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Parks Canada requests transit service expand to popular Jasper visitor spot, Maligne Canyon

Maligne Canyon is one of the most visited locations in Jasper National Park, attracting 3,000 to 5,000 people per day in the summer,
Jasper Transit makes a stop at Whistlers Campground during its launch day on Sept. 5, 2023. | Peter Shokeir / Jasper Fitzhugh

Parks Canada is asking the Municipality of Jasper to extend its transit system to Maligne Canyon.

The request comes as Parks Canada looks for ways to address parking lot congestion at Maligne Canyon and other highly visited locations.

“Moving forwards, Parks Canada would like to see a decreased reliance on the use of personal vehicles to access these locations, and increased use of alternative modes of transportation like mass transit,” wrote Jasper National Park Supt. Alan Fehr in a letter to CAO Bill Given.

Maligne Canyon is one of the most visited locations in Jasper National Park, attracting 3,000 to 5,000 people per day in the summer, according to visitation data from Parks Canada.

Parks Canada described how Maligne Canyon’s parking lot has been experiencing congestion issues.

In summer 2023, the main parking lot was 94 per cent full on average and reached capacity on 85 per cent of summer days.

“Public transit service to Maligne Canyon would help achieve ecological integrity and visitor experience goals,” Fehr wrote.

“As such, extending Jasper Transit service to Maligne Canyon would be a valuable supplement to existing operations already providing transportation services to the Maligne Canyon area.”

Fehr stated how Parks Canada would be willing to discuss the particulars with the municipality if there was any interest.

These particulars would include the location of a bus stop, the minimum service interval, the months of service and the hours of operation.

Fehr added that Parks Canada understood it would have to provide financial support should there be any additional costs to this expansion, and they would appreciate it if the municipality could also consider winter service.

Jasper Transit currently services several locations outside of the townsite: Jasper Park Lodge, Lake Annette, Whistlers and Wapiti campgrounds and Pyramid Lake.

Jasper Municipal Council reviewed Fehr’s letter during its committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 13. It made no final decisions on the request.

Coun. Ralph Melnyk said the municipality would have to consider if this service extension would require another bus.

He noted that the current model is based on the municipality having received a $5 million federal grant, and there likely would not be another grant to cover the cost of an additional bus.

“I just want to make sure that when administration is looking at this, that’s one of those things that we make sure we include so that the burden of doing this extension service isn't passed on to the taxpayers.”

Melnyk added that this could set the precedent for additional extension requests to locations such as Marmot Basin or the Jasper SkyTram.

“We need to be clear in how we're going to respond to these requests, that it needs to be total cost recovery to minimize any additional impact on our limited resources as a municipality,” he said.

“And I throw that out there for discussion and consideration because we are strapped right now. We are really tight. Additional borrowing is not an option, and anytime we do anything, looking at this extension of services, creating more costs, we need to make sure that we're not adding additional burden to an already stressed budget that’s going to be going on for the next five-to-six years.”

Committee received the correspondence for information and referred the matter to administration to report back at a future meeting.

Peter Shokeir

About the Author: Peter Shokeir

Peter Shokeir is the publisher and editor of the Jasper Fitzhugh. He has written and edited for numerous publications in Alberta.
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