Reflections on Maligne Lake

This blog first published on August 7, 2014, on
Photo by Danielle Pendlebury

Hello CPAWS Northern Alberta supporters, and welcome to our new Blog!  I hope you will keep coming back here to read about our adventures as we continue to work towards protecting Canada’s parks, wild spaces, and wildlife.

I am happy to introduce myself as the incoming Executive Director of CPAWS’ Northern Alberta chapter.  I am thrilled to be working towards protecting this province’s natural beauty – from Jasper to Elk Island and Wood Buffalo National Parks, to the provincial parks and recreational areas that we all use for camping, cross country skiing, or hiking.  I am also happy to be advocating on behalf of those who cannot – the caribou, grizzly bears, harlequin ducks, Athabasca rainbow trout and all other wildlife that also call Alberta home.

One of the first things that Danielle (our Conservation Coordinator) and I did when I got to Edmonton was take a trip to Jasper National Park.  We happened to go at a

time when the wildfires in Banff and the Northwest Territories were raging, but despite the soot and smoke, the mountains were still breathtaking.  We were lucky enough to visit Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon and climb a small part of Mount Edith Cavell with Jill Seaton of the Jasper Environmental Association, and hike a trail near the Miette Hot Springs.  We were also able to meet with Parks Canada to discuss our concerns regarding a private company’s (Maligne Tours) proposal to build a hotel, tent cabins, and increased recreational activities at iconic, glacier-fed Maligne Lake.  We are concerned that increased commercial development at Maligne Lake will have a tremendous impact on the endangered caribou and other wildlife in the region, and open the door to further commercial or industrial development within our national parks.

On July 25th, Parks Canada announced that it had accepted 13 of 14 proposals put forward by Maligne Tours.  While the 66 room hotel has been rejected, the 15 overnight tent cabins and all proposed recreational activities, including a thatched-roof “wildlife” maze, will be considered.  Allowing for additional outlying commercial accommodations such as the tent cabins contravenes park policy and does not consider the first priority for parks under the Canada National Parks Act1 – the management and restoration of ecological integrity in the park.

I have to admit, I was surprised and a little disappointed by the level of development already in place at Maligne Lake.  There are 4 or 5 ferries making regular trips across the lake to Spirit Island, two gift shops selling everything from french fries to fashion accessories, and 4 large parking lots already in place.  Canadians, and visitors to Canada’s national parks, have repeatedly declared that they visit parks to see Canada’s natural beauty, not manufactured spaces.2  In fact, half of the visitors to Maligne Lake visit to hike the area, 16% to canoe on the lake, and 16% to view wildlife or enjoy a picnic.  Only 27% of the visitors to Maligne Lake take the offered boat cruise.3  Thus, increased commercial and industrial development in our parks is unwanted, unappreciated by all but a few, and detrimental to our future interests.

Let’s keep our parks wild!

Alison Ronson
Executive Director
CPAWS Northern Alberta

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: