August 13, 2013 12:07 am
Updated: August 13, 2013 12:22 am

Could Jasper’s Maligne Lake be in jeopardy?

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EDMONTON – An overnight lodge is being proposed on Jasper National Park’s iconic Maligne Lake, and that has some environmentalists worried.

Maligne Tours has hosted a day lodge, boat cruises and other activities in the area for years. But with 2,000 tourists a day in peak season, the company wants to offer visitors more, and has therefore submitted a pre-draft proposal to Parks Canada, pitching 15 tent cabins and a new 66-suite hotel.

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Jeff Wilson, a Jasper resident and the son of a park administrator, has been admiring Maligne Lake for 40 years. He’s worried that a hotel would open the flood gates to more development and the kind of tourism he’s seen in Banff National Park.

“My greatest fear as a user is that – as recreational user – this will become like Lake Louise. Lake Louise is a place that is getting loved to death,” he says.

Jill Seaton of the Jasper Environmental Association, meanwhile, wonders what higher visitor numbers could mean for vulnerable wildlife. She says there are two species that are listed as threatened in the area: the woodland caribou and grizzlies.

The Association is particularly concerned about what the increase in traffic on a 46-kilometre stretch of road into Maligne Lake would mean to that wildlife.

According to Shawn Cardiff – the manager of land use planning for the park – discussions about the development are preliminary, and the park’s overall plan influences decisions.

“There’s certainly intent in the management plan that there will be no new overnight development accommodations in areas that aren’t already developed. Having an existing leasehold gives Maligne Tours means that can be considered, but only considered,” he says.

“The day lodge at Maligne Lake really needs to be replaced and this is a way to solve that problem while also meeting customer demand for people who want to stay overnight at Maligne,” adds Maligne Tours spokesperson, Harvey Sawler, from Halifax.

Public consultations on the proposal begin this fall. And judging by his strong stance, Wilson will likely be there.

“Development for the sake of development must be fought at every turn or we’re going to lose them,” he argues.

Some opponents of the project believe the federal government may be the one making decisions for Parks Canada. Jasper Park’s manager of land-use planning denies that, saying it’s a story as old as the national parks themselves.

With files from Laurel Clark, Global News

© 2013 Shaw Media

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