Parks Canada spending icefields trail money outside Jasper National Park

By Craig Gilbert, The Fitzhugh, 14/02/19.

Rare stallions on Sable Island, a national park reserve off the coast of Nova Scotia. Parks Canada is using money earmarked for a trail in Jasper National Park to clean the tiny island up. | Paul Gierszewski/from Wikimedia Commons photo.

Surprise and disappointment took hold alongside the frigid cold in Jasper as news reached the town that funds earmarked for the scrapped Icefields Parkway trail proposal are being spent elsewhere.

A $3.4 million funding announcement for Sable Island National Park Reserve noted the money for a paved multi-use trail between Jasper and Banff, originally about $66 million set aside in the 2016 federal budget, is being reallocated to agency priorities across the country.

Parks Canada plans to remove leftover structures and hazardous debris from the 30-square-kilometer island off the Nova Scotia coast. It’s home to the largest breeding colony of grey seals in the world and one of the largest dune systems in North America.

The funding will also be used to design energy solutions to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels on the island, “creating a more efficient and environmentally-sustainable base of operations at a remote and isolated place.”

Sean Fraser, MP for Central Nova and parliamentary secretary to Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, said in the press release Canada just made the “largest investment in nature and conservation” in the country’s history.

Jasper National Park is the second busiest of the 46 national parks, 171 historic sites, and marine conservation areas Parks Canada manages, behind only Banff. Jasper National Park spokesperson Steve Young said the trail money has also been reallocated to Waterton Lakes National Park, and that more details on reallocation would be released in the “near future,” the same wording used in the announcement that the trail had been canceled.

“While the original funding for the proposed Icefields Trail project was specifically for that project alone, there continues to be (a) robust program of investments in Jasper National Park,” he wrote in an email Wednesday. “This includes 31 infrastructure projects that are either underway or have recently completed, such as the Government of Canada’s investment in the reconstruction of Whistlers campground.”

The Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce was hopeful that when the trail project was canceled less than a month ago, the funding would at least stay in the park to “address vital deficits in systems such as our aging infrastructure and Icefields Parkway accessibility (both physical and digital) to name just two.

“We were thus surprised and disappointed to learn of the funds’ reallocation across the country to address needs in the Sable Island National Park. It is of great importance that funds initially allocated to the JNP for projects that drive guest experience stay within the JNP in order that we can continue to grow this world-class destination and help fulfill the mandate to increase occupancy in our National Parks – something we will not be able to do unless some of our serious deficits are addressed in the short and long term.”

McKenna’s office did not respond to a request for comment before press deadline. She said in January the government is “helping preserve our national parks for generations to come. We will keep listening to Canadians, and working with them to protect our natural heritage across the country.”

Original article can be found here.