You might have noticed in my last “fun facts” post (it was about beer) that I love writing about stuff I personally like, things I am passionate about or experiences that I have made myself. For me it would be weird to tell you all these stories that I as the author can’t connect to.
Are you ready for some more knowledge? 🙂 Keep on reading then. In my undergraduate thesis in Tourism Management I took a closer look at sustainable vs. commercial tourism development in Canada’s protected areas. So this week, I would like to share some facts and thoughts on Canadian National Parks and why we should care about them.
In the very beginning of the evolution of National Parks in North America – the first one was Yellowstone NP in 1872 -, the only reason to protect these “areas of significant natural beauty” was to create destinations “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people”. In other words: National Parks back then were meant to be used as playgrounds for the growing masses of people that had the money to go on a big trip to the newly created parks. As tourist numbers grew like crazy, the awareness about inherent dangers of this development increased simultaneously. After massive environmental movements in the 70s and 80s, the actual protection of natural resources in the parks finally became the number one priority for the people who were in charge of the parks. For Canada, this is a governmental agency called Parks Canada which currently takes care of the 42 (!) existing National Parks and other protected areas as well as the establishment of new parks all over the country. The first National Park in Canada is still its most famous one: Banff NP.
It was created in 1885 after the hot springs were discovered – a perfect attraction for tourists, right? Railroad construction and the Trans Canada Highway literally paved the way for a history of intense tourism development within the boundaries of an ecologically highly sensitive area. Hotels, restaurants, golf courses, two ski hills, shopping and souvenir shops are the result but also the reason why Banff gained the status it has today. Each year, up to 5 million visitors come to see the natural wonders of the park and enjoy the amenities of Banff townsite. It was only in the late 80s when Parks Canada decided to focus on ecological integrity instead of further commercialization and tried to make up for the mistakes that had been made so far. Right now, Banff NP is in a state of recovery but still, the natural system has been highly disturbed already. Their new aim is to re-connect people with the parks and develop true appreciation, for example by new but low-impact recreational activities like zip-lines or via ferrata.
You might say “Okay, fair enough but why do I have to deal with it now?”. For you, this means that you play a major part in the way these National Parks develop in the future and you also determine if the generations after us will still get to stare at glaciers in awe, take a dip in clean mountain lakes and hike through seemingly untouched land. All you have to do is learning more about the parks and about your own impact on the environment, talking about it, getting active and acting respectfully. It must sound like I’m a “green” person – I am not and will never really be I think. I do care though (for example by writing this little blog post here) and this is everything that really matters to the parks in the end.
Here are some websites you might wanna check out if you’re interested:
What is your opinion on this topic? Any experiences in the parks you would like to share with us?