First a park...then the world (evil laugh)
If you had told me a year ago that a plan to build a few lodges and other accommodations in our provincial parks would have gotten the environmentalist’s knickers in a knot, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Instead, I would have thought they would welcome the chance for more people to be exposed to our beautiful and remote protected spaces.
Surely if folks experience the wilderness, more will want to ensure it is protected in perpetuity.
This was the theory that helped spur the formation of our first national parks in Banff in Jasper – which, incidentally, came complete with large hotels providing a base for tourists exploring the wild.
There are many foreign travelers, older British Columbians and, frankly, those who prefer not to spend their vacation in a tent (sorry, Dad), who want a comfortable bed along with our adventure.
British Columbia has the largest system of parks and protected areas in North America – almost 14% of our land area.
Currently there are about 160 accommodations in them, ranging from the Manning Park Lodge and Resort (used recently for the NDP’s caucus retreat) to bare-bones hiking shelters scattered through the back country.
A total of twelve requests for proposals have been issued by the Environment Ministry for Mount Robson, Elk Lakes, Wells Gray, Cape Scott, Mount Assinboine, Fintry, Silver Star, Myra Bellevue, Nancy Greene, Maxhamish Lake, Foch-Giltoyees, and Golden Ears.
From the names, you can tell they are all very different areas: some host large ski hills, some are alpine and some are based around lakes. They are an interesting cross-section of experiences that the die-hard, anti-business anywhere types would like to prevent you from visiting if you can’t handle a 30 pound backpack.
An example of the kind of proposal is a 20 bed lodge, with heli-pad and boat launch for access, in Wells Gray Park in the Thompson region of the province.
For those who haven’t been to this magnificent park, Wells Gray is 1.3 million acres. Yes, million. It’s huge – although it only ranks fourth by size in our park rankings.
Collen McCrory from Valhala Wilderness Watch calls it the beginning of “a huge private business empire.”
I know a few businessmen and none of them would call an eco-tourist lodge with room for 20 guests in the middle of nowhere an “empire”.
One of the best memories for visiting international guests is time spent in our beautiful parks. We are so lucky to have them right here.
But let’s not allow knee-jerk ideology (all private business bad) to prevent those who prefer a little comfort or simply can’t canoe all day before lying down for the night in a tent, to access our incredible wilderness.
(as seen today in 24 Hours)