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Banff sets goals through environmental plan

BANFF – The Town of Banff is looking to a greener future.
Banff was crazy busy this summer, but local authorities say public transit in the townsite and surrounding national park saved the day.
Roam transit will be rolling out free fares, half priced tickets and changed routes soon.

BANFF – The Town of Banff is looking to a greener future.

Council has adopted a long-term environmental master plan to guide future decisions and municipal operations in six specific areas: air, ecosystems, energy, sustainable transportation, waste and water.

Officials say the plan sets community goals for preserving and protecting the environment.

“This isn’t a binding policy. This is for planning purposes,” said Chad Townsend, the municipality’s environmental manager.

“Like all master plans, there will be stages of implementation that come back to council and there will be community involvement in some of these specific actions.”

Banff has shown environmental leadership in some areas, but until now, the municipality hasn’t had an over-arching, comprehensive roadmap for adopting and implementing green programs and initiatives.

Specific goals over the next 10 years include diverting 70 per cent of community-wide waste from heading to the landfill and preventing waste coming into homes and businesses in the first place.

As part of the plan, there’s an ongoing push to have more people walking, cycling, skateboarding and using transit, which would be powered by renewable energy.

The Town will also look to better understand and eliminate the effects the community has on the surrounding area and its wildlife.

A major goal is transitioning the supply of energy for the entire community away from sources that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and work to understand and potentially better manage air quality and water supply.

The Bow Valley Naturalists (BVN) and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) say they strongly support the idea of a long-term environmental strategy, and while it includes some ideas with real merit, meaningful goals and performance measures, they believe it lacks bold and creative ideas.

Peter Zimmerman, parks program supervisor for CPAWS’ southern Alberta chapter, said the group recognizes the master plan can only address those issues in the four-square-kilometre

“None-the-less, the Town’s EMP should fit hand in glove with the Parks management plan and management priorities, which are unquestionably focused on ecosystems and the crowding and congestion issues that impact that,” he said.

“We believe that the crowding and congestion issue is at a crisis point and bold action is required to remedy this.”

Almost 200 people participated in a questionnaire and 1,400 in a community engagement process to write comments on boards.

Councillor Peter Poole suggested a community workshop on the plan, saying he believes there’s a need for a broader discussion with the community.

“We would get a stronger understanding,” he said.

Councillor Chip Olver said the plan is long overdue.

“Well, hooray. I think this was kind of our missing master plan and now we have it, which is just fabulous,” she said.

“I wish we were doing it in the next three years, but 10 years is going to come before we know it and these are going to be implemented.”

Some specific proposals include looking into options for an air quality monitoring system and increasing enforcement of commercial vehicle idling and limit amount of time personal vehicles can be idled.

The municipality will also look to complete a technical study focused on renewable energy potential and investment opportunities within and directly outside the townsite. Another feasibility study would focus on making the Roam bus fleet and the Town’s fleet electric.

Paid parking will be back on the discussion table to encourage people to take the bus or walk or ride, in conjunction with development of parking lots at the train station and east entrance to town.

Another idea is to complete a feasibility study related to “pay-as-you-throw” program options for the Town of Banff, whereby residents pay for waste disposal by weight or volume, while recycling and composting are free or charged at a significantly lower rate.

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