Feds pumping $71M into parks infrastructure projects

The Government of Canada is boosting priority projects in the national parks with a $71 million investment over the next three years.

Last week’s announcement cited critical infrastructure improvements in the community of Lake Louise, upgrades to Parks Canada dispatch in Banff and Jasper, as well as several roadway and bridge improvements.

The federal investment in Parks Canada is meant to not only improve specific elements of infrastructure but also maintain high standards for visitors and enhance safety on the highways and roadways that take people to and through the mountain national parks.

“The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring the sustainability of Parks Canada assets so the cultural, environmental and economic vitality that national heritage places bring to Canada can continue into the future,” said Terry Duguid, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, in a prepared press statement.

The dispatch centres in Banff and Jasper are set to benefit from equipment upgrades. Ensuring quick and effective responses are essential for public safety, maintaining quick and effective response times during emergency situations, the statement continues.

Parks Canada will conduct repairs and rehabilitation on primary and secondary highways in Jasper, Banff, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks, with design work for bridges to be initiated in Jasper National Park as well.

Mayor Richard Ireland was pleased with the news, seeing the likelihood that Jasper National Park’s superintendent had to put a lot of lobbying work into it behind the scenes. He offered his congratulations.

“I think that the announcement represents the result of continuous effort on his part, which we've been happy to support when and where we could,” he said.

“But these things don't come lightly. I’m sure that the superintendent has worked hard to position Jasper to be the recipient of those funds, and it's great news.”

He welcomed any and all infrastructure improvements that would enable Jasper National Park and the Municipality of Jasper and all of its tourism industry partners to better serve visitors and residents.

James Jackson, president and CEO of Tourism Jasper, supported that statement by saying, “We are extremely supportive of capital infrastructure dollars sent by Parks Canada.”

Ireland said that infrastructure funding is important to Canada’s largest mountain national park. Again, he credited Fehr for supporting Jasper and its tourism industry.

“I think that at the local level, we can acknowledge when people are working for the benefit of the industry basically here,” the mayor added.

“They're part of the tourism economy – an important part of it – and this all helps. It's a good news story and congratulations, as I say, where they’re deserved.”

Fehr was unavailable for an interview before press time.

The announcement also indicated that Lake Louise would see critical repairs to community water and sewer infrastructure with a redesign of Lake Louise Drive to improve safety and visitor experience.

This investment is part of the Government of Canada’s recent announcement putting down $557 million in infrastructure and maintenance funding for Parks Canada over three years.

The announcement states that the network of protected areas administered by Parks Canada is “a gateway to nature, history, and 450,000 (square kilometres) of memories from coast to coast to coast.”

“Investing in these locations helps support the health of natural and built heritage, increases climate resiliency and creates jobs in local communities, while providing visitors with high-quality, safe and meaningful experiences across the country.”

Federal infrastructure investments have enabled Parks Canada to improve the condition of approximately 5,000 assets across the country since 2015, the press release added.

These upgrades help ensure public safety, quality and reliability in visitor offers, incorporate green technologies and climate resilience, while connecting Canadians with nature and history.

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh