The guiding document for Banff National Park is in.
And a priority on getting people from point A to point B in more sustainable and environmentally prudent methods will be a driving force in what serves as the direction for the popular national park for the coming decade and beyond.
The move is a necessity with visitation having grown by 30 per cent in the last 10 years, including a 50 per cent increase in vehicle traffic in the same amount of time, and more than four million people visiting each year during the busy summer and ski seasons.
With no rational person arguing against climate change – the science long undeniable – more creative and wiser ways than relying on personal vehicles are needed.
While COVID-19 impacted visitation, it’s more than rebounded with about 600,000 people – the most in the park’s history in one month – visiting in July.
The park also serves as a pivotal go-through for people travelling between British Columbia and Alberta. The plan states about 8.3 million vehicles drive through Banff National Park each year, with about half stopping in the park.
The visitor movement in Banff National Park panel is expected to release its results this year, which will see recommendations for the path forward.
However, with a second intercept lot now six feet under with no hope for revival, the plan backs itself into a passenger rail service or buses – unless new technology is developed – in getting people in and out of the national park.
Though it’s only mentioned once, the proposed rail line for passenger rail between Calgary and Banff got a boost for possibly happening.
While timelines remain ambitious, the management plan gave it a push towards reality as it can address lessening vehicle traffic, the greenhouse gas emissions that come with millions of cars and aiding in the fight against climate change.
But there’s still significant work and a number of approvals that are needed before the twinning of the rail line would take place.
Buses, however, are a different story. With Roam transit proving to be among the most viable public transit networks in the country – as well as embracing green technology – and an existing transit network in Calgary, the introduction of a significantly expanded public transit could become a more quickly realized reality but not without massive financial investment from the federal government.
The management plan outlines specific targets, with the majority needing to be reached in either 2023 or 2024 highlighting the pressing nature.
Key elements such as education, a climate action plan, introducing green transportation methods, tracking metrics like temperatures, greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprints are key, but the most important is getting visitors and residents to buy in.
Though the majority of people understand the issue of increased visitation not being sustainable long-term and the impact of climate change growing more concerning by the day, solving it is often easier said than done.
The vision and planning can be there, but without the necessary amount of people to follow it, it will be all for naught.
The brutal reality is humanity is on the precipice of climate change significantly impacting the day-to-day lives of people. Some may complain about hotter summers, more mild winters and extreme weather events, but it is likely only the beginning of what may come if further and drastic action isn’t taken.
The arms on the clock counting down irreparable damage from climate change are nearing 12.
If the management plan is deemed to be a success, bold leadership, buy-in from residents and visitors and a lot of blank cheques will be needed in the coming years.