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

by samanthacasey on Novembre 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.