Controversial Jasper Park 'glacier walk' to go ahead
John Size, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, February 9, 2012 7:36PM EST
A controversial multimillion-dollar interpretive glacier boardwalk will go ahead in Alberta's Jasper National Park, the environment minister said Thursday.
The proposal by privately owned Brewster Travel Canada received a vigorous environmental assessment, substantial input during open houses and consultations with aboriginal groups, Peter Kent said in Ottawa.
"Brewster Canada is a model corporation in Canada's mountain national parks," he said.
The company's "Glacier Discovery Walk" consists of a 400-metre trail with a glass-floored observation deck extending 30 metres into the Sunwapta Valley near Highway 93.
Once finished, the boardwalk is expected to be a large tourist draw and become an "iconic" destination for visitors, Kent said.
He also said it will be built mostly on an existing parking lot and won't affect the area's ecosystem. Parks Canada will monitor the project for any environmental problems.
The project was delayed nine days ago after the park's superintendent, Greg Fenton, asked for more time to review the large number comments the project has received. Brewster's plan was criticized as a step toward the privatization of Canada's national parks.
About 180,000 people signed a petition against the project after an international activist organization emailed an estimated 600,000 Canadians on behalf of a Jasper environmental group.
The site already attracts about 82,000 tourists each year who stop at the 500-metre-long roadside turnoff.
Parks Canada will retain ownership of the site, but it will be operated by Brewster.
Brewster president Michael Hannan said in a release the company worked with Parks Canada to ensure all environmental guidelines and regulatory processes were met, or even exceeded, as part of the approval process.