Jasper Municipal Council approved the use of the COVID relief reserve to fund a shuttle service as a pilot project this summer during its July 6 regular meeting.
At its June 15 meeting, council received a letter from SunDog Tours that proposed a partnership with the municipality and Tourism Jasper to establish a shuttle service for the summer of 2021.
The objective of this service is to offer convenient, efficient, affordable transportation from campgrounds and high traffic areas to Jasper’s downtown core.
“Public parking in the downtown core of Jasper has become an issue recently due to higher regional visitation and the introduction of patios in parking stalls,” stated Paul Hardy with SunDog Tours in the letter.
“The lack of parking has the potential to discourage downtown visitation and frustrate both visitors and locals.”
At the previous meeting, Coun. Paul Butler proposed that the shuttle service commitment be one year rather than the originally proposed three years.
The shuttle will go to Wapiti Campground, Whistlers Campground, Jasper Adventure Centre and Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
The fare will be $5 per round trip.
The shuttle is expected to run early in the morning and into the evening, so both locals and visitors will not have to worry about driving and finding parking at busy places such as Lake Annette.
“We believe that the above schedule operates at appropriate, convenient times with ample regularity,” Hardy added.
“The schedule is easy to understand, and it operates late enough in the day to encourage visitors to have dinner and drinks without having to concern themselves with driving.”
Parks Canada had issued a request for proposals (RFP), and the evaluation of the submissions happened on July 5, which CAO Bill Given was given the opportunity to participate in.
The highest evaluated submission was SunDog Tours.
Parks Canada issued the RFPs because they have some say in who uses their land and who steps in their campground sites, and there is a general consent that since this will be a pilot program, they wanted to make sure it’s successful.
“So, instead of having multiple small operators all operating in unsustainable services, it’s probably in the community’s greatest interest if there is a sustainable pilot that is undertaken in the first year to demonstrate the demand,” Given said.
Parks Canada wanted to also ensure the quality of service that is going to be given to Jasper locals and visitors.
Coun. Rico Damota said he was grateful for the RFP processes.
“I was a little uncomfortable with something being automatic, although the one company did do all the background work to establish the pitch,” he said.
“I think this is a good step in the right direction.”
Council approved the motion that up to $24,000 from the COVID relief reserve will support the public transportation service pilot program for the summer of 2021.
“I am confident that this partnership will create a vital and lasting piece of infrastructure that will encourage commerce, reduce our carbon footprint, enhance our visitor experience and improve living conditions for residents of Jasper,” Hardy said.
The service is anticipated to be up and running within a few weeks.
Council members approved the changes in scope for Connaught Drive utility installation as well as approved the new budget of $7,150,000.
Council then approved the award of the contract for Connaught Drive utility installation to GS Construction in the amount of $5,798,435.
Council also gave the go-ahead for the development of a traditional land acknowledgment for use by the Municipality of Jasper and directed administration to develop a land acknowledgment policy for a review at a future committee of the whole meeting.
Lastly, council approved the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion policy that was discussed at the previous council meeting.
“This policy represents a great deal of forward momentum that we as an organization should be extremely proud of,” said Coun. Jenna McGrath.
Ali Howat, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh