This Week in History
Canada creates a National Park
This story was initially published in 1998
On June 23, 1887, the Rocky Mountains Park Act created Canada's first national park. When mineral hot springs were discovered in the Rocky Mountains four years earlier, speculators clamoured for a piece of a property which could make them rich! To retain public ownership, Sir John A. Macdonald's cabinet created a reserve area in 1885 around the hot springs. A government official predicted in 1886 that the hot springs "were to become the greatest and most successful health resort on the continent." Instead, they grew into Banff National Park and the system of national parks that is now found in every province and territory of Canada.
Our modern concern with "ecological integrity" grew out of the early policy of protecting scenery so the park could survive as a prime tourist attraction. Regulations were passed in 1889 to protect forests and game, to control private construction and development, and to preserve natural beauty. Early park development favoured resort facilities, including development of the Cave and Basin Hot Springs. Later, natural resource programs were started. These included planting wild rice in shallow lakes and wetlands (sloughs) to encourage the propagation of migratory wildfowl, stocking lakes with fish, establishing a tree nursery to reforest areas damaged by railway construction or forest fires, and maintaining a fire guard to control fires from outside the park.
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