Escarpment of Riding Mountain Area Strategy
What About Mount Agassiz?
© Parks Canada
Parks Canada announced the management plan amendment related to the Mount Agassiz ski area was tabled in Parliament on June 15, 2012. This amendment enables proposals to be considered for the redevelopment of a ski hill operation at the Mount Agassiz ski area, with the possibility of multi-season recreational uses.
The plan amendment was prepared following public consultation, involving the general public, stakeholders and partners. Through this process it was determined there is strong public support for the Management Plan Amendment.
Parks Canada is now developing the process for enabling proposals to be considered for a ski hill operation, including multi-season recreational activities. It’s anticipated the request for proposals will be launched early in 2013.
Proposals will need to demonstrate financial sustainability, contribute to visitors discovering and experiencing this unique area, environmental protection, and be consistent with Parks Canada legislation and policy requirements. All ski areas in national parks are guided by Ski Area Management Guidelines. The goals of this policy are to achieve long-term land use certainty that ensures ecological integrity will be maintained or restored; contribute to facilitating memorable national park visitor experiences and educational opportunities; and provide ski area operators with clear parameters for business planning in support of an economically healthy operation.
There are multiple points of view regarding the feasibility and value of redeveloping Mount Agassiz. Parks Canada is committed to listening, constructively working with, and building long lasting relationships with all of our surrounding communities and stakeholders.
How Did We Get Here?
November: The Park Management Plan is tabled in Parliament. The plan stated: no new leases will be granted for downhill skiing in the Park; rehabilitation plan for the Mount Agassiz ski hill area will be developed and implemented; and involve key stakeholder groups and First Nations in discussions regarding visitor experiences opportunities on the east side of the park and then develop an area plan and implement it as resources are available.
December: Discussions begin with local communities and their leaders and continue to do so till this present time.
Through these discussions Parks Canada: recognizes that there are a range of views and opinion; and is committed to listening, constructively working with, and building long lasting relationships with all of our stakeholders and partners including surrounding communities. Over the last few years there has been significant support – not full support of course – but significant support for reconsidering the operation of a ski hill.
September - April (2009): Field assessments are conducted on the buildings, ski lift equipment, environmental conditions and heritage building status at the Agassiz site.
Parks Canada has hosted site visits to increase public understanding of the situation. Reducing public and environmental hazards such as contaminated material is a priority © Parks Canada
June: Field assessment results are shared at three community meetings indicating buildings are in poor condition, lift equipment is in reasonable condition and workable, heritage values are low, and environmental hazards exist and need to be addressed quickly.
September-November: Site cleanup occurs with collection and disposal of an estimated 20 tonnes of scrap metal, garbage and small derelict buildings.
April/May: Discussions at three Community Conversations Meetings focus on the future of Mount Agassiz.
October: The Advisory Board to help guide the development of the Escarpment of Riding Mountain Area Strategy (area strategy) is formed. The Board visited the Agassiz site as part of its tour of the entire area eastern area of the park.
2011 is a busy year: major remediation work to McKinnon Creek is completed; the SE Group, who is contracted to develop the Mount Agassiz Feasibility Study, visits the site and meets with stakeholders; and Parks Canada hosts a site open house.
© Parks Canada
January: Parks Canada seeks consulting firm to develop the Mount Agassiz Feasibility Study.
February: The area strategy is formally launched to the public. At that time a website is opened to provide public information including Mount Agassiz. As well, an online survey is offered to gain the public’s initial ideas.
May: Contract awarded to SE Group to carry out the Feasibility Study. The SE Group specializes in the planning and design of ski areas and mountain resorts, and has unprecedented depth and breadth of experience in the ski industry.
June: McKinnon Creek culvert fails at Mount Agassiz. This is mainly due to saturated soil, record precipitation from the previous winter and spring, including major rainstorms in May and June. Culvert is removed and stream restored over the summer.
July: Parks Canada in conjunction with SE Consultants meets with targeted stakeholders and holds three open houses to build awareness of the Mount Agassiz Feasibility Study, and to gather ideas and opinions on the future of the site.
September: Parks Canada hosts a public open house at the Mount Agassiz site to get an update on the site including the McKinnon Creek restoration and the area strategy.
January: Parks Canada initiates public consultation on a proposed amendment to the 2007 Riding Mountain National Park Management Plan. The amendment will allow Parks Canada to consider proposals to potentially reopen Agassiz for a sustainable winter or multi-season operation.
© Parks Canada
January – February: Parks Canada hosts a series of meetings to update the public on the proposed park management plan amendment, key finding of the Mount Agassiz Feasibility Study, and the area strategy. The public is also provided with an online survey for the management plan amendment.
June: Management Plan Amendment is approved so Parks Canada can consider proposals to re-open Mount Agassiz Ski Area operation with possible multi-season recreational activities.
June: Advisory Board completes its final review of the area strategy.
What is the Mount Agassiz Feasibility Study? What are the Key Results? Why Did Parks Canada Proceed with the Amendment?
After the 2007 Management Plan was released, new information was brought forward surrounding the status and future of Mount Agassiz by local and regional stakeholders, partners, and elected officials. Many people believe that the potential viability of a new ski hill is strong, and that this interest should have received much more consideration during the development of the 2007 plan.
Parks Canada recognizes that there are a range of views and opinion. Parks Canada is committed to listening, constructively working with, and building long lasting relationships with all of our stakeholders and partners including surrounding communities. Over the last few years there has been significant support – not full support of course – but significant support for reconsidering the operation of a ski hill.
Park officials committed to gathering information from a number of sources to aid in a determination on the future of the Agassiz site, including a feasibility study. The feasibility study was an appropriate step to ensure Parks Canada, communities and stakeholders have the necessary information on the potential financial viability of a ski area to adequately evaluate management options for the site. It provides an impartial, business analysis of the opportunities, risks and viability of a ski hill venture both with and without multi-season activity. This includes an assessment of the competitive and economic environment that would affect and be affected by operations at the site.
The feasibility study was completed by the SE Group who specializes in the planning and design of ski areas and mountain resorts, and has internationally recognized depth and breadth of experience in the ski industry. The consultants were selected through a North American-wide competitive process. They were rated for their qualifications, experience in comparable projects, comprehension of the scope of work and references of their past work.
The consultants conducted secondary market research and generated hypothetical operational scenarios upon which to base their analysis. In July 2011, they conducted a site assessment and met with a number of stakeholders and partners including First Nations, communities and ski hill operators.
The Mount Agassiz Feasibility Study determined reopening the ski hill is not likely financially viable (e.g., limited markets, competition from existing ski hills and high capital and operating costs). However, some stakeholders believe there is strong interest and support for reopening the site and they would like the chance to assess the opportunities, risks and requirements to develop and operate a sustainable operation at Agassiz. Thus Parks Canada determined it would amend the park management plan if there is public support.
Related links: Mount Agassiz Feasibility Study and Management Plan Amendment
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