Waterton Lakes businesses ready for 2018 peak season after Kenow wildfire

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WATCH: Business owners in Waterton Lakes National Park are putting in the final preparations ahead of another tourist season. As Kyle Benning explains, the fallout from September's Kenow fire isn't the only obstacle in their way – Apr 30, 2018

Entrepreneurs in the Waterton Lakes National Park area are making final arrangements for the start of the peak season.

About half of the businesses in Waterton Village will open their doors on Friday, with the rest set to relaunch over the Mother’s Day weekend.

Steven West and his family have owned and managed Trappers Mountain Grill for about 10 years and note several business owners in the area are concerned about how many people will visit the park following the Kenow wildfire.

“This is the first time anything like this has been on our plate in Southern Alberta. So it gives you kind of a little bit of goosebumps, wondering what else might happen. But I think we’re good now for a good long time,” he said.

WATCH: Global News’ coverage of the Kenow wildfire

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One of the biggest concerns for businesses is that the scenery isn’t quite what it used to be.

A lot of the greenery on the mountains and around the village was burned in last September’s fire, which encompassed more than 380 square km, but only affected a handful of businesses in the park.

READ MORE: Mother Nature will restore Waterton forest after wildfire but it could take decades: expert

West acknowledged the view from the booths near the windows of his restaurant may not be as pretty as they were before the fire broke out.

“The scenery might be a little bit off temporarily until we get a little green foliage and the grasses and everything start getting green.”

But he said this is an advantage for anyone looking for wildlife, as animals will be more visible with no bush or tree cover.

West said last year was quite successful up until the fire, with the federal government opening the gates to national parks in order to mark Canada’s 150th birthday, and thinks this year can be just as successful.

READ MORE: Daytime visitors up, business slow in Waterton townsite after Kenow wildfire

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The Waterton Park Chamber of Commerce is estimating a solid summer, but believe it could get off to a slow start.

“For us, June, July, August, September looks business as usual. The same rates for booking, the same percentage of occupancy. May definitely looks a little soft for us. I think maybe locally everyone may be wondering what’s happening in Waterton,” said vice president Shameer Suleman, who owns the Bayshore Inn.

He also said this winter was unusually harsh, with a snowpack that was about 75 per cent above normal.

April saw several feet of snow in the area, which added to the woes of businesses that run year-long.

READ MORE: Kenow wildfire report points to lack of communication during event, Alberta minister disagrees

Suleman and West said there was initial concern about flooding once the snow started to melted, but said every business appears to have been spared from water damage.

Crews were clearing up snow from the sidewalks this weekend with businesses gearing up for the upcoming weekend.

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