What harm will it do?
This is a matter of debate though, as residents and some environmentalists comment that the new structure will damage the pristine experience that visitors get when exploring the Icefields Parkway, saying that Brewster is “altering the natural experience by allowing new commercial attractions for those who can afford to pay.”
Media outlets across the province are reporting on the project, splashing headlines with catchy titles that warn of a fight between environmentalists and Brewster.
While there are claims from Jasper’s Environmental Association that this is a “desperate attempt to find another money-making scheme because of the potential loss of the snow coaches on a rapidly dwindling glacier”, the Fitzhugh could not confirm whether this is a valid claim, though Brewster’s glaciologists say that is not the case at all. Those experts maintain that this is not something they are concerned about and, in fact, stated that there is no evidence to suggest that the glacier will dwindle to undriveable conditions even in the next 100 years. Brewster representatives even suggested that the glacier has a history of growing and shrinking as it is ever-changing over its lifetime, and that its state depends on precipitation levels.
Environmental groups are also suggesting that Brewster is “just selling the view” that already exists. That, says Brewster, is not the case.
The free viewing area will remain intact; what they are charging for is the guided, interpretive walk that they feel will appeal to those that want the feeling of “stepping into the wilderness.”
There are those, one of which is the Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment (AMPEE) organization, that also say the education and interpretive aspect is of value to visitors and could draw in more tourism and after all, isn’t that the name of the game for many Jasper businesses?
Then there is the question of the validity of the environmental assessment process. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) is said to have strict rules pertaining to keeping the ecological integrity of the park areas intact and one would like to think that they would not approve of a project that violated these guidelines. But, there are those that don’t believe this process does its due diligence and that it is merely for show.
Whatever the case may be, it is fact that this project is still in its initial stages and nothing has been signed off at the local level, as Parks has yet to even see the environmental assessment documents.
Brewster is doing their due diligence by getting the ball rolling early in the way of public consultation and there will be another three weeks of that once the environmental assessment is completed.
If approved, what remains to be seen is whether this project will actually bring in more visitation or whether it will just be an eyesore for passing visitors and locals alike.