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Town of Banff wants answer from Parks Canada on Mount Norquay gondola

A lack of decision from Parks Canada on an aerial gondola to Mount Norquay has some Banff town councillors frustrated as the municipality moves toward establishing an area redevelopment plan for the train station lands
13 Liricon Community Consulation 0001
Jan Waterous speaks to Liricon Capital's plans for revitalization of the Banff train station earlier this year.

BANFF – The Town of Banff is putting pressure on Parks Canada to say yes or no to an aerial gondola from the Banff townsite to the summit of Mount Norquay.

At a meeting Monday (Dec. 9), council expressed frustration about the area redevelopment plan (ARP) for the train station lands moving forward without knowing Parks Canada’s decision on Liricon Inc.’s proposal for a gondola.

Mayor Karen Sorensen said she has been encouraging the federal government to make a firm decision.

“I just don’t want us getting into a debate and any kind of decision-making when a very crucial decision is out of hands,” Sorensen said, noting the base of the proposed gondola would be inside town boundaries.

“I don’t need council or administration to spend the time on an area redevelopment plan that includes the base for a gondola and, frankly, perhaps the angst that may come with that in the community, if there’s not going to be a gondola.”

An aerial gondola from the train station to the summit of Mount Norquay, which has become a divisive development debate in the community, is one part of a big picture vision of Jan and Adam Waterous for a car-free Banff.

The Waterous’ own Mount Norquay ski hill and have acquired train stations lands from Canadian Pacific Railway where they want to create a transit hub, complete two intercept parking lots, see the return of passenger rail and build a gondola to the ski hill.

The approved site guidelines for Mount Norquay and the current management plan for Banff National Park allow Liricon to submit a feasibility study for an aerial tram between the townsite and ski area.

Jan said they have been working closely with Town administration and Parks Canada over the last several months.

“By its very design, any ARP approval from the Town will be contingent on approval of the gondola from Parks Canada and this has always been the case,” she said.

“This contingency gives the Town the assurances they require to conduct their review process accordingly.”

In a July article in the Globe and Mail, Parks Canada said Liricon’s proposal exceeds the scope of what’s permitted under the existing site guidelines for Mt. Norquay and the park management plan.

Spokeswoman Natalie Fay said a preliminary assessment “shows that the proposal is inconsistent with specific statutory requirements and with key long-standing policies regarding commercial development in Banff National Park.”

In a statement provided to the Outlook this week, Parks Canada stated it is still reviewing and considering the application. 

“To fully understand the potential impacts and benefits of this proposal, it is important to consider it in its entirety, rather than only considering any single component,” the statement read.

“Parks Canada is still reviewing and considering the additional information submitted by the ski area operator in response to Parks Canada’s preliminary review and response.”

Town of Banff officials say they expect the proposed ARP would be ready to come before council sometime in April, May or June.

Coun. Corrie DiManno voiced concern about what to do if there is no answer from the federal government by that time.

“To me, then it becomes we are stirring up the angst if we are having this conversation about something that may or may not even be allowed to happen,” she said. “Why would we go down this road if we don’t have that high level answer?”

Darren Enns, the Town of Banff’s planning and development department director, said in an ideal world, the municipality will have that clarity before then.

“If we don’t have certainty there will be some different conversations at the council table – whether you table or whether you advance,” he said.