Popular Johnston Canyon trail in Banff National Park will be closed for major upgrades and repair work for several weeks this fall.
The $1.2 million project begins Sept. 15 and is expected to run until the end of October, weather permitting. The work follows a 12-year-old boy being sent to hospital with serious, life-threatening injuries earlier this summer when a tree fell on him.
In an email sent to businesses and other interested parties, which was then forwarded to the Outlook by a stakeholder, officials with Parks Canada said the closure includes the trail from the Johnston Canyon day use area parking lot to the upper falls.
“An assessment of the Johnston Canyon trail determined the requirement for extensive rehabilitation to improve safety and long-term access for visitors,” said Parks Canada’s Michelle Macullo in the memo.
“Due to the large scale of the project and safety concerns related to the work required, the trail will be closed to the public.”
On July 9, a tree fell on a 12-year-old boy as he hiked the popular trail with his family.
A tree dislodged and fell onto a section of railing along the trail. The young boy was taken to Banff’s Mineral Springs Hospital, and then flown to Calgary hospital by STARS air ambulance in serious condition. There has been no update on him.
The trail, located about 20 kilometres west of Banff on Bow Valley Parkway, was closed for about a week for Parks Canada to conduct a hazardous tree assessment. About 20 trees deemed a hazard were removed at the time.
Tim Nokes, whose family owns Johnston Canyon Resort, said the timing of the work is not great, noting the season for the business is only five months long and the closure will affect the business.
He said the work needs to happen, but it would be better to start at the beginning of October instead. Parks Canada was initially going to close the trail after the labour Day weekend on Sept. 8, but pushed it back a week.
Nokes said the resort wants to work closer with Parks Canada.
“We appreciated they pushed it back a week, but it’s still a very busy time for us and it will affect us,” he said.
“We have lot of contracts with staff which go to the first part of October, and we have to honour those contracts.”
Nokes said this will be the fifth situation this year that has affected Johnston Canyon, including the mandatory seasonal restriction in spring and a trail closure after the young boy was struck by a tree.
“Then we have the marathon and GranFondo, which closes down the road and effectively our business for the weekend days because you can’t get on the parkway,” he said.
“This would be the fifth situation, and of course, public safety is the number one concern. However, if that could have been done at the beginning of October it would be far less impactful on our business.”
Nokes said he suggested to Parks Canada that work begin at the top end of the canyon first, while still allowing access to the lower section.
“Johnston Canyon trail is so popular, but they weren’t approachable on that,” he said.
Parks Canada did not provide a spokesperson to provide details and information on the upcoming upgrades and repair work, but the memo sent out indicated the work will include the removal of trees and deadfall.
In addition, the work includes rock-scaling, trim-blasting, rock-bolting, asphalt removal and disposal, cold patching, retaining wall construction, rock wall construction and installation of new metal railings.
The cost of the project is estimated to be $1.2 million. An additional $1.9 million will be spent on rehabilitation of the Johnston Canyon day use area parking lot.
During the work, access to the Ink Pots will be accessible via the Meadows Trail. Additional nearby hiking options include Silverton Falls, Rockbound Lake, Marble Canyon and the Paint Pots.