A letter from a visitor from the Netherlands

Updated November 3, 2017

November 3, 2017

Shame on Parks Canada

My family and I visited Jasper and Banff National Parks for the first time in 1979. We enjoyed the spectacular scenery and the abundant wildlife of the great Canadian wilderness. We kept coming back and over the past decades we’ve spent twelve vacations in these magnificent mountain parks.

Back home in the Netherlands we told our friends of our adventures and as a result some of them came to Canada as tourists to see for themselves.

Over the years,however, we began to notice some changes that were taking place and not for the better, unfortunately. Gradually the situation went from bad to worse.

Banff became overdeveloped and the ongoing commercialization took place at a huge cost to the environment. Its wildlife population is fragmented and in trouble. Some people refer to Banff as Disneyland North and scientists wonder if the park will be a nature preserve or a fancy resort for rich people over the long term.

We assumed history wouldn’t repeat itself and that Parks Canada wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. After all, their mission is to preserve Canada’s natural heritage for future generations and to maintain the ecological integrity of these once pristine parks.

To our dismay we found out that we had been naive. The same kind of disaster that happened in Banff is currently taking place in Jasper. Parks Canada continues to give in to the requests of commercial interests. It’s the same old song all over again. More tourist attractions, more accommodation, more facilities and more money for businesses.

Parks Canada allowed a commercial company, Brewster Travel Canada, to build the Skywalk, another expensive tourist trap. Moreover, once the plan for a hotel at Maligne Lake had been rejected, Parks Canada thought of another kind of accommodation that would enable visitors to spend the night there, tent cabins. And now they are constructing the Jasper-Icefields bike trail , which is damaging prime grizzly habitat. Just as we thought things couldn’t get any worse we read that an indigenous band was permitted to shoot several elk, deer and sheep. Allowing people to hunt in a national park is unacceptable. As Canadian citizens, First Nations should have equal rights, not special priviliges.

Finally, there are two more things I have to get off my chest. First of all I don’t understand why speed limits are not enforced on the Yellowhead Highway. Now many people, especially truck drivers, seem to think the road is a racetrack for amateurs. And there’s another thing that worries me. Why are there no buffer zones around the national parks? Once bears, cougars or wolves cross park boundaries, they run the risk of being caught in a trap or snare. These animals are meant to be viewed by nature lovers, not to be killed by trappers. I expect Parka Canada to ensure that buffer zones will be implemented in the immediate future.

It’s so sad and heartbreaking to witness the decline of these magnificent Canadian mountain parks and I’m convinced that the majority of visitors prefer an unspoilt, pristine wilderness to an amusement park for tourists.

Kees Kunst.

The Netherlands.

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