Parks Beyond Borders: Looking Abroad At Other National Park News

Brewster Travel Canada's Columbia Icefield Coaches

The company proposing the Glacier Discovery Walk is Brewster Travel Canada, the same business that already operates other park attractions, including the huge Ice Explorer vehicles that ferry visitors to a vantage point on Jasper's Columbia Icefields. Randy Johnson photo.

Editor's note: The Traveler is expanding the coverage we devote to national parks in other nations. Throughout the year we'll be rolling out a major series of stories on international park destinations with plenty of travel insight, but we're also launching recurring smaller stories such as this one that bring you park news from other nations. Stay tuned for more on global parks.

"Privatization" Controversy Slows Development of "Glacier Walk" At Jasper National Park

Commercialization of national parks isn't a controversial issue limited to U.S. parks. In Canada debate over the appropriateness of a privately run "Glacier Discovery Walk" at Jasper National Park led park officials to step back to review the proposal.

Somewhat like the Grand Canyon Skywalk that allows you to walk out over the Grand Canyon via a clear- floored walkway, the Glacier Walk would lead visitors along a "400-metre interpretive trail with a glass-floored observation deck extending 30 metres into the Sunwapta Valley," according to the Edmonton Journal. It has been proposed that a guided walk along the trail cost between $15 and $30 per person.

The newspaper noted that much of the project's criticism came from individuals who feared it was a step toward privatizing Canada's national parks, a concern not alien to U.S. park advocates.

Opposition to the project has been led by the Jasper Environmental Association, which has collected roughly 180,000 signatures on a petition opposing the Glacier Walk.

"Privatizing Jasper National Park will set a dangerous precedent to allow destructive development by private corporations in World Heritage Sites across Canada," reads the petition on the avaaz.org website. "This goes entirely against what Canadians – and visitors – expect and deserve from Canada's wild and magnificent national parks. We call on you to listen to the Canadian public and your community and stop this development immediately."

However, it's worth noting that there already are other concessions operations in Jasper and other Canadian national parks that offer attractions for visitors to partake of, just as there are in U.S. parks. Will one more attraction "privatize" Jasper?

A petition is available online. For more information read this Edmonton Journal article.

Natural England Officials Proposing To Enlarge Lake District, Yorkshire Dales national parks

Officials in England are discussing a proposal to expand some of that country's national parks. Natural England officials, who advise the country's government on environmental issues such as national parks, recently confirmed that they would formally propose enlarging the boundaries of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks.

“After two public consultations and formal agreement by our Board, the proposals to extend the two National Parks will shortly be submitted to the Secretary of State," said David Vose, Natural England’s manager for the Lakes to Dales district. "In the next six weeks, people can send their views ... about whether they support the proposals or not, whether there are amendments that they would like to suggest.”

The agency has proposed that land between the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks be included in the parks. Specifically, the proposal calls for a change of the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales National Park "to the north, to include parts of the Orton Fells, the northern Howgill Fells, Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang; and to the west, to include Barbon, Middleton, Casterton and Leck Fells, the River Lune and, part of Firbank Fell and other fells to the west of the river."

In the Lake District, the proposal would extend the park's boundaries "to the east, to include an area from Birkbeck Fells Common to Whinfell Common; and to the south to include an area from Helsington Barrows to Sizergh Fell, and part of the Lyth Valley, including the small new addition of land North of Sizergh Castle."

Public comment on the proposal is being accepted through March 16. Check out this article for more information.

U.S. Officials Aren't The Only Ones Talking About Expanding Bison Range

It was last summer that National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, in his Call to Action, suggested establishing three new bison herds somewhere in the central and western United States. Apparently his colleagues north of the border liked the idea, as recently Canadian officials said they thought Banff National Park would be a good home for its own bison herd.

“I'm assured by our scientific experts in the parks service that it can be managed. We've seen the experience in Grasslands National Park where that restoration program has worked very well,” Federal Minister Peter Kent told CBC News.

Parks Canada officials are studying the idea, which could lead the way to free-roaming bison in Banff National Park, something that possibly could cause problems if they headed into the townsite of Banff during the height of tourist season. What officials likely hope won't happen is what has happened in the Yukon, where bison were introduced with the goal of establishing a herd of 500. Today the number is closer to 1,200, according to CBC News.

UK National Parks and Merrell Team Up to Increase Visitation

The UK Association of National Park Authorities and footwear manufacturer Merrell are establishing a national park “visitor passport program” to spark added attendance. Merrell will use its social media platforms, website, and in-store customer contacts to deliver Visitor Passports that permit future park-goers to collect stamps from the 15 national parks in Wales, Scotland and England. For more, check out this article.