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Oppose the “Glacier Discovery Walk”

January 7, 2012
Pure Blue Waters, Athabasca Glacier

Pure glacier water from the Athabasca Glacier

Brewster Travel Canada is a commercial company with tourism operations in several Canadian National Parks, among other places. Recently they developed a proposed project to create a “Glacier Discovery Walk” tourist attraction in Jasper National Park, at the Tangle Ridge viewpoint along the Icefields Parkway. I originally read about this at Samantha Chrysanthou & Darwin Wiggett’s new site oopoomoo. See their first and second posts on the topic for background and some discussion.

I don’t support this project and I wanted to voice my opposition. A key audience is the government officials who are due to render a decision on the proposal sometime this month. One thing I did was sign an online petition against the project. While that’s a fine thing to do, I don’t know how effective online petitions really are.

So I also sent a letter to The Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment, and to Greg Fenton, the Parks Canada Agency Superintendent for Jasper National Park. These two gentlemen are among the key decision makers on accepting or rejecting the proposed commercial development, and direct contact with them is an excellent way to get an opinion across. There are several ways to send a letter; Sam and Darwin provide contact information in their first post linked above. You can also use this letter-writing campaign page from the CPAWS organization.

CPAWS has sent a submission to Parks Canada on the proposed “Glacier Discovery Walk” project. I encourage you to read it for their considered perspective if you’d like to send your own letter and voice an opinion before the proposal is decided upon. Also for reference, here’s the text of the letter I sent to the Minister…

To The Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment

I have read with concern that the commercial operation Brewster Travel Canada is proposing to construct a “Glacier Discovery Walk” project in Jasper National Park, located at the Tangle Ridge viewpoint along the Icefields Parkway.

I categorically oppose this proposal, and I urge that you act to continue conserving our wild places within the National Park system by rejecting the “Glacier Discovery Walk” proposal. Please consider the following reasons.

1. The project proposes to construct a massive, artificial “theme park” style attraction. This is contrary to the purpose of our National Parks, which is to conserve wilderness, wildlife and ecosystems, in part for the benefit and appropriate enjoyment of current and future generations of Canadians and visitors to Canada. There already exist incredible numbers of tourist attractions, theme parks and entertainment experiences of every description for those who wish to enjoy such things. Furthermore, huge tracts of our once wild lands are already zoned for the creation of new commercial projects. Those of us who value our dwindling wild places overwhelmingly do so precisely because they remain in as natural a state as we can permit them to be. Once wilderness is commercialized and overlaid with manmade construction, that essential wild character is lost to all people, forever.

2. The mandate of Parks Canada and the National Park system, as expressed by vision, legislation and operational policy, is not supported by a manmade “theme park” style tourist attraction in such a location. The Canada National Parks Act states that “maintenance or restoration of ecological integrity, through the protection of natural resources and natural processes, shall be the first priority of the Minister when considering all aspects of the management of parks.” The Parks Canada Agency Act states that it shall be a top priority of the agency to “maintain ecological and commemorative integrity as a prerequisite to the use of national parks.” National Parks Policy requires that “only outdoor activities which promote the appreciation of a park’s purpose and objectives, which respect the integrity of the ecosystem, and which call for a minimum of built facilities will be permitted.”

An artificial construction project of this nature and scale is contrary to these stated principles and priorities. Furthermore, such a commercial project does not represent the epitome of leadership in conserving the “intrinsic natural, cultural and scenic values of Canada’s protected heritage areas” which have been nationally and internationally recognized and prized for many decades.

3. As is widely known, the very existence of the glaciers within the Canadian Rockies is under threat. Regardless of what theories or beliefs may be debated, it is established fact that the glaciers are receding at a tremendous rate. The ultimate consequence of this will have a dramatic impact, not the least being the impact on freshwater supply to all wildlife and human populations that exist downstream from the glaciers. The construction of a commercial “theme park” style attraction in the heart of Rocky Mountain wilderness, titling the project “Glacier Discovery Walk”, can only be viewed in the most ironic light given the probable fate of the glaciers themselves. The way to discover glaciers is not through the construction of massive, artificial structures of concrete, steel and glass, designed to bring increasing numbers of visitors with ease into the heart of mountain wilderness while at the same time separating them from that very wilderness.

Other reasons for rejecting the proposal have been cited by organizations such as CPAWS. These include the establishment of a dangerous precedent for renewed commercial development within the National Parks, an acknowledged but unknown long-term impact on wildlife populations including mountain goats and big horn sheep, a lack of evidence that “theme park” style attractions in fact will connect visitors with nature in any meaningful way, and that substantial numbers of Canadians oppose infrastructure development within the boundaries of our National Parks.

For these reasons, I respectfully request that you reject the proposed construction of the “Glacier Discovery Walk”.

Thank-you for your consideration.

Royce Howland
Calgary, Alberta

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2012 15:48

    As a lover of and a respectful traveler to the world’s National Parks, I have to completely agree with everything you have to say both in this post and the letter that you sent. Hopefully more voices will speak up to put a stop to this. Thanks for voicing your opinion and making a stand for the better of the National Parks and natural wilderness areas around the world.

    p.s. – You have some beautiful ice photography featured on the side of this blog. Love those photographs!



  1. Information on proposed Brewster Glacier Discovery Walk « glacierdiscoverywalkjasper

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