BANFF – The draft management plan for Banff National Park calls for vehicle restrictions at certain times on the roads leading to iconic Moraine Lake and Lake Louise to protect wildlife.
In addition, the plan considers paid parking at Moraine Lake, which follows an earlier announcement by Parks Canada to implement paid parking this summer at Upper Lake Louise.
The draft document, which is a management blueprint for the next 10 years, includes a specific strategy the Lake Louise region, which is one of the busiest and most congested places in the park.
Parks Canada officials say a big part of the plan is an enhanced transportation system, but also proposes to use many tools to manage the type, amount, timing, location or nature of human activity in areas that are ecologically sensitive, or contain important wildlife habitat.
“The Lake Louise area strategy will focus on two key objectives: improving ecological integrity, and enhancing the quality of visitor experiences,” states the draft management plan.
The draft management plan for Banff National Park is out for public review from April 14 to July 7. A virtual meeting will be held at a yet determined date in the future for additional public feedback.
Implementing vehicle access restriction on Lake Louise Drive and Moraine Lake Road as required to reduce disturbance to wildlife during sensitive periods is a key recommendation in the plan.
Specifically for Moraine Lake Road, the plan suggests using shuttle scheduling and traffic restrictions during dawn and dusk to allow wildlife to use and move through a critical wildlife corridor.
The most significant change in Lake Louise since the last Banff management plan was approved in 2010 has been unprecedented growth in visitation.
In 2019-20, a total of 4.1 million people visited Banff National Park, an increase of 29.8 per cent from 2010-11.
The annual two-way traffic volume on Lake Louise Drive was 2.1 million vehicles in 2019, up from 1.2 million vehicles in 2010 – a 75 per cent increase.
“Summer visitor use of four popular hiking trails increased by 156 per cent, and a fall increase in trail use of 400 per cent was observed in Larch Valley,” states the draft plan.
“While summer continues to be the busiest period in the Lake Louise area, the shoulder seasons of late spring, early fall and winter holidays have all seen a surge in visitation requiring Parks Canada to manage traffic in the area on a year-round basis.”
Parks Canada will also evaluate the feasibility of relocating the park-and-ride located east of the hamlet on the Trans-Canada Highway to the Lake Louise ski hill.
They say the planned parking lots at the ski hill, under already approved plans, will eventually accommodate up to 3,000 private vehicles and 50 tour buses. Less than 500 spaces are required to support the ski area’s summer program.
“The potential for these lots to play a role in alleviating some of the traffic challenges in Lake Louise will be investigated,” states the draft management plan.
“The current park- and-ride does not meet Parks Canada’s expected level of service, nor does it have sufficient capacity.”
Parks Canada will also work with the Lake Louise ski resort to build a wildlife underpass on Whitehorn Road, which leads to the ski hills and runs through a critical wildlife corridor.
The draft plan also indicates shuttle scheduling and traffic restrictions are under consideration to maintain low-disturbance periods for wildlife on Whitehorn Drive during dawn and dusk, and spring and fall, to allow animals to move more freely through the corridor.
In addition, human use within key wildlife habitat will be managed to reduce the potential for displacement of wary species, or the likelihood of animals becoming habituated to human presence.
“Special attention will be given to grizzly bears, a species of special concern, that utilize the area as part of their core reproductive range,” states the draft plan.
In releasing the draft plan on Wednesday (April 14), Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, officially launched Indigenous and public engagement on the draft management plans for all mountain national parks.
"The mountain national parks are iconic Canadian treasures, internationally renowned for their marvellous landscapes, amazing visitor experiences, and incredible biodiversity,” he said.
“Management planning in the mountain national parks is an opportunity for the public to help shape the future of these special places so that we can protect and enjoy them for generations to come.”
The draft Banff plan indicates the goals for the Lake Louise area is to maintain ecological integrity and enhance visitor experience in the area.
“Objectives and actions may change with evolving conditions, developments in technology or additional study,” according to the draft document.
Parks Canada asks the public to submit their feedback to [email protected] until July 7.
A local spokesperson for Parks Canada was not immediately available for comment.