May 17, 2019 7:33 pm
Updated: May 17, 2019 11:48 pm

Waterton Lakes National Park rebuilds following 2017 Kenow wildfire

Jan. 25: Ottawa is stepping up to help with the recovery of Waterton Lakes National Park following the 2017 Kenow Wildfire. Kyle Benning tells us how the federal government is helping the park's restoration efforts.

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After surviving the 2017 Kenow wildfire, one of the worst wildfires to hit Waterton Lakes National Park, the rebuilding process is now underway. Millions of dollars of federal funding is being used for various revitalization projects set to be completed this summer.

“It was pretty large and intense for this area,” said John Stoesser, Partnering Engagement and Communications Officer with Parks Canada. “It burned over 35,000 hectares of land in total. A lot of that in British Columbia. It burned approximately 19,000 hectares in the park itself.”

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READ MORE: Waterton Lakes businesses ready for 2018 peak season after Kenow wildfire

The fire burned 39 per cent of the park’s area and destroyed nearly 30 assets, impacting the community and local businesses.

“As a whole, I think the fires have impacted a little bit. We do have some closures but things are opening up now.

“We have red rock and Akamina Parkway open to pedestrian use right now, so you can bike or hike to see these sites. The fires have given the park a great chance to see renewal,” said Jordan Wammes, board chair with the Chamber of Commerce and the owner of Pats.

It’s a renewal that not only business owners and tourists are looking forward to; but also those who manage the park.

“We’re very happy to that we’re on the way to rebuilding Waterton to what was before the fire,” said Stoesser.

In order to rebuild what was lost, $96 million from the federal government’s infrastructure investment program and an additional $20.9 million are going towards the reconstruction and redevelopment of roughly 15 projects.

“The more well-known projects that people will see when they visit the town site… There will be a lot work taking place at the Bear’s Hump parking lot, as they rebuild those steps, there will also be some helicopter activity on that project, and the view points at Cameron Falls,” Stoesser added.

While construction is expected at various locations throughout the park, it’s work that is welcome.

READ MORE: Provincial review of Kenow wildfire calls for major changes

“Its nice to see the government cares about Waterton as much as we do, as businesses owners and as a community here in Waterton.

“It shows that it’s important to not just to us. They see the value of Waterton.

“For them to be re-investing as much money as they are, including the new visitor centre which will be up by next summer, or in the near future I should say, it’s great to see,” added Wammes.

Several projects are scheduled to completed this summer. You can visit the Parks Canada website for latest information.

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