. It is not a part of the economy. It is not even a large part of the economy. It is the economy of Banff,” Richards told the members of the House. “Tourists of course go to Banff to enjoy the national park, but we have to provide them with the experiences, the lodging, the places to eat, and all of the other opportunities that a guest looks to see in a tourism experience.”

On Sept. 23, Richards met in Banff for a roundtable with stakeholders in the local tourism and hospitality industries to discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by businesses in the tourism sector.

Quoting Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen’s concerns she made in council and various media reports weeks ago that Parks Canada has not come to the table with solutions to help the town manage potential increases in traffic in 2017 that are anticipated as a result of the free park admission, Richards stated that we are only months away and still Parks Canada is not clear about how they plan to help stakeholders.

“It is nearly the end of November, and we still have a real concern about what those plans are going to be for next year,” he said.

Christie Thomson, communications officer with the Banff field unit, said in a statement Parks Canada is taking action to manage challenges associated with high visitation in Banff National Park.

“We are leading a coordinated approach with the Town of Banff, Banff Lake Louise Tourism, and other stakeholders to manage the expected increase in visitation in 2017 and beyond,” she said, pointing out they are developing measures such as online channels for traffic monitoring to inform visitors about states of congestion, free shuttle service to Upper Lake Louise and Lake Moraine on weekends during the summer and providing information to visitors before they arrive to help them plan their trips and manage expectations.

“Parks Canada wants to ensure the best possible visitor experience for people coming to Canada’s national parks and will continue to work with the Town of Banff, the province, local organizations and other stakeholders to continually adjust and improve measures in place for 2017.”

 

Casey Peirce, executive director of the Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment, stated she was pleased to hear Richards recognize the contribution of stakeholders in Canada’s Rocky Mountain parks in both the regional economy and in prioritizing ecological integrity — in conjunction with visitor experience, education and sustainable tourism.

“AMPPE advocates for all of these pillars on behalf of our membership and in partnership with Parks Canada,” she said.

Peirce added there will be significant challenges with allowing free national park access in 2017 that will impact stakeholders’ ability to provide a world-class experience in Banff and surrounding areas, and she looks forward to working with partners and members to find solutions.

“There are specific regional implications that need to be addressed in that visitor numbers will likely exceed the four million mark to Banff and Jasper National Parks,” she said. “These implications include increased vehicle congestion in 2017, continued hospitality labour shortages, delayed access to sites and attractions, the need for environmentally friendly transit opportunities and ongoing infrastructure maintenance.”

Original article sourced here.

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