Meadows in the Sky Area Plan
Wildflowers on the Parkway © Parks Canada
Introduction | Visitor Experience Concept | Resource Conservation
Mount Revelstoke National Park celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2014. Parks Canada has prepared this Area Plan to chart a course for the future of the Meadows in the Sky Area, and to create a legacy of Centennial improvement projects and new visitor opportunities in the park.
Mount Revelstoke National Park is a cornerstone of the cultural and recreational tourism corridor that stretches from Kicking Horse Pass to the site of the Last Spike. This trans-continental travel route crosses the western Rockies and the three southern ranges of the Columbia Mountains—the Monashees, Selkirks and Purcells. The Meadows in the Sky Parkway and the Trans-Canada Highway let visitors experience first-hand and close-up the towering peaks, narrow valleys, glaciers and icefields, lush inland rainforest and subalpine wildflower meadows of this mountain wilderness.
The Meadows in the Sky Area is important to tourism in this part of British Columbia. It is known for its easily-accessible subalpine wildflower meadows and broad views of snow-capped mountains on every horizon. In the Meadows in the Sky Area, visitors have an opportunity to get up close and personal with places that most people never experience—the top of a world championship ski jump or the actual summit of a mountain. The Meadows in the Sky Parkway offers the only opportunity in the Canadian national park system for visitors to summit a peak just a few steps from a vehicle.
Viewpoints along the parkway offer a view from the edge—unparalleled panoramas of the Columbia River, the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains and the city below. Visitors come by car, bike and on foot during the snow-free season and on snowshoes in the winter. Construction of the Summit Trail and the Meadows in the Sky Parkway was begun more than century ago by local residents—they symbolize the early connections between the park and the City of Revelstoke. The park is one of only a few Canadian national parks established in response to the requests of a neighbouring community. At a time when few national parks existed in the world, Revelstoke's civic leaders persuaded the federal government to designate Mount Revelstoke as a national park in 1914. Local residents are proud ambassadors, sharing the national park in their backyard with visiting friends and family, and serving as stewards of the resources.
Grizzly bears, wolverines and mountain caribou move up and down the slopes of Mount Revelstoke with the seasons. A variety of birds can be seen at different elevations, from migrating tropical birds in the valley bottom rainforest to "camp robbing" grey jays in the subalpine forest and meadows. Species at risk like the olive-sided flycatcher, rusty blackbird and Lewis' woodpecker are all found in the Meadows in the Sky area, as are the Coeur d'Alene salamander and western toad. Altogether, about 250 species of animals have been recorded in Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks, with many of those present in the Meadows in the Sky Area.
The Meadows in the Sky Area is a place where visitors can establish a relationship with nature and make personal connections to history. In 2010, Parks Canada surveyed 4,000 people about their visit to the Meadows in the Sky Area. Visitors told us that they consider the parkway and mountain summit to be a place with special meaning to them, especially:
- the peace and quiet
- the mountain, valley and river views
- the park staff they met
- the mountain-top wildflower meadows
- the scenic drive
- the forest and subalpine hiking and walking trails
- the shuttle service
- discovering more about the nature and history of Mount Revelstoke,
- and having an adventure with family or friends.
This Area Plan recognizes and builds on these important characteristics of the Meadows in the Sky visitor experience.
The Meadows in the Sky Area Visitor Experience Concept focuses on:
- presenting a warm welcome to Mount Revelstoke National Park,
- offering opportunities for peaceful and inspiring experiences that allow Canadians and international visitors to make a personal connection with the Meadows in the Sky Area—connections that will linger long after they get home,
- setting the stage for visitors to have an enjoyable experience in every service, facility and activity available in the Meadows in the Sky Area, recognizing visitors' differing needs, motivations, expectations, travel styles and available time,
- presenting stories of the natural heritage and traditions of the Columbia Mountains, and in particular the shared history of the national park and the community of Revelstoke,
- increasing park visitation, while relieving pressure on the mountain summit area, by improving visitor opportunities and family gathering places at low and mid-elevations on the mountain, and
- engendering a sense of public stewardship and a culture of conservation through visitor experience and learning opportunities that both showcase and protect healthy ecosystems and historic settings.
Visitors to the Meadows in the Sky Area experience a "view from the edge" of the parkway. Places along the parkway offer visitors many opportunities for a mountain experience—opportunities that may involve snapping a picture, stretching their legs, having a picnic, going for a short stroll or gathering with family and friends. Visitors can connect with the park through safe, comfortable road-accessible experiences that include opportunities to learn more. The "view from the edge" also encourages visitors to spend more time in the park and take a "step into the wild".
Places like the Nels Nelsen Historic Area, the Balsam and Heather Lake areas at the mountain summit, Inspiration Woods Trail and rest-stops along the parkway like Monashee Picnic Area, Snowforest and Revelstoke viewpoints are particularly appealing for individual visitors, families and groups seeking hassle-free travel, rejuvenation and relaxation, or freedom and excitement in outdoor settings.
Visitors with more time available may choose to "step into the wild", both along the parkway and beyond the Heather Lake summit area. Here, visitors have the time for in-depth experiences that strengthen personal connections to the park. Visitors who have "stepped into the wild" country of Eva Lake and Miller Lake often feel a strong sense of personal stewardship for these protected places. Similarly, visitors who hike the Summit and Lindmark Trails experience the park's wild nature on these special historic trails, even though they are ascending the mountain very near to the parkway.
The Meadows in the Sky Area Visitor Experience Concept proposes a number of new visitor opportunities, facility improvements and service enhancements. Many of these improvements are concentrated in the lower mountain area, at the Nels Nelsen Historic Area, and at Revelstoke Viewpoint and Monashee Picnic Area. The planned effect will be twofold. The availability of more experiences at the base of the mountain will offer visitors a reason to slow down on their drive to the top of the parkway, dispersing visitors more widely during the peak hours and addressing capacity issues at the summit. The new and enhanced experiences will also offer individual visitors, families and groups more reasons to visit the park in the spring and fall, when the upper mountain is still snow-covered.
Recent Improvements to the Meadows in the Sky Area
- Nels Nelsen Chalet: interior and exterior repairs, washroom improvements, new water well
- Nels Nelsen Historic Area: new trailhead orientation signs
- Mount Revelstoke Trail: Tournament of Champions Trailhead, new trailside interpretive exhibits
- Parkway Welcome Station: new automated gateway
- Monashee Picnic Area: new picnic shelter roof
- Upper Summit Trail: trail extension from Balsam Lake RV parking lot to Balsam Lake picnic area
- Balsam Lake and Heather Lake areas: new trailside interpretive exhibits, new trail benches
- Artist in Residence facilities: Caribou Cabin and Balsam Studio (partner project)
- Historic Fire Lookout and Eva Lake Cabin: heritage building renovations and restoration
- Parkway: asphalt resurfacing and new amphibian habitat information signs
Parks Canada Special Events in the Meadows in the Sky Area
February: Take Your Kid Snowshoeing Night
June: Take Your Kid Mountain Biking Day
August: Bloom—Eva Lake Pilgrimage
An Evening with the Stars
September: Celebrate the Summit
Proposed Improvements to the Nels Nelsen Historic Area
- Develop a trail to and viewpoint on top of the Nels Nelsen Ski Jump
- Develop a new visitor experience at the Nels Nelsen Judges' Tower (partner project)
- Develop a children's interpretive playscape and bike skills trail in the old ski area parking lot
- Develop visitor accommodation cabins and a group campsite near the Nels Nelsen Chalet
Proposed Improvements to facilities along the Meadows in the Sky Parkway
- Install new interpretive exhibits at Revelstoke, Rainforest and Snowforest Viewpoints
- Create a new interpretive stroll at Monashee Picnic Area
- Install a new vault privy building at Monashee Picnic Area
- Install an upgraded interpretive exhibit at Internment Camp Viewpoint
- Conduct a geotechnical assessment of Bridge Creek pull-out for use as a public viewpoint
- Improve parking at the Snowline gate locations used during the shoulder seasons
- Create opportunities for additional memorial bench placements
- Install replica "Royal Road" markers commemorating royal visits to the park
- Continue to carry out asphalt resurfacing of the parkway's existing chip seal surface
Proposed Improvements to the Balsam & Heather Lakes Area
- Design a new interpretation experience for the interior of the Historic Fire Lookout
- Replace Balsam Lake picnic shelter roof
- Install new trailhead orientation signs at all upper mountain trailheads
- Develop a solution for peak season parking problems at Balsam Lake
- Install a new vault privy building at Heather Lake Picnic Area
Proposed New / Expanded / Reintroduced Visitor Opportunities—third party involvement
- New Opportunity—Guided tree-climbing—Nels Nelsen Historic Area
- Expanded Opportunity—Cross-country mountain biking trail—One Mile bench area
- Reintroduced Opportunity—Equestrian trail—One Mile bench area
- New Opportunity—Bouldering area—One Mile Bench area
- New Opportunity—Guided dog-sledding—Parkway
Parks Canada is responsible for protecting the natural and cultural resource integrity of national parks and managing them for visitors to understand, appreciate, and enjoy in a way that doesn't compromise their integrity.
The breathtaking scenery and inspiring natural surroundings in national parks provide the perfect setting for tuning into nature, learning about it, appreciating it, respecting it and pledging to protect it. Each national park is a haven for the human spirit.
National parks tell the stories of Canada's natural beginnings—mountains forming, lakes emerging, rivers running, forests growing, glaciers moving—to anyone who listens, looks and understands. They tell tales of human history too, from traditional Aboriginal activities, to early exploration, to European settlement, to modern use. And they reveal ongoing natural processes—floods enriching, fires renewing, species migrating. They provide opportunities to connect with nature, people and events that define Canada.
Understanding the importance of Canada's natural heritage to the nation and the world, and developing support for its protection are critical to the long-term health of the system of national parks. Parks Canada is working to maintain or restore the ecological integrity of national parks. This means keeping ecosystems healthy and whole—a state where ecosystem biodiversity, structures and functions are unimpaired and likely to persist.
Natural Resources and Ecological Integrity
The Meadows in the Sky Area of Mount Revelstoke National Park includes the three ecological zones that are most representative of the Columbia Mountains: the lushly-vegetated valley bottoms and lower slopes of the Interior Cedar Hemlock forests; the steep, wet and cool upper mountainsides of the Engelmann Spruce-Subalpine Fir forests and meadows; and the Interior Mountain Heather Alpine zone's cold, wind-swept alpine tundra, rock and ice.
Known collectively as the Interior Wet Belt, the forests of the Columbia Mountains contain the greatest diversity of coniferous tree species in Canada, and are considered to be the second most productive forest zone in Canada. Although smaller than Banff or Jasper national parks, Mount Revelstoke and Glacier together represent 70 percent of the typical species and habitat found within the greater Columbia Mountains region. Plant diversity is high here, with 880 species of plants occurring in the two parks. In recent years, many rare plants, mosses, and lichens have been discovered in the parks—several of these lichen species are new to science. Almost 250 species of animals have been recorded in Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks, with many present in the Meadows in the Sky area. The park provides habitat for many species at risk including:
- federally listed as threatened—mountain caribou and olive-sided flycatcher,
- federally listed as species of special concern—Coeur d'Alene salamander, western toad, rusty blackbird and Lewis' woodpecker,
- nationally assessed (provincially but not federally listed) as species of special concern—grizzly bear and wolverine.
Maintaining or restoring ecological integrity is a challenging task that involves a good understanding of the dynamic nature of ecosystems and the stresses they face. It also requires collaboration among people whose actions influence the ecosystems and their sustainability—from neighbouring landowners and businesses, to local residents, visitors and governments. The park alone does not contain enough continuous unaltered habitat to sustain wide-ranging species such as mountain caribou and grizzly bears over the long term. Wildlife habitat in the park and the regional ecosystem extending beyond the park has been fragmented by the past and current activities of people. Declining wildfire frequency has also contributed to habitat fragmentation. Transportation routes, dams and reservoirs, recreation infrastructure and industrial activities are all concentrated in valley bottoms surrounding the park, affecting interior cedar-hemlock forests, wetlands, rivers and lakes. Some progress has been made in addressing regional ecosystem issues with neighbouring land managers and other stakeholders. This includes collaboration on species at risk research projects, species recovery planning and land use planning.
The interruption of wildlife movement corridors, which also facilitate genetic exchange between populations has increased the isolation and vulnerability of both mountain caribou and grizzly bears. Mountain caribou populations have continued to decline, and the Columbia South herd in particular has plummeted to only a few individual animals. A number of mitigations have been in place in the park for many years to avoid further disturbance or displacement of this sensitive species. In the winter and spring, daytime visitor access to areas of the parkway above Caribou Cabin is strongly discouraged. Overnight visitation beyond Caribou Cabin in winter and spring is restricted. Removal of tree species that produce food resources for caribou beyond the elevation of Caribou Cabin is also be restricted. During the snow-free months, caribou presence is monitored to ensure that visitation Is not having an impact on the herd. Mountain caribou are also the focus of new on-site interpretive media in the mountain-top area.
Increased visitation may have an impact on bear species. A special bear management and communications plan has been developed and implemented when there is potential for significant human conflict with grizzly bears in the Meadows in the Sky Area. Group hiking restrictions, currently used to keep trails open when bears are in the area in Glacier National Park, could be used in the Eva, Miller and Jade Lakes areas if the need arises.
New visitor opportunities and facilities will not proceed if they would encroach upon important bear rearing or foraging habitat. For example, the re-introduction of equestrian activity in lower elevation areas of the park could have an impact on bear presence, movement and denning. Any proposal for a new equestrian trail will be reviewed for impact on bear species, and will be approved only if appropriate mitigations are undertaken.
Visitor operations and services will continue to include careful management of any human food sources in the Meadows in the Sky Area, particularly at special events on the mountain. Re-vegetation plans will not include berry-producing or foraging plants. New activities at the Nels Nelsen Chalet, Caribou Cabin, Balsam Studio and Balsam Lake Cabin will all meet the highest Bear Aware standards.
Amphibians such as Coeur D'Alene salamanders and western toads are threatened by increased road traffic, alteration to breeding and/or migration habitat (ponds and upland forests) and increased predation to migrating individuals if cover is removed from historic breeding/rearing areas. Vehicle traffic on warm wet evenings has been of particular concern in the past. In 2013, Parks Canada reduced evening operating hours on the parkway, and installed motorist awareness signs in salamander habitat and at the Parkway Welcome Station. The possibility of amphibian crossing structures is being explored.
In the Meadows in the Sky Area, birds can be threatened by wildlife tree removal or forest alteration and disturbance from noise. Prior to any the development of new visitor opportunities, bird habitat is evaluated to ensure that these species will not experience negative impacts associated with the project. The spring to mid-August period is of significant concern. The new reduced evening hours on the parkway, habitat surveys and careful timing of construction periods are the principle mitigations against the disturbance of birds.
There is a substantial risk of wildfire at upper elevations in the Meadows in the Sky Area, with only the parkway providing visitor and operational road access to the summit area. Wildfire could threaten park facilities on the mountain and in the nearby City of Revelstoke. Parks Canada will enhance fire management preparedness in collaboration with the community, to ensure the safety of visitors and reduce risk to property and adjacent land. The potential for fuel reduction through controlled burns on the southwest facing slopes of Mount Revelstoke is being examined.
Historic and Cultural Resources
Mount Revelstoke National Park has a rich cultural heritage, including its historic visitor facilities. The Summit Trail to the top of the mountain is now a century old. The Lindmark Trail is named for Charles Lindmark, the mayor who initiated construction of the Summit Trail. The Meadows in the Sky Parkway still largely follows the original 1911-1929 road alignment. The Nels Nelsen ski jump is still the only place in Canada where world records in ski jumping have ever been set. Historic buildings like the picnic shelters at Monashee and Balsam Lake, the summit fire look-out and Eva Lake and Caribou Cabins are all still in use by visitors.
Today, the Fire Look-out and Eva Lake Cabin are protected as Federal Heritage Buildings. The site of a short-lived World War I era internment camp, from a grim chapter in Canada's history, has been inventoried and protected by archaeologists. The picnic shelters at Balsam Lake and Monashee have been maintained in their historic architectural condition. The historic Nels Nelsen ski jump site will see a second life as a result of the proposals in this Area Plan. Caribou Cabin and Balsam Lake Cabin are becoming artist's aeries. Stories of the park's neighbouring First Nations are presented on the First Footsteps Trail at the summit. The great explorer David Thompson's tale is presented at a mountain-top viewpoint overlooking his "great river of the west"—the final reach of water that he paddled to become the First European to circumnavigate the entire Columbia River.
Parks Canada will continue to protect and present the historic and cultural resources that connect visitors to the Meadows in the Sky story and the people who came before. First Nations people will be invited to share more stories of their traditional use of the area. Gaps in cultural heritage information (such as the World War I era internment camp site) will be filled and interpreted. The community will be engaged in telling the stories of Mount Revelstoke National Park—such as the city's visionary role in the park's establishment, the royal visits, and the skiing and ski-jumping history of the park, especially during the Centennial year in 2014. The historic resources of the Nels Nelsen ski jump area will be stabilized and additional interpretive presentation will be developed there in 2014 as well.
The Connection to Place study clearly indicated that visitors consider the Meadows in the Sky Area to be a place with special meaning to them and a place that they care for. Interpretive exhibits on the mountain are designed to create a sense of personal stewardship among residents and visitors alike.
Parks Canada also continues to practice environmental stewardship. Operational support infrastructure that is no longer required will be closed and the site rehabilitated. The establishment and spread of invasive non-native plants into undisturbed sites is controlled and restored wherever possible. Parks Canada is also exploring green public transportation methods as a means of dealing with traffic congestion in the areas—a private sector operator began to offer a visitor shuttle service from downtown Revelstoke to the summit of the mountain in 2013.
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