Tag Archives: athabasca glacier

Paved Paradise and put up a Glacier Walk

image of brewster's glacier walk nearing completion - icefields parkway, jasper national park ab

Jasper Park saviour, or tourist gimmick – Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park AB ©theexplorerslens.com

‘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?

Thoughts below…

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.

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Ten things about Jasper you may not have known

pyramid mountain jasper national park

Pyramid Mountain reflection in Patricia Lake – Jasper National Park, AB ©theexplorerslens.com

Jasper National Park celebrates it’s 105th this month. In honour of the Parks’ birthday we’ve compiled a list of things about Jasper National Park you not have already known.

    The first permanent European settlement in the Jasper area was established in 1813. Jasper wasn’t designated a National Park until 1930, 23 years after the government of Canada established the Jasper Forest park;

    Jasper National Park is the 11th largest park in Canada and the largest 2nd largest National Park in the province of Alberta. For the curious Wood Buffalo National Park (AB/NWT) is the largest in the country;

    The Park is the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve;

    The largest group to assemble within the park at one time was an assembly of First Nations celebrating the raising of the ‘Two Brothers’ totem in 2011 ;

    Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum starred in ‘River of No Return’ which was partially filmed within the park in 1953;

    Parks Canada has strict guidelines regarding residency in Jasper townsite (Banff as well). Bottom line – Get a job within the Park if you want to live in this little slice of heaven;

    The first road connecting Jasper to Edmonton was completed in 1928;

    The 230km stretch of highway connecting Jasper to Lake Louise was completed in 1939;

    Over 10 million people have stood on the Athabasca Glacier;

    In 2010 over 7,600kg/16,755 pounds of invasive, non native vegatation was removed from the Park;

    Just under 2 million people visit the Park each year.

We know… eleven!

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Ten Free Things to do in Jasper National Park

top ten free things to do in jasper ©theexplorerslens.com

Overlooking Jasper townsite from atop the Whistlers - Jasper National Park, AB ©theexplorerslens.com

The days are growing longer and warmer.  Time to start thinking about our favourite summer hang out – Jasper National Park.

Here’s Ten Free Things to do in Jasper Nation Park this summer.

1. Go for a Hike

    With 1200km of hiking trails Jasper National Park offers something for everyone of all abilities.  The Parks Summer Trails Guide is a good place to start.

2. Visit the Jasper Information Centre National Historic Site

    Locacted off the main drag, across from the train station, this building is not only an architectural gem, it also is home to one of two Parks information centres within Jasper (the other is located within the Columbia Icefield Visitor Centre). If you’re looking for information about the Park this is where you want to be.

3. Watch Wildlife

    While not as easy as a safari, most wildlife within Jasper National Park can be viewed from the comfort and safety of your car. Bighorn, elk, mountain goat, black bears and deer are often found roadside foraging. A visit to the aforementioned Information Centre will give you an ideal of where the critters are ‘hiding’. Safety first – please drive carefully and obey posted warnings – Keep the Wild in Wildlife.

4. Climb a Mountain

    Our favourite – Mount Wilcox

5. Photograph Wildflowers

    We consider the Edith Cavell area as one of the best areas for stunning wildflower photography opportunities within the Park.

6. Watch a Glacier Calve

    Watch Angel Glacier along the Cavell Meadows Interpretive Trail calve house sized chunks of ice. Don’t get too close!

7. Take in the Local Art Scene

    A number of truly remarkable artist take inspiration from Jasper’s beauty. Check out their work at the Jasper Artists Guild.

8. Go for a Swim

    Horseshoe Lake, approximately 25km south of Jasper offers tranquil blue waters with a bit of a twist for the adventurous… cliff diving. Adult supervision highly recommended.

9. Spend a Night Star Gazing

    If the daytime views aren’t enough look skyward after dark. Jasper National Park is the worlds largest dark sky preserve. Great for smores and star gazing. The Park operates special programs May through December with the Jasper Dark Sky Festival showcased in October – Parks Canada/Jasper National Park website

10. Touch a Glacier

    The toe of Jasper’s Athabasca Glacier is easily accessible from the Icefields Parkway at the Columbia Icefields Interpretive Centre. Please take care and DO NOT climb on the glacier itself.

Bonus – Go for a Pinic

    A hot summers day and Lake Annette go together like peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Located less than 10km from Jasper townsite, adjacent to the Jasper Park Lodge.
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