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Expert panel to deliver recommendations this summer

“After receiving the report, Parks Canada will review and consult with Canadians on the findings of the panel."
20210313 Banff Avenue 0233
Parks Canada's expert panel is expected this summer to deliver recommendations on moving people sustainably throughout the park. RMO FILE PHOTO

BANFF, Alta – The Park Canada-struck expert panel on moving people sustainably in Banff National Park is expected to deliver its final report this summer.

The federal agency, however, did not have a specific date for its release.

“After receiving the report, Parks Canada will review and consult with Canadians on the findings of the panel,” said Kira Tryon, public relations and communications officer for Banff National Park.

Parks Canada struck an expert panel to make recommendations on a long-term framework for how visitors will get around the Bow Valley and experience Banff National Park, including consideration of new technologies and best practices from around the world.

In addition, the nine-member panel was tasked with thinking beyond transportation modes to demand management strategies such as reservation systems, access restrictions, quotas, or timed and paid parking.

According to Parks Canada, recommendations from the panel will be subject to environmental review, and made available to Indigenous groups, the agency’s partners, and the general public for feedback.

Recommendations will be considered for future management in conjunction with other Parks Canada guidance, management plans, direction and ecosystem science.

Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno said she looks forward to the panel’s recommendations.

She said the Town of Banff has worked hard over the past decade since adoption of the 2013 transportation master plan to move the needle as best as possible on managing vehicles within the townsite.

“In my opinion, it’s reached the point where we need to be thinking more globally within Banff National Park,” she said.

In the Banff townsite, visitation returned to pre-COVID-19 levels on the May long weekend.

According to the municipality, the tourist town saw 175 per cent of the traffic compared to the May long weekend last year, although that was during a COVID-19 spike, but also 108 per cent of the traffic when compared to the 2019 May long weekend.

The Town of Banff confirmed there were delays of 90 minutes for traffic coming down from the gondola and Upper Hot Springs on Sulphur Mountain, heading back into town and to the north side of the Bow River.

Mayor DiManno said she hopes the expert panel gives recommendations on some substantial tools such as mass transit between Calgary and Banff.

“I think we’re doing about all we can do as a municipality and we need more substantial tools in our hands to take us to next level of vehicle and people management within the townsite and the park,” she said.

“For example, is that another intercept parking lot on the edge of town? Is that more robust transit to trailheads? Or paid parking at the Parks Canada lots within the townsite? I’m very curious to see what these recommendations are going to be.”

In addition, for the first time, a tourism master plan is being developed for Banff that will consider community well-being, the environment and economic prosperity.

The plan is being developed by Banff and Lake Louise Tourism, Parks Canada and the Town of Banff.

Mayor DiManno said she believes part of that conversation will include discussions on a car-free Banff, whereby visitors park and shuttle for the most part. Those discussions could include the south side of the bridge on Mountain Avenue.

“Within that tourism master plan or tourism visioning for the next 10 years, I think we’re going to have a community conversation about what we want the future to be, and I think a part of that will be the concept of exploring a car-free Banff,” she said.

“I think the Town of Banff is a partner in that conversation, but it’s got to be a community-wide one in terms of strategies.”

As part of development of a 10-year tourism master plan for Banff National Park, a community survey runs until June 10. The survey can be found at tourismtogether.ca.