When COVID-19 restrictions began in 2020, Highway 1A from Fireside to Castle Junction was mostly closed to vehicle access but open to cyclists and foot traffic. Depending on the time of year, Roam Transit has been providing access to Johnston Canyon facilities from Castle Junction for those who wanted vehicle access to Johnston Canyon.
This unique set of circumstances spawned an opportunity for cyclists and walkers to have access to this magnificent area free from the encumbrances of vehicle traffic. I, for one, have taken advantage of this opportunity and have cycled this road in the order of 50 to 60 times this year. I have not been alone. There have been thousands of other cyclists and walkers also enjoying the Highway 1A experience in the Park over the past few months.
The wonders of this experience have been numerous. Enjoying the interaction with the environment and the landscape without the concern of vehicle interference. Encountering wildlife on their terms (six bear, two wolf, one coyote, one smiley fox, countless deer and sheep sightings this Spring alone).
Groups of cyclists packed together in a mini-peloton enjoying the freedom of the wide-open road with no vehicles to detract from their experience. Seeing the family outings of adults and children of all ages enjoying a precious cycling or walking experience together without the worry of traffic. All of this has been very special.
I have been left wondering – does this have to end or can this be a new beginning? Can this resource of a vehicle free road in our beautiful park continue to be made available to us permanently?
Parks Canada has started to re-open parts of this route to public vehicle access. Castle Junction to Johnston Canyon is now fully open. The fate of the 17 kilometres section from Johnston Canyon to Fireside appears to be uncertain at this time.
Perhaps we should take the opportunity to stand back and re-think how the Highway 1A experience from Fireside to Johnston Canyon is offered. Permanent closure to vehicles on this section could offer an easy to access and unique recreational experience to Canadians and out-of-country visitors.
This could leapfrog us to a new model of outdoor recreation that future generations may thank us many times for.
Ronald C Cherlet,