Vacation to Conservation Station: Canada's National Parks Free Admission

by samanthacasey on November 26, 2016 - 4:54pm

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 Canada’s national parks were areas born out of the desire to conserve nature and to protect the wilderness that defines Canada (Roth, 2016). Though, conservation no longer seems to be the priority as Parks Canada is adapting the focus of national parks to be more like tourism destinations rather than spots of ecosystem preservation (Roth, 2016). CBC News’ article “Parks Canada to waive entrance fees in 2017 to celebrate Canada's 150th” proves this through the unveiling of free access to national parks in Canada for 2017 in hopes to encourage tourism. The article focus solely on the tourism development that this free entrance national park campaign will bring to Parks Canada. This decision is controversial because of the historical significance national parks have; which is being designated areas of natural conservation without human presence (Roth, 2016). However, increasing tourism to the parks is strategic to encourage environmental education among Canadians to show the importance of nature conservation and species protection (CBC News, 2016). The societal changes in Canada’s youth population have caused a decline in outdoor activities and education, which has subsequently lead to a decrease in national parks attendance (Roth, 2016). This being an issue Parks Canada wants to address in order to allow more Canadians especially the youth population to get to experience Canada’s nature (CBC News, 2016). Though, this practice of increasing tourism and in turn infrastructure development in areas meant to be “wild” seems to be contradictory of national parks. The term “wild” implies without humans or the presence of humans, so increasing human traffic into national parks removes the wilderness aspect of these areas. It also makes the nature conservation practices harder to implement if areas are being visited and developed for tourism instead, which goes against the ecological integrity mandate of all national parks (Roth, 2016). However, there is merit in the actions of Parks Canada removing the admission fees. National parks though originally focused on conservation, are now areas for environmental education and appreciation which requires tourism in order to do so. They are called “parks” after all, which is a term referring to “an area of countryside set aside for public recreation” (Oxford Dictionary, 2016). Removing these fees will therefore allow more Canadians to experience and understand Canada’s diverse ecosystems, which might in turn trigger increased public interest in species and wilderness conservation; which is the goal of national parks (Roth, 2016). I believe this decision was strategic as although Parks Canada is federally funded, they also make profit through tourism which explains why they are trying to increase tourism to national parks and generate public interest in parks especially around younger generations who will become voters and tax payers (CBC News, 2016). I think removing national parks fees to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday is also very suiting as Canada’s national parks represent Canada culturally, historically, and geographically (Roth, 2016). National parks and Parks Canada are very much apart of Canada’s national identity of natural landscapes, wilderness, and conservation (Roth, 2016). Furthermore, I think effective management practices will be need to ensure both of Parks Canada’s mandates can operate symbiotically. I think that the fundamental goal of conservation should be honoured, but tourism and development should be allowed to a degree to ensure environmental education can happen. This involves stricter tourism practices to ensure areas remain “wild” and ecosystem functions and services stay unaltered. I also think development should be limited and more heavily regulated to ensure it doesn’t encroach on national park areas. Although, this will inhibit tourism development, it is justifiable to ensure nature conservation which should remain the primary focus of Parks Canada always. 

Comments

Hello Samantha!
Love the rhymes in the title, also this was a great choice for an article. I agreed with what you said about national parks should be allowed to be developed in but within reason and keeping heavy regulation over this is a very strong solution for both conserving the environment along with giving the people what they want. I also really like the idea of parks Canada waiving the fees for 2017, but at the same time I can't help but feel that the increased tourism traffic has the potential to degrade the parks despite it only being for one year. The entrance fees may not exist however, one thing I remember very well from my trip to Banff and Jasper was the high prices for the simplest of food products and even souvenirs. These stores/restaurants may increase their prices even more for the year of 2017 which will be very good for the economy. Nevertheless, at the same time it gives any businesses operating in the park a chance to take further advantage over the tourists. Which I think makes the situation of "free entrance" a double-edged sword situation, that is has both positive and negative outcomes associated with it.
Overall, great post! and it will be interesting to see how the parks change in 2017 with this celebration!

Hi Samantha,
I love the article you chose because I’m from Alberta and frequently visit the National Parks closest to me. Your title also really drew me in, it’s so clever! As an Albertan, I love to promote Alberta’s parks in hope that it they will inspire others to care about their impact on the environment and preservation of truly wild places. However, the free admission in 2017 has me concerned about a decline in conservation efforts funded by admission revenues. Every year, admission fees bring in $60 million dollars in revenue that helps to protect the natural features and wildlife of the parks. The combination of losing these funds with increased traffic has the potential to lead to environmental degradation of important park aspects. On any given day in the summer, Lake Louise and the Banff are over run by tourists which makes me skeptical to believe that Parks Canada needs to increase the number of tourists entering the parks. However, I could be wrong because that is just my perspective based on my own experiences. It will be interesting to see if I notice an increase in tourists when I head to the mountains this summer.

Hi Samantha!

It was very nice of you to write your article on the issue of the free parks in 2017 - I think this is a really remarkable policy and it is good to see an article which applies a critical lens to it. As I see it, you have two basic argument: that this decision is exacerbating the conflict of the duel mandates of park management (which are to protect parks ecologically as well as to promote their use for tourism), and that they have made this decision to increase park revenues. I agree with both of these ideas. However, I am a bit skeptical of your conclusions, that proper park management and low development can reduce the impact of the overcrowding on wildlife, and that there will be environmental gains from education about wildlife.

To an extent, I agree that visiting parks may increase awareness of environmental activities, as was stated in the documentary "nature's invitation". However, I am not sure that making Canada's national parks free will result in the increase in meaningful experiences in nature that lead to the positive environmental experiences that society as a whole aims for. As far as I know, there is an expectation that this will result in a huge boom for the rocky mountain parks visitations, but not necessarily for other less well known or more remote parks. If too many people come to those parks in particular, they may experience the lack of "wilderness" that you highlighted in your article, and if they are mainly tourists they will pollute while in transit, and may not stay long enough for that genuine nature experiences that are needed to create environmental activists.

Likewise, I am sure that improper park practices can increase over crowding, but I think that the large numbers of people ultimately will have an impact on the environment that they visit, even with good management practices, as is currently occurring in Acadia National Park. In that case they have employed numerous novel methods for dealing with local visitor impacts, including creating a free bus to disincentivize car use and strategic removal of signs so that people do not visit vulnerable habitats. If it is really impossible to have it all, or meet both of the mandates of the parks, then we have to ask which one is more important. The law has addressed this already, stating that the first objective of Parks Canada is to protect and restore the habitat in parks. Therefore, I ultimately view this decision as not the best one that Parks Canada could have made in order to meet the objectives you outline. What do you think?

Hi Samantha!

It was very nice of you to write your article on the issue of the free parks in 2017 - I think this is a really remarkable policy and it is good to see an article which applies a critical lens to it. As I see it, you have two basic argument: that this decision is exacerbating the conflict of the duel mandates of park management (which are to protect parks ecologically as well as to promote their use for tourism), and that they have made this decision to increase park revenues. I agree with both of these ideas. However, I am a bit skeptical of your conclusions, that proper park management and low development can reduce the impact of the overcrowding on wildlife, and that there will be environmental gains from education about wildlife.

To an extent, I agree that visiting parks may increase awareness of environmental activities, as was stated in the documentary "nature's invitation". However, I am not sure that making Canada's national parks free will result in the increase in meaningful experiences in nature that lead to the positive environmental experiences that society as a whole aims for. As far as I know, there is an expectation that this will result in a huge boom for the rocky mountain parks visitations, but not necessarily for other less well known or more remote parks. If too many people come to those parks in particular, they may experience the lack of "wilderness" that you highlighted in your article, and if they are mainly tourists they will pollute while in transit, and may not stay long enough for that genuine nature experiences that are needed to create environmental activists.

Likewise, I am sure that improper park practices can increase over crowding, but I think that the large numbers of people ultimately will have an impact on the environment that they visit, even with good management practices, as is currently occurring in Acadia National Park. In that case they have employed numerous novel methods for dealing with local visitor impacts, including creating a free bus to disincentivize car use and strategic removal of signs so that people do not visit vulnerable habitats. If it is really impossible to have it all, or meet both of the mandates of the parks, then we have to ask which one is more important. The law has addressed this already, stating that the first objective of Parks Canada is to protect and restore the habitat in parks. Therefore, I ultimately view this decision as not the best one that Parks Canada could have made in order to meet the objectives you outline. What do you think?

Hi Samantha!

It was very nice of you to write your article on the issue of the free parks in 2017 - I think this is a really remarkable policy and it is good to see an article which applies a critical lens to it. As I see it, you have two basic argument: that this decision is exacerbating the conflict of the duel mandates of park management (which are to protect parks ecologically as well as to promote their use for tourism), and that they have made this decision to increase park revenues. I agree with both of these ideas. However, I am a bit skeptical of your conclusions, that proper park management and low development can reduce the impact of the overcrowding on wildlife, and that there will be environmental gains from education about wildlife.

To an extent, I agree that visiting parks may increase awareness of environmental activities, as was stated in the documentary "nature's invitation". However, I am not sure that making Canada's national parks free will result in the increase in meaningful experiences in nature that lead to the positive environmental experiences that society as a whole aims for. As far as I know, there is an expectation that this will result in a huge boom for the rocky mountain parks visitations, but not necessarily for other less well known or more remote parks. If too many people come to those parks in particular, they may experience the lack of "wilderness" that you highlighted in your article, and if they are mainly tourists they will pollute while in transit, and may not stay long enough for that genuine nature experiences that are needed to create environmental activists.

Likewise, I am sure that improper park practices can increase over crowding, but I think that the large numbers of people ultimately will have an impact on the environment that they visit, even with good management practices, as is currently occurring in Acadia National Park. In that case they have employed numerous novel methods for dealing with local visitor impacts, including creating a free bus to disincentivize car use and strategic removal of signs so that people do not visit vulnerable habitats. If it is really impossible to have it all, or meet both of the mandates of the parks, then we have to ask which one is more important. The law has addressed this already, stating that the first objective of Parks Canada is to protect and restore the habitat in parks. Therefore, I ultimately view this decision as not the best one that Parks Canada could have made in order to meet the objectives you outline. What do you think?

Hi Samantha!

It was very nice of you to write your article on the issue of the free parks in 2017 - I think this is a really remarkable policy and it is good to see an article which applies a critical lens to it. As I see it, you have two basic argument: that this decision is exacerbating the conflict of the duel mandates of park management (which are to protect parks ecologically as well as to promote their use for tourism), and that they have made this decision to increase park revenues. I agree with both of these ideas. However, I am a bit skeptical of your conclusions, that proper park management and low development can reduce the impact of the overcrowding on wildlife, and that there will be environmental gains from education about wildlife.

To an extent, I agree that visiting parks may increase awareness of environmental activities, as was stated in the documentary "nature's invitation". However, I am not sure that making Canada's national parks free will result in the increase in meaningful experiences in nature that lead to the positive environmental experiences that society as a whole aims for. As far as I know, there is an expectation that this will result in a huge boom for the rocky mountain parks visitations, but not necessarily for other less well known or more remote parks. If too many people come to those parks in particular, they may experience the lack of "wilderness" that you highlighted in your article, and if they are mainly tourists they will pollute while in transit, and may not stay long enough for that genuine nature experiences that are needed to create environmental activists.

Likewise, I am sure that improper park practices can increase over crowding, but I think that the large numbers of people ultimately will have an impact on the environment that they visit, even with good management practices, as is currently occurring in Acadia National Park. In that case they have employed numerous novel methods for dealing with local visitor impacts, including creating a free bus to disincentivize car use and strategic removal of signs so that people do not visit vulnerable habitats. If it is really impossible to have it all, or meet both of the mandates of the parks, then we have to ask which one is more important. The law has addressed this already, stating that the first objective of Parks Canada is to protect and restore the habitat in parks. Therefore, I ultimately view this decision as not the best one that Parks Canada could have made in order to meet the objectives you outline. What do you think?