Parks Canada’s Annual Public Forum: What We Heard
The Annual Public Forum allows Parks Canada to hear from the community and get a sense of how the Agency is doing. The Jasper National Park Annual Public Form took place November 6, 2013. Seventy-seven participants attended to hear about the key Parks Canada achievements of the year, ask questions, and provide opinions and feedback on the current situation in the Maligne Valley. The forum initiated the Maligne Valley Implementation Strategy public engagement process.
Q & A
After the annual report by the superintendent, most attendees were interested in further information on trail maintenance and potential hiking club involvement in new hiker education, why Parks Canada is working to expand visitor experiences, documents related to management of development in the Maligne Valley, the value of public input during consultation, and fire management planning.
Attendees were then invited to participate in breakout table discussions to provide feedback on the specific topics of communication and interpretation, wildlife conservation, visitor experience in the Maligne Valley. There was also an ‘open topic’ table. The following summarises feedback:
What Works Well in the Maligne Valley
The groups agreed that many things were working well in the Maligne Valley related to conservation and facilitating visitor experiences and learning opportunities:
- The valley offers a stunning backdrop for a variety of year-round activities,
- it provides easily accessible, exceptional winter use opportunities,
- the valley continues to draw very high visitor satisfaction levels (99%),
- new signage and ‘a sense of welcome’ at Maligne Lake are positive recent improvements,
- grizzly habitat security and the protection of the Harlequin Duck population are working well,
- area closures are seen as an effective tool for the protection of Grizzly bears,
- guided activities are providing quality interpretive information and a high level of visitor satisfaction.
What Needs Improvement in the Maligne Valley
- In relation to visitor use, many attendees felt that there is presently effective management of the Maligne Valley, and that Parks Canada should focus on the quality of experiences instead of the quantity. Attendees gave specific examples of what Parks Canada is already providing that there needs to be more of, and examples of what is already provided in which the quality should be improved.
- Wildlife conservation related suggestions focused on two areas. The first considered information that attendees felt was missing, or needed to be expanded upon, in the Maligne Valley Situation Analysis (which documents what Parks Canada knows about the current situation in the valley). The second area was specific to improving management practices in the Maligne Valley area (wildlife safety and habitat issues, and identification of critical habitat and approved management strategies for caribou, grizzlies and Harlequin Ducks).
What would success look like in the Maligne Valley
There were a few common themes of agreement on this topic. The first was about the importance of maintaining the wilderness character of the valley (for example, the need to balance attracting visitors while ensuring the protection of key wildlife species and the important role in educating / connecting people to the valley thereby awakening a sense of stewardship). The second concerned the fact that people wanted to stay informed and involved. Residents and visitors to Jasper love the Maligne Valley; they are passionate about its conservation and visitor use. People also want to be involved in sharing their expertise about the area in ways that engage them in educating visitors, being ambassadors, promoting wilderness ethics and in sharing the stories that are woven into the landscape.