YOHO – Future operation of the historic Twin Falls Chalet and teahouse in Yoho National Park is uncertain.
Fran Drummond, who has run the chalet for the past 57 years, said Parks Canada has told her she would be locked out of the building this summer in the absence of a new licence of occupation.
She’s fired off a letter to federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna to step in, noting her desire to continue running the chalet has been tied up in continued bureaucracy.
“Unfortunately, I hold a few reservations starting July 1 for the summer—some made two years in advance,” Drummond said. “These guests will be thoroughly disappointed that they are unable to be at Twin Falls Chalet.”
Drummond’s licence of occupation expired at the end of 2014 and the parties have been in discussion over the past few years. She has continued to operate the chalet in the intervening summers.
Alex Kolesch, a senior advisor for Parks Canada, said the agency is willing to continue working with Drummond to look at solutions for the coming season.
“This is a very unfortunate situation both parties find themselves in, because we have a tremendous amount of respect for Fran Drummond and the long association she has with both Twin Falls National Historic Site and her history with visitors over the decades,” he said.
“We also have a duty to Canadians to ensure operators are in good standing and are meeting the requirements and expectations of the agency.”
When licences of occupation come up for renewal, Parks Canada opens it to a competitive process to make it fair, transparent and equitable for all Canadians.
“We’re just not in position to turn around and issue a licence of occupation to the operator, but Fran Drummond is more than welcome to apply,” Kolesch said.
“We’ve been moving at a pace we think is appropriate for the circumstances, but we’ve come to the realization that we’re challenged to do anything other than the action you’re seeing now.”
A national historic site, the lower building was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1908, with construction of the two-storey main lodge completed in 1923. It opened for business the following year as a teahouse.
In 1962, Drummond took over running the teahouse.
She said that without the use of horses these days the logistics of getting food and supplies to the chalet is a challenge, noting that helicopters are far too expensive.
“No horses have been allowed since the mid 1990s, and therefore no trail riders or transportation facility for Twin Falls Chalet, resulting in no tea service,” she said.
“Serving tea is expensive and wasteful when we do not know the numbers of day guests on the trails. In order to serve day guests plastic serving wear is used and is environmentally wasteful.”
In her letter to McKenna dated June 12, Drummond indicated she has concerns over the percentage of gross she must pay to Parks Canada, arguing it is unacceptable given the shorter seasons due to forest fires.
“Smoke levels reached 10+health warning which provided a less than three week operating season,” she said. “I am about to lose my retirement.”
Parks can’t go into specific details on their dealings with Drummond.
“It’s difficult to share everything’s that happened because that’s a matter between us and the operator,” Kolesch said.
“We’ve been in communication with her over the years, we meet and chat with her regularly, most recently in January.”
The next step for Parks Canada is to essentially accept proposals.
“We would come up with the criteria and the standards by which we’d expect the operation to be managed and run,” Kolesch said.
“We would seek proposals and then evaluate them, but we haven’t even come up with criteria yet, we’re not that far along.”
The chalet typically opens July 1 each year, but Drummond is not sure what’s next.
“It has become a hideous end to my stewardship of the chalet,” she said.