5.0 Historical Activities and Infrastructure

When Canada's national park system was born at Banff over a century ago, there was still a vast wilderness in Canada and a different perspective prevailed on the values and purposes of national parks. It was not deemed inappropriate to establish permanent and seasonal communities within national parks to serve the needs and wants of the park visitors. Similarly, some parks were created around national transportation corridors more for their scenery and tourism appeal than for other natural heritage considerations. Such development is part of the national park history. The communities and recreational facilities, including golf courses and commercial downhill skiing areas, continue to provide enjoyment and livelihood for a large number of park visitors and residents.

Through careful planning and consultation with all stakeholders, Parks Canada manages these park communities, transportation corridors and recreational developments in ways that minimize impairment to the ecological integrity of the parks. The communities in the national parks and the way they are managed represent a unique opportunity to demonstrate the overriding values of ecological integrity, environmental citizenship, environmental stewardship and sustainable development through applied research and partnership.

Nonetheless, given the limited range of unspoiled wilderness left in Canada, it is inappropriate to establish additional communities or intensive infrastructure for recreation in existing and future national parks.

5.1 National Park Communities

Because of their size, permanent population, year-round services and extensive municipal infrastructure, the communities of Banff and Jasper are classified as Towns. They are communities considered to have tax bases adequate to support a form of local self-government. Accordingly, by agreement with the residents and under the enabling provisions of the National Parks Act amendments, Parks Canada began negotiating the transfer of municipal taxing, utility and planning authorities to the Town of Banff in 1988. On January 1, 1990, the Town became an officially incorporated Alberta municipality under conditions set by a federal provincial agreement. Official designation as Visitor Centres is given to communities that provide a focus for and concentration of visitor activity services and facilities. Waterton, Wasagaming and Waskesiu are classified as Visitor Centres, in addition to being the administrative headquarters of Waterton Lakes, Riding Mountain and Prince Albert National Parks, respectively. Visitor use of these centres is primarily seasonal and they offer a limited range of facilities. Land was provided for seasonal cottage residence in each of these communities in past years when such use was considered appropriate.

Lake Louise is also a Visitor Centre but, along with Field in Yoho, does not contain areas for cottage residence. At Lake Louise all residential land is either used for government housing or tied to commercial leases and developed as staff accommodation. Field, meanwhile, is a largely residential community accommodating the administrative centre for the park as well as an operational centre for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Resort Subdivisions are summer seasonal cottage subdivisions established early in the history of Jasper, Wood Buffalo, Prince Albert and Riding Mountain National Parks.

The boundary of the Town of Banff has been established by a Town Plan prepared in conjunction with the park management plan, and has been set out in the National Parks Act. The same provision will apply to the Town of Jasper if the residents opt for self-government measures in the future.

No new communities will be developed within national parks.

Statements of principles governing the management of park communities may be developed, and then be approved by the Minister.

No additional lands will be made available for private cottages and camps or seasonal camping areas.

Where there is a community in a national park, a community plan will be prepared based on direction contained in the park management plan. Community plans will be approved by the Minister.

Parks Canada will encourage the establishment of community groups to advise park superintendents on matters affecting local interests.

The Crown in Right of Canada will continue to own the land in all national park communities. The Minister will give final approval to community plans and land use regulations or bylaws based upon community plans, and will be the final authority on planning matters.

Where Parks Canada retains exclusive community government authorities, charges and taxes to be levied for municipal and health services will be based on cost accounting data and the municipal taxing practices of the province in which a park is located.

5.2 Golf Courses and Commercial Ski Areas

Due to the amount of land they require and the need for intense manipulation of natural regimes, no new golf courses will be constructed in national parks and expansions to existing golf courses will not be considered.

Due to the pressures placed on alpine and subalpine environments, the l988 National Parks Act amendments prohibited development of new commercial skiing areas inside the national parks. The five existing commercial alpine skiing areas will be managed within their legislated boundaries according to long-range development plans approved by the Minister and subject to public consultations.