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Letter to the Editor: Regarding Simon Creek bridge article

I am writing in response to the article in the July 27 Fitzhugh regarding Parks Canada’s position on replacing the Simon Creek Bridge.

I am writing in response to the article in the July 27 Fitzhugh regarding Parks Canada’s position on replacing the Simon Creek Bridge. I understand from the article than a private donor has offered to pay $300,000 for the purchase and installation of the Simon Creek Bridge which Parks has not repaired or replaced since it was destroyed 7 years ago. Parks has stated that there are other more pressing infrastructure needs and that by replacing the bridge it would lead to higher maintenance costs and an increased expectation from visitors. To me this seems comparable to winning or being given a new truck and then turning it down because you may have to spend money to put gas in it if you or your visitors choose to use it.

The average extended backcountry user is very aware that the area they are going into has limited amounts of facilities and maintenance and prepares for such. They are aware that they will be travelling on a trail that is not to the standard of Edith Cavell or Valley of the 5, that the trails may be grown it and that the sites don’t have picnic tables or enclosed outhouses and that they have to hang their food on bear poles and they are OK with that. They do however need the support of crossings of major creeks and rivers. These crossings at places like Simon Creek or on the North or South boundary allow visitors to access these areas and truly have a wilderness experience.

I hear and understand that Parks has a matrix to prioritize trail maintenance and infrastructure and that a large portion of it is allocated to high use areas where the majority of visitors go. I’m OK with that. The levels of use and experience of front country users require a higher standard. But to abandon trails and infrastructure in the remote backcountry essentially means that they are for all intents and purposes inaccessible and very few or no one will go there. Visitors who have a higher level of experience and skills are looking for this type of adventure beyond the front country high use areas. They pay the same fees that the front country users pay to enter the park and also pay backcountry camping fees and are entitled to some level of service.

Park has Res Con and monitoring staff that clears the trails in conjunction with their other duties as well as a dedicated trail crew. 

For Parks to say that it will lead to higher maintenance costs, I ask how much money has been spent on the Athabasca pass or the other remote backcountry areas of the park in the past 10-15 years vs. the high use areas?

Athabasca Pass and trail are part of a national historic site and are a valuable piece of our Canadian heritage. Come on Parks … You can do better than this. 

You have a philanthropist who has offered to provide you with a free bridge. 

Is this a case of Parks Canada “looking a gift horse in the mouth”?

Without key river crossings in place it is not possible for Canadians and international visitors to truly have a National Park wilderness experience.

Terry Winkler,

Jasper, Alta.

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