Banff seeks strategies to curb carbon footprint as more tourists flood park

More tourists and visitors are flooding into Banff National Park than ever, according to Parks Canada — and with 2020 expected to be the busiest year on record, conservationists are raising the alarm.

Parks Canada statistics indicate the number of annual visitors to Banff has hovered around 4.1 million each year since 2016, an increase from 2014-15, when 3.6 million tourists visited.

At the time, that was a record-breaking number. Colleen Campbell, a conservationist with the Bow Valley Naturalists, said the increased load on the park is just too much.

"We don't want to think about how much water, how much garbage and electric power and natural gas is used to keep all of these people comfortable and happy," she said. "We don't see the strains on the local infrastructure and the local services … we won't be able to compensate for the damage that's done."

Town of Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen said strategies have been implemented to help mitigate the human impact on the park, such as the introduction of transit options.

"I think there's a lot of optimism right now. I think we're having more conversations, we're coming together and having those conversations," Sorensen said. "We will come up with solutions."

Terri Trembath/CBC

Beyond transit, Sorensen said the park could use other tools to help reduce its carbon footprint, such as potentially using a reservation system.

"We all try to send the same message, to get people to do the right thing and to perhaps go and explore other areas of Banff National Park that aren't necessarily considered the most popular spots," Sorensen said.