What We Heard
Summary of comments from the Public and Aboriginal Communities Regarding Maligne Tours’ Concept Proposal for Redevelopment at Maligne Lake
This document provides a brief overview of public engagement activities and feedback received by Parks Canada and Maligne Tours from members of the public and Aboriginal stakeholders.
Parks Canada began receiving public comments shortly after Maligne Tours announced in July 2013 their intent to develop a sustainable tourism strategy that would include a proposal for overnight visitor accommodations.
Consistent with Parks Canada’s practices with third-party proposals, Maligne Tours was responsible for implementing a public engagement program for its proposal. Parks Canada provided oversight and occasional guidance to support the Maligne Tours public engagement process, while also accepting feedback directly from the public. Some members of the public sent the same comments to both Parks Canada and Maligne Tours.
Information and consultation events hosted by Maligne Tours occurred from July 10 through to December 20, 2013, and included a media release, web-site information, outreach to local environmental and tourism organisations, small stakeholder meetings in September, and public open houses in Jasper and Edmonton in November. The detailed conceptual proposal was available for review and comment to members of the public and Aboriginal communities for a four-week period.
On April 21, 204 Maligne Tours submitted their final report to Parks Canada summarizing their analysis of the feedback they received from 1,198 emails and letters, the two open houses, the stakeholder meetings, and numerous telephone and personal exchanges. The findings of that report have been carefully reviewed by Parks Canada and are reflected in this summary.
From October 2013 to January 2014, Parks Canada received approximately 1,842 submissions about the Conceptual Proposal directly from Canadians across the country and international respondents. Parks Canada carefully reviewed and considered all of these comments as well. 1,738 of these submissions were prompted by a CPAWS campaign. A considerable number of the submissions (including those related to the CPAWS campaign) were unique e-mails and letters that provide thoughtful, detailed and specific feedback.
The majority of people Parks Canada and Maligne Tours heard from did not support the concept proposal, primarily due to the overnight accommodation component. Support for the concept proposal focused on welcoming a sustainable proposal that will support tourism in the Jasper area, the need for Maligne Tours to update their current day-lodge, and recognition of evolving visitor needs or interests. Concerns almost always focused on the potential wildlife and visitor experience impacts of the proposed hotel and tent cabins. A number of opponents accepted the need to update the day-lodge, but not with overnight accommodations.
Other vehicles used for public expression included an on-line petition with 2,788 signatures by the AVAAZ organisation, that was initiated in January 2014, and asked the federal government not to approve a hotel on the north shore of Maligne Lake, and a postcard campaign in the Jasper area, with a similar message for the Prime Minister’s Office.
Key Points of Public Comments:
- Analysis of the public comments by Parks Canada and Maligne Tours indicate several common and consistent themes from the e-mails and letters received, and the perspectives voiced at the Maligne Tours stakeholder meetings and open houses.
- The recurring themes include comments about the proposed overnight accommodation; about potential impacts of further development and activity on wildlife; and about the need for consistency with Parks Canada’s policies.
- The most dominant theme was opposition to overnight visitor accommodations, primarily the 66 room hotel, and to a lesser degree, the 15 tent cabins. Primary concerns with the two accommodation components were related to disturbance of already threatened wildlife species, impacts on aesthetics and visitor experience, detracting from adjacent wilderness values, and potentially threatening the basis for the existing high levels of visitor satisfaction at Maligne Lake.
- Another dominant theme was the desire for Parks Canada to adhere to the direction in the Jasper National Park Management Plan, the Guidelines for Outlying Commercial Accommodations and other ecological integrity related policies, principles and legislation, to protect the wildlife and their habitat in the Maligne Lake area.
- Some respondents felt that they could not support the provision of an overnight lodge, but they could support other elements of the proposal. There was recognition that the Maligne Tours day lodge is in need of retro-fitting and renovation, and that some of the proposed activities have merit, as they could provide a low-impact connection to the land.
- Other proposal elements, such as the proposed voyager canoe excursions, earth-caching, and modifying existing tour boat cruises to focus on specific themes, were less contentious or attracted some neutral or positive comments.
- Some respondents were concerned about increased environmental impacts and changes in the experience at the two campsites if the ‘Fisherman’s Special was revived.
- The proposed wildlife maze attracted some concerns related to wildlife disturbance and visitor experience.
- The proposed exhibits and storytelling experiences that would occur on the leasehold were generally seen as positive.
- A number of submissions, primarily from the tourism sector, but also from individuals, supported the proposal in its entirety.
- Some respondents want reassurance that decision-making and public engagement processes are transparent and fair to all parties involved, including the public. They want to be involved in the conversations where potential change to policy (e.g. park management plan or OCA Guidelines) may occur, especially when the implications of those changes could affect national parks across the country.
Key Points Regarding Comments from Aboriginal Communities:
- Three Aboriginal communities provided written responses to the conceptual proposal. Concerns with the project focused mainly on the potential impact of overnight accommodation on the wildlife that use the area, consistency with existing policies, and the potential requirement for the release of new land. Interest was also expressed in engaging with Maligne Tours to discuss economic opportunities related to the proposal and opportunities for authentic presentations of Aboriginal culture. The Maligne area holds important spiritual significance for several communities and they would like to ensure the lands are protected for future generations to enjoy.
Parks Canada will continue to follow up with these communities and others who have indicated an interest in the proposal, to further explore their interests and concerns, and to facilitate future discussions with Maligne Tours.
In summary, Parks Canada is pleased with the quality and number of responses from the public and Aboriginal communities. Informed feedback about the concept proposal: illuminated areas of potential concern and merit; added depth to considerations around managing natural and cultural resources, and understanding the dimensions of visitor experience and public values; and was helpful in evaluating policy implications.
In their report to Parks Canada analyzing and summarizing the comments they received, Maligne Tours commented that they have:
“...been privileged to receive Canadians' perspectives on National Parks in general, the Parks Canada Agency, wildlife and enjoyment of natural areas, as well as a broad understanding of people's perception of the current operation at Maligne Lake.”
The public and Aboriginal people will have further opportunities to influence decision making by Parks Canada once decisions related to Maligne Tours Concept Proposal for redevelopment have been communicated and Maligne Tours advances more detailed project proposals and environmental assessment for consideration by Parks Canada.