Well, we are a month into 2017, and the hot topic in Canada this year is the Parks Canada Discovery Pass! All Canadian National Parks are FREE to visit in 2017! Initially when I heard this, my first reaction was excitement. I get to go explore for free? In any National Park? All year? Amazing! Fees for camping and back country hiking will remain the same, but admission to the parks themselves won’t cost you a penny! However, as it began to sink in, I realized that it wouldn’t only be wilderness enthusiasts visiting the parks. Everyone, all around the world, would be coming to visit Canada in 2017. There are both positive and negative implications to a free discovery pass.
PRO: We get to share our beautiful country with new travellers, and show off the majesty of our parks. This is a real trademark of national pride!
CON: The amount of traffic coming through this year is going to be huge, and less than a month into 2017, we are already seeing big differences. Conservationists are concerned about the human impact to the wildlife. In addition, the infrastructure of the national parks are not necessarily built to handle this type of traffic, particularly in hot button areas such as Banff and Jasper National Parks.
In 2017, literally millions of people more than the year previous will be filing into Canada’s National Parks, and while in some ways that can be great for Canada’s economy and for our national pride, it’s not so great for Canada’s environment.
So what can we do? As of now, this is happening. There is no point in complaining about what is already going on- Canadian National Park passes are going out, have been going out since January of 2016! With a click of the mouse, you can get yours online, and shipped for free to your home- wherever you happen to be. But there are things we as individuals can do to reduce our own footprint as we visit the parks, and enjoy the free time given to us in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary.
The underlying goal of all these guidelines is to minimize our impact.
- Explore some of the lesser known parks! These will be less busy than the more popular ones such as Banff or Jasper. This way we can spread out traffic, and explore off the beaten trail!
- An age old camping idiom: pack in, pack out. If you go camping, or hiking, leave no trace! Pack up your garbage, make sure any garbage you do leave is in designated disposal sites! Anything you brought with you, bring back out with you!!
- Consider a shuttle bus tour. An increased use of shuttle buses would mean less cars on the road, and fewer accidents with animal crossings.
- Increase your knowledge about animals that live in the parks. The fact remains that these arewild animals, and under no circumstances should you be taking selfies with bears. Respect the animals- this is THEIR home, and we are visitors. Of course it is fine to take a photo, and admire the animals in their natural habitat- but do not approach or feed them!
- Get a physical parks pass. Even though you technically do not need one this year, Parks Canada is encouraging people to get a physical pass when you visit. This way, the rangers and conservation officers can interact with you and inform you about safety and wildlife awareness.
For more information, you can visit http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/index.aspx – The Parks Canada homepage!
These are just a couple suggestions to lower our footprint- do you have any other suggestions? Comments about the upcoming year in Canadian National Parks? Comment below!!