‘Good news everyone’, Jasper National Parks’ saviour, the Glacier Skywalk, is operational! Can someone create a sarcasm font?
On our final Jasper trip of the 2013 season we saw Brewster’s “controversial Glacier Skywalk project” in-the-tin for the first time. And while it’s unlikely we’ll visit this attraction in the near future – it’s just not our thing – I can’t help but wonder what the hell where they thinking?
Can breathtaking and free be improved upon?
The current site of Brewster’s Glacier Walk was previously a large parking lot and viewing area that offered a panoramic view of the Sunwapta Canyon and adjacent peaks. As far as views went, it wasn’t the best Jasper has to offer, but for a road side pull out you got what you paid for.
Beginning May 2014, for approximately $25.00, Brewster’s will provide shuttle bus transportation from the Icefield Discovery Centre and offer tourists the Glacier Skywalk experience. The previous viewpoint is now “enhanced” with 200 metric tonnes of steel offering an interpretive walkway and glass floor extension over the canyon.
Twenty-five bucks for a 5 minute bus ride and glass floor.
Here’s the kicker – Despite it’s name, you couldn’t be further from a glacier if you tried!
Build it and they will come!
The Glacier Skywalk is seen as a way to significantly increase Park visitation. More tourists means more revenue, and Brewster’s has proposed a rather rosy future for their roadside attraction.
Here’s the issue; so far this strategy hasn’t worked. Visitation to Brewster’s Glacier Adventure peaked in 1999 with over 600,000 visitors experiencing the Athabasca Glacier via sno-coach tours. Ten years of declining tourist interest has seen the number of visitations reduced by half. Given that the Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefield is considered a marquee attraction, and they are absolutely gorgeous and should be experienced, something is very wrong with Parks Canada and Brewster’s current assessment and/or business model regarding visitor interest along the Icefields Parkway.
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If the granduer of a glacier can’t attract interest a gimmicky roadside attraction, the likes of the Glacier Skywalk, is unlikely to attract sufficient longterm interest to reverse the fortunes of Brewster’s Icefield operations, nor increase visitation to Jasper National Park to any significant degree.
Ten years from now will ‘we’ be left with an aging attraction-become-eyesore that has outlived it’s usefulness? Then again, what do we know?
I don’t think “Ecological Integrity” means what you think it means
This is the Parks Canada Charter as presented on their website:
On behalf of the people of Canada, we protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, and foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure the ecological and commemorative integrity of these places for present and future generations.
Scroll up to the picture at the beginning of this post… One of these things is not like the other!
Just because we ‘Value Your Input’ doesn’t mean We Value Your Input
When nearly every media outlet begins their respective Skywalk coverage with “controversial project” you know something’s fishy.
Parks Canada left a very sour taste in the mouths of those taking part in the Public Consultation process regarding this project. Negative opinion of the project far outweighed positives. Despite the overall lack of support Parks Canada in what can only be described as a ‘this is a good idea how moment’ came up with the following rationale as to why everyone is wrong…
Although the majority of comments reflected a lack of support for the proposal, numbers for or against were not the only factor that Parks Canada considered when evaluating public response. All comments were taken into account when making the determination, but in the end, the consultation process is not a plebiscite. Parks Canada considered the validity, scope and new information presented relevant to the assessment.
The largest number of comments received and the central public debate in the petitions and media against the proposal related primarily to the interpretation of Parks Canada Agency policy and appropriateness. While these comments were well meaning, caring and passionate, they were philosophically in opposition to the interpretation of policy and the determination of appropriateness by the Parks Canada Agency.
To address the concerns related to environmental and social effects (and visitor experience), the project environmental assessment screening report describes prescriptive undertakings for Brewster to mitigate adverse effects and to implement related follow up programs. Parks Canada has identified “desired end results” to guide mitigation and provide additional direction on the intended outcomes. The process and the nature of the concerns have helped to shape, clarify and justify the desired end results.
The analysis of public comment has concluded that there was no nature of concern or new information presented that would prevent the proposal from moving forward.
So, if by “disired end result” Parks Canada meant the Glacier Skywalk has already been decided as a good thing, then yes everyone else got it wrong!
Public Relations 101 – The only thing worse than not listening to your target audience is to marginalize them.
Stop chasing symptoms and tackle the problem
Whether Parks Canada believes the public got the Glacier Skywalk proposal wrong or not is the crux of another debate. Fact is the most vocal voices in the process suggested attractions like Brewster’s Glacier Skywalk are not what Park supporters are seeking to enhance their respective Visitor Experience within Jasper National Park.
The question then becomes, what do we want from our National Parks?
In our opinion plugging round holes with Skywalks doesn’t appear to offer a longterm solution regarding Visitor Experience or Ecological Integrity.