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Section of Bow Valley Parkway reopens for vehicles to access Johnston Canyon

“We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback from the cycling experience from people the last year-and-a-half. We’ve also been getting feedback from people who really love the scenic drive and want access to those day areas."

BANFF NATIONAL PARK – People looking to head out to Johnston Canyon will have another option to travel.

Parks Canada announced they reopened a section of the Bow Valley Parkway from Johnston Canyon via Castle Junction for vehicles for the rest of the summer.

The roughly six-kilometre stretch of the Parkway will give visitors another option for seeing the popular Johnston Canyon.

The 17 km stretch of the Parkway to the east will continue to remain only for cyclists.

“We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback from the cycling experience from people the last year-and-a-half. We’ve also been getting feedback from people who really love the scenic drive and want access to those day areas,” said Daniella Rubeling, the visitor experience manager for Banff National Park.

“We’re working to adjust and adapt with that.”

Rubeling said Parks Canada is expecting the popular tourist site of Johnston Canyon to be an area people flock to once again, with Alberta reaching stage three of their COVID-19 response.

She said it’s recommended people cycling should park at the Fenlands Recreation Centre or the train station parking lots.

“We do anticipate because the access to Johnston Canyon has been limited the last year and a half that people will be itching to get back and the parking lot will be filling up as it has in previous years.”

Alternatively, Roam Public Transit also has their Route 9 option that allows people to avoid the headaches of parking in the busy national park. The Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission approved the one-year pilot program in the spring that would allow people to reserve spots on routes to Johnston Canyon (Route 9) and Lake Louise scenic (Route 8s) from May 21 to Sept. 19.

“People can plan their day, plan their time and make sure they get a seat and a spot. They don’t have to deal with the hassle of parking and it’s another option for people visiting that area.”

The Johnston Canyon campground is expected to be open by July 8, while cooking shelters in day use areas, Cabin and Basin National Historic Site and interpretive outdoor programs are open again, Rubeling said.

With Banff National Park among the most popular visitor sites in the country, Rubeling asked people to be respectful of others and the animals.

She emphasized there’s still a restricted activity order in the Johnston Canyon area for people to stay on the trails to help protect the endangered black swift bird.

As the province has reopened from public health restrictions and visitors stream into the park, it’s important to be respectful, she said.

“It’s been a very difficult year-and-a-half and we recognize how important parks are to people’s experience and outlets for mental and physical health. We ask people be respectful when they come to Banff National Park.”

The Minnewanka Loop was closed to vehicles Monday’s to Thursday’s between May 1 to 20 as part of a pilot cycling initiative in the park. The move gave cyclists the opportunity to ride the 25 kilometre scenic section without contending against vehicles.

Rubeling said they received a variety of feedback ranging from people in support of the initiative to others wishing there was more access to vehicles.

She noted Parks Canada will be seeking additional feedback in the coming weeks to help with future decisions on the Parkway.

“We definitely saw a steady use of that by cyclists in that time. At the same time, we had other feedback that people want those roadways open. We want to make sure we engage and provide people options to comment on.

“We want to make sure that everyone’s involved in that discussion. At the same time, there’s been lots of really positive feedback and we’re trying to balance that with the variety of uses the roadway sees.”