Parks Beyond Borders #2: Looking Abroad At Other National Park News
Editor's note: The Traveler is expanding the coverage we devote to national parks in other nations. Throughout the year we'll be rolling out a major series of stories on international park destinations with plenty of travel insight, but we're also launching recurring smaller stories such as this one that bring you park news from other nations. Stay tuned for more on global parks.
Canada to Go Ahead with Jasper Glacier Discovery Walk
After months of controversy, online petitions, and editorial comment across the country, the Canadian government has OKed construction of a glass-floored glacier walkway that projects out 100 feet over the Sunwapta Valley at the Tangle Ridge Viewpoint in Jasper National Park. The project, proposed by the U.S. company Brewster Travel Canada, is similar to the Grand Canyon Skywalk that leads visitors out over the abyss of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
The decision was announced late last week by Environment Minister Peter Kent. In a release, Brewster said Parks Canada affirmed that the project, “met all required environment assessment guidelines and is ... acceptable within Parks Canada's policy framework governing the management and protection of our national parks.”
Controversy had swirled around the project but Kent said the proposal had passed regulatory muster and was an appropriate means to permit visitors “the opportunity to enjoy and understand the national parks.” Brewster Travel Canada projected a $15 to $29 fee to use the walkway.
Brewster pointed out that the project, developed by Sturgess Architecture in Calgary, “recently won a prestigious international architectural award at the World Festival of Architecture for its stunning design that evokes the surrounding landscape.”
Opponents pledged to press ahead with opposition, calling the project “privatization of Canada’s national parks,” but Canadian newspapers took aim at opponents’ complaints.
An editorial by Jesse Kline in the National Post of Toronto said, “Mr. Kent certainly made the right decision by not caving into opposition demands to stop the development, simply because it was being done by a private company."
Dave Breakenridge of the Calgary Sun lamponed the naysayers, with, “Our pristine national park is under attack from outside interests, and when they’re through it will be a Disney-fied amusement park that bears no resemblance to what sits there right now. Or so the ridiculous argument goes.”
Breakenridge continued, “Plain and simple, without private sector involvement in Alberta’s national parks, not as many people would take the time to enjoy them.”
The Ottawa Citizen noted that anti-Glacier Walk petitioners claim, “the plan ‘would give an American company the right to charge each of us for entry into parts of Jasper park.’ Each of us already needs to buy a pass to enter Jasper National Park, and other parks and museums across Canada.”
The paper continued, “The idea that someone might make money off a project should not be reason enough to reject it. As with any such project, government authorities should make sure to build in sufficient accountability to the public and protection for the environment. But good ideas do come from the private sector sometimes. Canadians should be willing to listen.”
An editorial by T.V. Gadsby in the Edmonton Journal underlined opponents’ intent to continue the protest. Gadsby countered with, “ it's criminal that the federal government has approved the money-grabbing venture that Brewster has planned for Jasper National Park, supposedly to attract visitors to the park. Jasper Park is already world famous. This venture will only serve to benefit Brewster.”
National Park in Manila Ready for Valentine’s Day
Manila’s premier Rizal Park, overseen by the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC), is ready this evening at 7 p.m. with a free Valentine’s Day concert. The park’s Central Lagoon will be a romantic backdrop for a “Love Concert” that features a Musical Dancing Fountain. Juliet Villegas, NPDC executive director, says the National Parks Development Committee “will continue to host such public celebrations as part of their efforts to revive and beautify the country’s national park.” Last year the event attracted 50,000 people.
New Zealand Callers Split on Park Fees
When a local newspaper in Dunedin, New Zealand canvassed readers, the Otago Daily Times 'teletopics' line found callers evenly split on whether or not to charge international tourists for entrance to national parks. The area straddles the borders of Milford Sound, Mount Aspiring National Park, and Fjordland National Park on the country’s south island.
The informal plebiscite came after whether to charge park visitors from other countries surfaced for national debate. New Zealand Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key said increasing visitation by overseas tourists could have "negative outcomes for New Zealanders."
The minister noted that parks are heavily subsidized and "increasing demand from non-residents in such cases may not translate into value for New Zealand."
Callers pointed out that entrance fees to national parks were the norm in Australia and the United States, and the charges could “could help alleviate the burden on taxpayers and ratepayers.”
Supporters of park entrance fees for foreigners urged that they be minimal to avoid deterring tourists from visiting New Zealand. Simon Wallace, policy and research manager of the Tourism Industry Association, said efforts to charge international visitors to enter national parks would not be supported by the travel industry.
Local Mayor Frana Cardno said, "national parks are there for everyone" including visitors from outside New Zealand. She noted that hiking fees were already in place. "We are already charging people to walk the Milford Track."
Angola to Create Agency to Manage Parks
Angola’s Environment minister, Maria de Fátima Jardim says the government and park supporters intend to create a national agency to manage the country’s parks.
The minister said, “This will be implemented under the policies and government programmes aiming at improving control and management actions in the conservation areas, mainly in the national parks, where ecotourism needs to be promoted.”
The initiative started when 45 former military personnel in northern Cabinda province offered to to be trained to care for the national park portion of Maiombe forest.