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Superintendents’ opening remarks | Terms of Reference – Round Table | Enhancing First Nations connections with Banff National Park | Resilience Working Sessions | Superintendents’ Open Forum | Superintendents’ Closing Remarks and Thanks

Superintendents’ opening remarks

Superintendents Kevin van Tighem (Banff Field Unit) and Pam Veinotte (Kootenay/Yoho/Lake Louise Field Unit) presented highlights from the past year, including:

  • Reformatting of the Planning Forum to respond to last year’s comments: diversification of the Round Table membership, discussions focused on resilience.
  • Approval of the new Park Management Plan updates responding to last year’s comments, including: better integration of advisory groups, work on the arrival/welcome experience.
  • Challenges faced by the park in the past year: turnover in key positions, workload, expectation of coming austerity measures.
  • Celebrating the 125th with an ambitious program of events. A full report will be shared.
  • Strengthening the links with First Nations: signing of an MOU with the Stoney Nakoda First Nations, working toward resolution of the Siksika land claim.
  • Reducing human-caused wildlife mortality and enhancing their safe use of the whole landscape, especially identified wildlife corridors: groundbreaking Grizzly Action Plan MOU signed this year with CP Rail, large-scale area closures for wolf denning, and removal of recreational use from Banff airstrip.
  • Enhancing and upgrading existing visitor experience opportunities: delivered a liquor ban in campgrounds this year on long weekends with excellent feedback, upgrades to the serviced sites at Tunnel Mountain Campground are nearly completed. Authentic Canada program introduced new Canadians to camping. Completion of the Legacy trail. Continued success of special events.
  • Taking the mountains to people where they live: new website content, including remote wildlife cameras and YouTube videos.
  • Managing development and growth: planning for the restoration of Cascade Pit is underway. A local activity assessment for via ferrata was undertaken. Expect to be going out shortly for public consultation on management guidelines for one of the ski areas in Banff.
  • Growing the volunteer experience: a 14% increase in one year in the three core programs (park ambassadors, citizen scientists, and helping hands), three new voluntourism pilot initiatives, 16,000 volunteers on the Park Listens panel, and huge contributions from advisory groups.
  • Reintroducing missing species, and getting rid of invasive ones: significant progress on invasive weeds, and a proposal from the Luxton Foundation for bison reintroduction.
  • Good progress on the Bow Valley Parkway working group.
  • Recommitment to the highway mitigation/monitoring program, with 14 kms of twinning newly open Action on the Ground projects, including caribou, fire, and aquatic connectivity.
  • A new state-of-the-art new water treatment plant at Upper Lake Louise, with $7 million investment by Chateau Lake Louise.
  • Winter experience enhancements in Lake Louise, including: enhancements to the Nordic ski program, adding connector trails to create a loop experience, new signage, trailhead kiosk improvement, and special events (Elemental and Lk. Louise Fall Festival).
  • Improvements in social science, with a visitor survey planned for 2011.
  • Engagement with stakeholder groups and First Nations is now ingrained in park’s practice.

Terms of Reference – Round Table

The Round Table approved the draft terms of reference with the following updates requested:

  • Ensuring that every opinion matters, by avoiding any session design that gives the impression of voting or counting heads
  • Designing small-group exercises in such a way that everyone gets to deal with every topic
  • Continuing consideration of the Table composition: ID9 and Calgary universities were suggested as potential members
  • A response from Parks Canada to the 2-page written submissions from Round Table members
  • Provision of spending breakdown for Banff National Park
  • Setting up the opportunity to reach a consensus statement on one or more of the Forum topics
  • Working with the media as follows: media are welcome in all sessions, and anything said may be quoted without attribution. If a quote is to be attributed, the permission of the speaker must be expressly granted. It is entirely the speaker’s purview to grant or deny this permission.

Enhancing First Nations connections with Banff National Park

John Snow (Stoney Nakoda First Nations) opened this session by describing the many connections of First Nations to the park, and by commenting on the present positive climate, with the UN Declaration being signed and cooperative programs in place with the park. He reminded the group that each First Nation will have its own way of working with the park, and that he is here as a messenger to and from the Stoney Nakoda First nations. He recommended learning from best practices in other parks such as Kluane and Riding Mountain.

The Round Table discussion focused on ideas for connection:

  • Learning from First Nations’ experience if the park goes into a bison reintroduction program
  • Integrating First Nations’ knowledge and understanding into the visitor experience
  • Storytelling sessions
  • Cultural and spiritual ceremonies
  • Integration of First Nations art into park facilities
  • Co-management activities with the park
  • Sharing of cultural-knowledge systems with residents and visitors
  • Employment and training opportunities for First Nations youth
  • Ensuring that a vibrant present culture, not just a past culture, is presented

The work of Dennis Herman on relationships with First Nations was acknowledged by John Snow and by the superintendents.

The Round Table agreed on the following consensus statement:
“The Round Table encourages Parks Canada — and commits themselves collectively — to engaging in an ongoing, meaningful dialogue with the First Nations over the course of the year in between the Round Tables in order to give them the opportunity they need to have feedback and input into the discussions.”

Resilience Working Sessions

Participants took part in four sets of facilitated working sessions, providing feedback on the questions related to the future resilience of Banff National Park and the community of people who support it and benefit from it. The following definition of resilience was used: the capacity to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of change.

Question 1: “In what areas are we pushing the boundaries? In what areas could we push the boundaries more?”

Participants identified a broad range of ecological, visitor experience, educational, economic, jurisdictional/bureaucratic and knowledge boundaries, identifying some that are already being pushed, and others that could be pushed more.

A few examples, from among many given by the groups, of boundaries already being pushed:

  • Habitat security 
  • Visitor capacity in popular areas at popular times 
  • Human capacity (stakeholders’ involvement in processes, for example)

A few examples, from among many given by the groups, of boundaries that could be pushed more: 

  • Prescribed burning 
  • Diversity of offer 
  • New partnerships and similar mechanisms for cooperation

Round Table discussion of the results of this session included the following points:

  • Engaging in partnerships with private enterprise and NGOs can be a good way for government to gain additional flexibility and adaptability.
  • Are we managing the boundary? 
  • How can we best understand where the thresholds are? 
  • The question was difficult to interpret, as pushing the boundary can be both a good thing and a bad thing, and the words have multiple connotations. 
  • Each individual First Nation needs to define how they want to push their boundaries 
  • The boundaries of built heritage preservation are being pushed in different ways.

Question 2: “How can we build our resilience as a national park and a community of people who support it and benefit from it?”

Participants identified a broad range of ways in which we could collaborate, educate, communicate, listen, anticipate change, research and celebrate our successes in order to build our resilience.

The work suggested some guiding principles: 

  • To be able to focus on quality, not quantity. 
  • To be able to develop systems, not processes. 
  • To know that we are all in it together. 
  • To behave as if it matters. 
  • To exercise precautionary principles. 
  • To commit for the long term.

Round Table discussion of the results of this session included the following points:

  • Emphasis on the importance of long-term commitment to working together 
  • The need to focus on youth in creating resilience 
  • Working together is essential to resilience 
  • We should focus on the places/times where we still have capacity 
  • Anticipate and prepare for the worst, hope for the best 
  • Discovering the boundaries is more important/urgent than pushing them 
  • Not just process, but also timely action

Question 3: “What are the signs and symptoms (or feedback) that might let us know when we are likely to be pushing our resilience too far?”

Participants’ discussions covered ecological, social and economic thresholds. The groups emphasized the need for evidence-based discussions of thresholds. In general, they concluded that thresholds are being reached when valued components become scarce; or important things are lost forever.

A few examples, from among many given by the groups, of signs and symptoms:

  • Disengagement of community from decision-making process 
  • Declining infrastructure 
  • Mismatch between offer and expectation 
  • Collapse of destination market BNP from world to regional resort 
  • Bankruptcies 
  • Loss of biodiversity 
  • Loss of core secure habitat

Round Table discussion of the results of this session included the following points:

  • When we are quantifying benchmarks such as visitor number, it is important to include information on the methodology of measurement.

Question 4: “What can various sectors do to contribute to the resilience of the national park and the community of people who support it and benefit from it?”

Question 4 was done in plenary session, with participants providing written feedback at various stations – each representing one of the sector groups noted below. The answers were individual, and were later grouped and summarized by the facilitator. Two common threads across many sectors were the need to educate visitors, and the need to collaborate and create partnerships.

Non-profits and ENGOs

  • Act as the conscience of the park 
  • Act as funding partners for the park
  • Accommodations
  • Provide a range of options and price points 
  • Educate and inspire the visitor

Other businesses 

  • Respond to demand, especially for enviro-tourism 
  • Educate the visitor

Arts, heritage and culture

  • Interpret and celebrate the park 
  • Provide heritage tourism

First Nations

  • Share culture and ceremonies 
  • Educate the visitor – and all of us

Parks Canada

  • Embrace new activities 
  • Remember the mandate 
  • Build and re-build education, interpretation and connection with visitors 
  • Build collaborations and partnerships


  • Recognize limits 
  • Build, develop, improve ski areas 
  • Make recreation a multi-faceted educational experience

Communities and residents 

  • Recognize and celebrate place in national park 
  • Connect with and welcome visitors

Round Table discussion of the results of this session included the following points:

  • The concept of heritage tourism is obviously still very relevant. 
  • Partnerships need to be built around action, not just dialogue

Superintendents’ responses to the resilience sessions overall:

  • It’s important to avoid falling back into the old language around “balance”. 
  • Resilience is an important concept with lots of grist for future discussion and action. 
  • We should review our traditional park thresholds to see whether they support resilience. 
  • “Probing” or “exploring” boundaries is more positive than “pushing” them. 
  • We’ve come a long way on collaboration, and we have more work to do. 
  • The four objectives of heritage tourism are very relevant to resilience. 
  • Bureaucracy exists, but efforts are being made to be more agile, adaptable, although a national park will always be a highly regulated business environment.

Superintendents’ Open Forum

The superintendents answered a range of questions posed on the spot by the Round Table members and the general audience. Question topics included:

  • The finances of Banff National Park 
  • The opportunity to create a working group for positive projects such as regional transit 
  • Additional opportunities for stakeholder input and management expertise 
  • Next steps for the East Gate group 
  • Possibilities for bolstering political support for key park programs 
  • Discussion of what different stakeholder groups need from each other 
  • Engagement of locals 
  • Passenger rail access to the national park 
  • Retaining commitment to projects when staffing changes 
  • Advertizing and forum follow-up in Calgary 
  • Partnership development and engagement of new Canadians 
  • Using the back of the gate receipt as an education/information tool

Superintendents’ Closing Remarks and Thanks

Superintendents Pam Veinotte and Kevin van Tighem closed the meeting and thanked the group. Highlights of their remarks included: 

  • Thanks to Parks staff and forum participants for the success of the forum
  • The activities remaining in the Banff 125 celebrations 
  • The value of hearing from this diverse group of stakeholders 
  • The continuing need to encourage additional voices/participants 
  • The opportunity to share information on finances and on visitor statistics methods 
  • The concentration on welcome, service and education 
  • The value of the relationships built at the Round Table 
  • The relationship between the Park and its businesses, and its effect on visitor experience and ecological integrity 
  • The importance of the right kind of conversations around place-making 
  • The wish to find a range of different ways and places for conversations to happen 
  • Commitment to use the information and ideas provided