Likely much of Banff is abuzz after reading and realizing that “nobody is pushing for new activities (in Banff National Park) except for individual proponents.” But many of us have suspected as much all along.
While a range of issues swirl around the superintendent’s memo of Dec. 28, 2009, the central matter is clear. Most of Banff’s businesses are missing the opportunity to attract and connect with visitors who seek the authentic and inspiring experiences Banff National Park has to offer.
The main attractions of the park, as comments to the management plan confirm, are its “wildlife and nature, its alpine beauty, its mountain culture and its wilderness adventure.”
We are convinced that the gulf between some businesses and park principles can be narrowed, and even eliminated. But to make that happen, more Banff businesses need to embrace the privilege of operating in Canada’s premier national park, instead of chaffing under and repeatedly challenging standards intended to protect the park and distinguish Banff from the “competition.”
For example, the stated mission of Banff Lake Louise Tourism is, “To engage in marketing activities that encourage visitation, including repeat visitation, that generate revenue for our members.” Now there’s nothing wrong with a business wanting to “generate revenue”. But it’s a pretty singular and shallow mission when contrasted with Parks Canada’s goals of ecological and heritage protection, public education and understanding, and inspirational visitor experiences.
Let’s look at a recent special event. Following last September’s triathlon, promoters were elated that “the event did live up to the billing of having a good strong economic impact” for town businesses. But they struggled to put a positive spin on the dismal fact that nearly two-third of the participants responded that they had not learned anything “about the nature or history of Banff National Park from the event” (Banff Crag & Canyon, Nov. 30, 2010).
We look forward to a closer alignment of values and expectations among Banff businesses and national park principles. Surely there is innovation and imagination beyond dragon boat races and glass-bottom walkways.
Executive Director, WildCanada Conservation Alliance, Canmore