Stone Creek Resort's effort to push forward its Mount Lady Macdonald gondola project raises a lot of red flags. Coming on the heels as it does of yet another scientific report documenting the fragile state of wildlife connectivity in the Bow Valley "New study shows development, human activity threatening wildlife" in the May 5 edition of the Outlook, the project should be stopped in its tracks. This project would contribute further environmental degradation, noise, congestion, and potential public safety hazards in a valley that is frequently characterized as being "loved to death".
Construction and operation of a gondola would affect bears, cougars, coyotes, ungulates, and other wildlife that still traverse the Montane area and winter nearby. Bighorn sheep frequent the eastern slope of Mount Lady Macdonald. The already very fragile physical environment around the summit cannot sustain the project proponents' estimated 227,500 visitors a year.
The proposed impact assessment does not include a detailed assessment of the impacts on local residents – a pre-consultation about five years ago with residents showed very strong opposition to a gondola – in terms of noise, and a dramatic increase in traffic congestion at the base of the gondola. The access road in question, Palliser Trail, is a two-lane road with a narrow feed off onto the Trans-Canada Highway. The area includes several high-density housing developments and is slated for more affordable housing units in future. It will also house Canmore's new fire hall – a quarter of a million gondola tourists arriving by car will create additional traffic congestion affecting both the fire hall and local residents.
Those with a background in impact assessment will no doubt identify other weaknesses in the project proposal, for example, it does not include a detailed wildlife inventory nor a study of how movement of wildlife will be affected. A complete impact assessment should, however, address cumulative effects on both wildlife and the humans who live nearby.
Stone Creek Resorts proposes to create "an accessible Rocky Mountain alpine experience", although the quality and extent of an alpine experience in that location is moot, and there already are far more attractive, accessible experiences at Sunshine, Sulphur Mountain and Lake Louise. Canmore does not need to add more noise and human traffic to an already threatened wildlife corridor and residential area.