Firefighters continue to battle a wildfire burning on the north boundary of Jasper National Park.
On June 18, the fire was no longer out of control but it had almost quadrupled in size since six days prior; the province has measured the fire at 12,000 hectares, 250 of which are in Jasper National Park.
Officials said that the wildfire is not anticipated to grow beyond its pre-determined boundaries.
The fire was discovered on June 8 by a provincial fire lookout. The rugged terrain and remoteness of the location meant that it was primarily being fought from the air, Alberta wildfire information officer Janelle Lane said.
“Firefighters are focusing their efforts on the north and south edges of this wildfire. Firefighters are putting fire on the landscape from a helicopter to steer it towards natural barriers like mountains, ridges and rivers,” she said.
Jasper National Park’s initial attack fire crew are helping fight the fire, which is near the Smoky River, approximately 25 km south of Grande Cache. Parks Canada’s fire information officer Kim Weir said no infrastructure was threatened.
Willmore Wilderness Park, originally created as the Athabasca Forest Reserve in 1910, is a designated provincial wilderness area and is home to southern mountain caribou, grizzly bears and diverse plant species.
On June 18, Jasper National Park was still in extreme fire danger, however, neither Jasper National Park nor Alberta Parks have closed any trails.
A grassroots campaign organization wants to unseat the ruling Conservative party in the upcoming May 5 provincial election.
Change Alberta, formerly known as the Alberta Democratic Renewal Project, is helping progressive-minded Albertans vote strategically with the ultimate goal of ABC—Anybody But Conservatives.
“We’re urging progressives to work together,” said Dr. Alvin Finkel, who sits on Change Alberta’s advisory council.
Finkel, a professor of history at Athabasca University and a former NDP member, helped bring forward a resolution to New Democrats to merge with the Liberal, Green and Alberta parties at the NDP’s 2009 convention. For presenting the idea, he was ejected from the party.
“That’s the fortress mentality of parties,” he said. “Meanwhile, there are very few Albertans who could say correctly what the difference is between NDPs and Liberals.”
Today, Finkel is appealing to voters, not the parties, to come together. Change Alberta recommends the strongest centre-left candidates in each riding across Alberta, no matter which party they represent.
“If we pool our votes, we can oust the Tories or at least confront them with a huge progressive opposition as opposed to a small group of opposition politicians whom they can safely ignore,” their website literature reads.
In West Yellowhead, where Alberta’s Finance Minister, Robin Campbell, currently sits as MLA, only one “progressive” candidate is running: the NDP’s Eric Rosendahl. Finkel said despite the Tories’ nearly two-decade reign in the riding, “it’s not a lost cause.”
“Remember West Yellowhead went NDP in 1989,” he said.
It was a Liberal riding from 1993-1997, too. But that was 18 years ago. This election, there is no Liberal candidate, nor Green, nor is there representation from the Alberta Party. Glenn Taylor, the former mayor of Hinton, represented the Alberta Party—and in fact was the party’s leader—in this riding in the 2012 election. He earned 17 per cent of the vote compared to Campbell’s 45 per cent and Wildrose candidate Stuart Taylor’s 27 per cent. Taylor’s results were the best in Alberta for his party, but he’s since retired from politics.
“The question in West Yellowhead is whether people who tend to prefer the Liberals or the Alberta Party will come out to vote,” Finkel said.
Province wide, the question is whether the “progressive” victories in each riding will combine for that magical number of 44 (of 87) seats won. That would make for a coalition government, something Finkel is hopeful of.
“I hope they’ll be able to form government with (NDP leader) Ms. Notley as premier,” he said. “I do believe this is the year for Change Alberta.”
Greg Van Tighem has iced the coldest road in North America.
Jasper’s fire chief and Alberta’s chief MS fundraiser skidded to a stop at the end of the Dempster Highway April 11. He was on the arctic coast, in the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, with another marathon cycling milestone under his tires.
“Rolling into Tuk was pretty amazing,” he said from a friend’s house in Inuvik, from where he planned to fly to Edmonton. “But now that it’s over I think I’m already forgetting about the times when I was ready to pull my fingernails out, wondering what the hell I was doing out here.”
What he was doing out there was raising awareness, and money, for the fight against Multiple Sclerosis. Van Tighem’s most recent End-to-End MS campaign saw him pedal his fully-loaded fat bike, complete with all the necessary winter gear to survive an unsupported two-week winter fat bike adventure in the high arctic, for more than 900 kilometers.
“There were a couple times I had doubts,” he admitted. “Times when I was in the middle of nowhere, cold and wet, when it wasn’t a good situation.”
He encountered snow drifts so big he had to spend a day carrying his bike. He battled headwinds so severe he was being blown backwards. His tent got so cold at night he couldn’t even put his hands outside of his sleeping bag to read a book. At the top of an interminable hill, which he actually accepted a ride to climb because he couldn’t push his 140-pound bike against gravity and the howling wind, he barely managed to set up camp.
“The tent just about blew away,” he said.
But although the wind was strong, Van Tighem’s resolve was stronger. Plus, he had folks looking out for him. One stormy day, just past the Arctic Circle, a local trucker told him about an abandoned tractor trailer in which he could wait out a storm. As it happened, a gale was right behind him. The road closed. He located the truck’s spare key and climbed in.
“I spent two nights in there,” he said. “The winds were 150 kilometers an hour. It was scary.”
When he could finally leave his sanctuary, he saw a grader, the driver of which told him the road should be open in two hours. It took two days.
“I couldn’t bike over the drifts. I only averaged 30 kilometres on those days.”
Most days were better.
Except for the day after the night of the rodents. There were voles under his tent, a flying squirrel on the fly and “something like a weasel” made a shadow in between the two. The creatures chewed their way into his bike bag and ate his granola bars.
“I didn’t get any sleep,” he said.
Then, on day eight, he thought he saw an apparition. It got closer. It was a cyclist, just like him.
“I said ‘what the hell are you doing out here,’” he laughed. “She said ‘same to you!’”
The cyclist was on a three-year world tour, she’d just had four days of perfect weather, and a tail wind, to boot. They exchanged stories and contact information and a few laughs.
It wasn’t all ditch camping and half eaten granola for Van Tighem. He met total strangers who put him up in Fort McPherson, another lady made him a sandwich right there on the road, he had breakfast with a friend of a friend in Arctic Red River and he pushed off with his own tail wind all the way to Inuvik.
“I made 85 kilometres that day, it was the only tail wind of the trip.”
His last day, characteristically, was brutal. He was on the ice road now, but it had been polished by arctic winds. He couldn’t get traction, wiped out twice. Finally, he limped into Tuktoyaktuk.
“But there was no welcome sign,” he said. “I had to go to the airport to get a photo!”
He left Dawson City, Yukon on March 28 and rolled into Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, two weeks later.
“My thighs are twice the size of a normal person’s,” he said.
His heart might be too.
The Tour of Alberta’s Jasper stage has been proposed and is awaiting final approval.
Meanwhile, race organizers are rallying the community to cash in on possibly the biggest marketing opportunity Jasper has ever seen.
The proposed route will take cyclists around downtown Jasper for one lap before breaking out to Highway 93, The Jasper Local has learned. There, it is proposed the group of 140 racers cycle the Highway 93/93A-Athabasca Falls loop three times before ending with an epic, 600 metre elevation gain on the Marmot Basin road.
“For the athletes, this will be a critical day for the tour,” said co-chair Matt Decore.
It will also be a critical day for Jasper. Hosting the Tour of Alberta represents an opportunity that Decore called “once-in-a-lifetime.”
“Jasper is a very good cycling community,” the former pro-racer said. "
For us to now be catapulted to the top of the echelon of pro cycling is such a wonderful opportunity to tell the world what we already know.”
Decore knows his way around Jasper’s best cycling routes. He was an early adopter when it came to mountain biking in the area. He trained here during a cycling career that spanned almost 20 years and took him all over the world. He won a Canada Cup, seven provincial elite titles in mountain bike, road and criterium (short, closed off course) racing and set a record at the Bow 80 mountain bike race in Bragg Creek which stands to this day. He is an ambassador for Rocky Mountain bikes, a coach (Jasper’s Cory Wallace and Canadian national champ is a client) and a fundraiser. He recently helped raise $420,000 for the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton.
Now, with his Tour of Alberta role, the 47-year-old knows he has an incredible opportunity to give back to a community that gave him so much.
The marketing plan, as he explained it, aims to put on the best three festivals possible (the Tour of Alberta will arrive in Jasper on September 4, marking the end of stage two, then host both a start line and another finish line on September 5).
“Most towns get either one start or one finish,” Decore said. “Jasper gets three.”
Secondly, Decore said the other goal is to tell Jasper’s story to the world.
“The ancillary objective is to recreate within the unfolding of a bicycle race the telling of the story of Jasper’s lifestyle,” he said.
Certainly there will be an audience. The Tour of Alberta, with its HD-camera-weilding helicopter TV coverage, reaches up to 40 million viewers. The opportunity will be for Jasperites to create unique visuals as the peloton speeds over the landscape.
“You could imagine rafts and kayaks on a lake, spelling out the word Jasper,” he said. “Or supporters holding a Tour of Alberta flag on top of Whistlers’ Mountain.”
Now that the local organizing committee (LOC) is filling out, the marketing ideas, just like the “roving mini-city” that makes up the production crew and media circus, will be sure to come, Decore said.
“In the six weeks since we’ve had the LOC form we’ve come a long way. Now we’re in a position of leadership,” he said.
“We’re ahead of the game.”
Parks Canada is seeking the advice of local ski experts to evaluate any possible accessible backcountry ski terrain which may have been overlooked by winter users.
The agency arranged a special permit to allow Sean Elliott and Dana Ruddy, the two proponents of a new winter use cabin in the Great Divide/Rink Lake area, to investigate the slopes on Pyramid Mountain for ski potential. On the day that the permit was valid Ruddy was ill, so Elliott and Robson Valley skier, John Crowley, drove snow machines up the Pyramid fire road to poke around and look for good skiing.
“They wanted us to assess it, to see what we thought of it,” Elliott said.
Meanwhile, on March 6, Parks Canada’s Visitor Experience team invited members of Jasper’s winter operator community to have a look at the Miette Hotsprings area, to scrutinize whether or not the area might be suitable for a variety of winter activities, including snowshoeing, cross country skiing and ski touring. Sun Dog Tours, Jasper Tour Company and Matt Reynolds Mountain Guiding were among those invited to participate.
“They were putting the feelers out to ask what people thought of winterizing [Miette Hotsprings],” said Reynolds.
Parks Canada is looking at replacing utility and sewage infrastructure at Miette Hotsprings and administrators are trying to decided if it should invest in a winterized upgrade. Whether or not a suite of winter activities is feasible will factor into that decision.
“They were definitely asking me about ski touring options, but I didn’t think there was much,” Reynolds said. “From a mountain guide perspective it’s not like it’s a new mecca to take people mountaineering.”
Up on Pyramid Mountain, Elliott’s assessment was marginally better. He and Crowley got some turns in, but it was more of a skiing novelty than a riding revelation.
“It’s not a ski destination,” Elliott said. “It’s not a surprise.”
Ruddy and Elliott have put forward a proposal to build a cabin in a spot which they believe is a ski destination: Rink Lake, in the northwest corner of Jasper National Park, near the Great Divide. They have formed a society to help advance their proposal and are hoping Parks Canada will work with them in facilitating the venture. Acting Superintendent Alan Fehr has called their submission a “really interesting proposal,” but admitted the agency needs to complete its analysis on critical caribou habitat.
Elliott said that Parks Canada officials indicated that if the ski potential was good on Pyramid Mountain, it would be easier to facilitate the erecting of a structure there than at Rink Lake.
“They were waiting for us to tell them it’s a great place to ski but it’s just not,” Elliott said. “We’re going to stick to our guns with Rink Lake. That’s where the skiing is.”
Together with Marmot Basin, Parks Canada is providing educational outreach to help visitors learn more about caribou in Jasper National Park.
More specifically, ski hill users are finding out about Frankie Thunderbowl, Jasper’s most popular caribou, who in 2015 has made himself at home in Marmot Basin’s alpine terrain.
“It’s been an amazing opportunity,” said Shelley Bird, educational officer for Parks Canada. “We’re trying to take advantage of a unique opportunity for people to build those connections.”
Bird has set up display panels at Marmot Basin’s lower chalet—blurbs and photos which help visitors understand what’s cool about caribou, she said—but the real excitement is when Frankie is in view. On weekends, wildlife interpreters have been setting up at the top of the mountain with a spotting scope so skiers and snowboarders can have a closer look at a species at risk.
“He’s been very cooperative,” Bird said. “We saw lots of him on both Saturday and Sunday.”
Marmot Basin has collaborated with the federal agency to incorporate some of the caribou education into their Learning Centre. Other Learning Centre offers include GPS programs and avalanche education.
But the caribou outreach is seeing unprecedented participation, Bird said.
“People have been really excited. A lot of people had heard about him but hadn’t seen him, other people didn’t know we had caribou in Jasper. It’s brought on great conversation.”
Frankie has also fostered increased communication between Parks Canada and Marmot Basin staff, who have had to manage any human/wildlife conflicts between Frankie and the skiing public. Bird said the ski hill staff have been excellent ambassadors.
“They’ve been amazing in minimizing disturbances,” she said. “Some of the staff that work for Marmot Basin in the winter work for Parks Canada in the summer so there’s good understanding.”
For Cristin Murphy, four is the magic age.
“Children at that age are just so wide open and excited about life,” she said. “Anything you do is amazing to them. They’re easy to please when they’re set up in the right place.”
Now Murphy—and a long list of parents, apparently—believe that the right place for Jasper’s preschoolers is Wild Roots Play School. Murphy has just opened the doors to her new early education program and already enrolment is maxed out.
“It’s exciting to see it’s needed,” Murphy said. “As much as I was excited to make it happen, who knew?”
Raymond Blanchette-Dubé had an idea. The principal of Jasper Elementary School, where Wild Roots is housed, recalled a similar initiative being hosted at JES in the past. As happened then, a demand for this type of early education has blossomed lately.
“The response has been incredible. The community is lucky because Cristin is a wonderful teacher with valuable experience,” he said.
Murphy has taught on a wide spectrum, from elementary school Phys-Ed and music, to French 30, to English in Taiwan, to Kindergarten in Jasper, Edmonton and Hinton. She was the manager of childcare services for the municipality for six years, overseeing Jasper’s daycare.
Now, she’s going back to where her passion lies: teaching and programming in the Waldorf method—an educational approach based on the teachings of the natural world, art, movement and music.
“It’s a play-based approach,” Murphy said. “It teaches them how to take turns, how to share, to wait to speak…and the nitty gritty fun stuff.”
All of the above was on display on March 12 as parent-volunteer Kim Praill led a game with Zane Hamdi, Hana Callioo and Hilary Noble. For Praill, the better benefit of Wild Roots will be giving the children a head start in listening, establishing routines and respecting others.
“It gives these kids great foresight for kindergarten,” she said.
A video which appeared briefly on social media networks has prompted questions about how Parks Canada delegates human-wildlife conflict responsibilities.
On the morning of February 10 a short video showing a ski patrol sled at Marmot Basin “shepherding” a caribou off-piste was circulated widely among Jasper Facebook circles. Shortly after being shared around, the video was deleted.
Long-time Jasperite Travis Anderson saw the clip before it was removed. He questioned why Marmot Basin is allowed to manage wildlife and why they did so with a snowmobile.
“If this threatened species is to be managed, why is it being done by an outside party whose main interest is in providing winter recreation to visitors for a profit?” he said.
The video shows a caribou walking on the main piste of the upper mountain. When a ski patrol snow machine enters the frame, the animal increases its pace. The clip ends as the caribou is trotting towards Outer Limits, a closed run that drains into Whistlers’ Creek.
“In all of my research I have found that chasing wildlife or harassing them from motorized vehicles of any description is illegal,” Anderson said.
Since December, when eight caribou showed up in Marmot Basin’s upper bowl before bounding into the Outer Limits area, a lone caribou--dubbed “Frankie” by staff--has been frequenting the ski hill. Usually, Frankie stays off the main runs but ski patrol have had to take steps to minimize his chance of contact with people.
In this case, according to Marmot Basin, what the video doesn’t show is two groups of ski patrollers directing skier traffic away from the caribou. It also doesn’t show a group of skiers who ignored that directive.
“The patrollers were telling skiers to ski down Paradise and not towards Basin Run where there was a caribou,” explained Vice President of Marketing, Brian Rode, who got a sense of the scene from head of avalanche control, Kerry MacDonald. “[But] a small group of skiers ignored patrol and…cut up to see the caribou.”
Because there were now skiers blocking its path, MacDonald determined that there was a real threat of Frankie changing course and heading towards Paradise, where the public was.
“That’s when Kerry moved out with the sled to encourage him to continue to go towards Outer Limits,” Rode said. “Kerry in his best judgement made the determination that he didn’t want him to change direction and go down Paradise.”
Although its stint on Facebook was brief, the video was seen by Parks Canada wildlife experts. Resource Conservation Manager John Wilmshurst spoke for the agency when he wrote to The Jasper Local.
“Parks Canada has discussed the event with Marmot Basin and we are confident that under the circumstances, staff took the appropriate action to ensure the safety of the caribou and keep skiers at a reasonable distance,” he said.
The person who shot the video, Jasperite David Cizek, said he didn’t know the clip would cause such a stir when he posted it. He deleted it, he said, because he was nervous that its circulation would put ski patrol in an awkward position.
For his part, Anderson still has questions: How much energy does a caribou burn running away from a snowmobile? Why isn’t a Parks Canada wildlife specialist stationed at Marmot Basin? And, is there a double standard with respect to how caribou issues are handled depending on what business may be affected?
“Parks has a mandate of balancing visitor experience with ecological integrity. It seems to me that visitor experience and the big business that prospers from it have been weighing the scales heavier lately.”
bob covey // email@example.com
Jasper’s not giving up on winter backcountry skiing.
That was the sense on February 26, anyway, when more than 100 people packed into the Jasper Museum’s Bridgeland room to learn about a new winter cabin proposal from two local skiers.
“Jasper backcountry skiers are really feeling the squeeze,” Sean Elliott told the crowd during the hour-long presentation and slideshow. “We’re seeking a balance where skiers and caribou can co-exist.”
Elliott and Dana Ruddy have submitted a concept to Parks Canada which would see a non-profit ski club develop a new ski cabin in the Rink Lake area. Rink Lake is near Miette Pass and the Continental Divide, in the northwest corner of Jasper National Park. They have dubbed the area The Mystic Realm.
Additionally, the born-and-raised Jasperites have extended an interest in repurposing Parks Canada’s Miette Cabin, a former warden station which today has been written off area maps and sees little use. Rather than let the asset deteriorate, Elliott and Ruddy have suggested it could be used as a secondary base from which to access the varied and vast ski terrain of the Miette Valley.
“This cabin sits in a prime location that access some of the finest ski touring in the park,” Elliott said.
Unmistakable in the tone of the presentation was the fact that Ruddy and Elliott are not convinced that backcountry restrictions, which have greatly reduced skiing opportunities in Jasper until March 1, will have an effect on dwindling caribou populations. While he said he realizes Parks Canada is obliged to take action under the Species At Risk Act, Elliott also said the public ought to feel confident that those actions are working.
“I think the public needs to feel confidence and be reassured that Parks Canada’s strategies are realistic and based on sound scientific evidence that support claims…that ski tracks contribute to caribou mortality,” he said.
While the audience was awed by photos of sublime ski terrain--which included 20-year-old slides from veteran Jasper adventurer Edi Klopfenstein’s explorations of Miette Pass— the main thrust of the presentation was to gain support for starting a new ski association. With a strong showing from a wide swath of winter users--from professional guides to beginner backcountry users, to seasoned ski bums to eager high school students--Ruddy was optimistic that the seeds of a club had been planted.
“We want to gain support for developing a ski cabin and connect with people who want to be involved in that process,” he said.
After the presentation, members of the crowd swarmed Ruddy and Elliott. Poring over maps and sharing reports of snow valleys and high passes, there was a palpable buzz in the air.
“It was interesting,” Rupert Wedgwood, a local ACMG professional said. “I certainly haven’t ever seen this many people in the museum for a presentation.
Canada’s oldest form of winter transportation is making new tracks in Jasper National Park.
Cold Fire Creek Dogsledding has been granted a permit by Parks Canada to operate at Pyramid Lake. Owner-operator Amanda Sinclair had proposed several locations for the service but due to caribou corridors, grasslands conservation initiatives and other habitat protection concerns, only the area at Pyramid Lake was approved as a location for sled tours.
Sinclair, who runs her company out of Valemount, B.C., is the first operator to apply for such a permit.
“It’s not that dogsledding has never been allowed in the Park,” she said. “It’s that no one else has applied for a permit to operate within the park.”
The new permit allows Cold Fire Creek to operate throughout the winter season. One-off permits had seen the company create dogsledding adventures during Jasper in January festivities; now, thanks in part to the success of those events, Parks Canada has approved Cold Fire Creek to offer a wider spectrum of services.
Still, those services will be limited by demand. For now, Cold Fire Creek will offer dogsledding to Jasper visitors who book ahead, and only on weekends. Sinclair predicts she will be primarily serving high volume customers, such as corporate outings and special events.
The tour at Pyramid Lake makes a large loop of the lake. The duration of the tour is approximately 12 minutes.
Brittany carl // firstname.lastname@example.org
Parks Canada safety specialists have recovered the body of fallen Canadian Forces member Sgt. Mark Salesse.
On February 5, Salesse was descending from Polar Circus, one of the Rocky Mountain’s iconic ice climbing routes, when an avalanche swept him over a 60m icefall. In the subsequent days, because of hazardous avalanche conditions, Parks Canada safety specialists were unable to put a search team on the ground.
Finally, at approximately 11:30 a.m. on February 11, after five days of their efforts being hampered by foul weather, the team located the victim underneath 2.7 m of avalanche debris and began the laborious task of excavating his body.
“It was very difficult, very hard debris,” said Visitor Safety Specialist Lisa Paulson.
Polar Circus is a 700 m, grade five ice climb. Climbers come from all over the world with the goal of ascending its nine pitches, said public safety specialist Brian Webster.
“It’s a big, big place,” Webster said. “There is big avalanche terrain above it and the sidewalls of the gully are also avalanche prone.”
Salesse was a very experienced mountaineer. A search and rescue technician based in Winnipeg, the 44-year-old had multiple big mountain ascents on his climbing resume.
Salesse’s accident happened exactly 33 years to the day that internationally-famed climber John Lauchlan perished on the same route. Lauchlan was also caught in an avalanche which led to his death at age 27.
Parks Canada expressed condolences for Salesse’s family.
“It was our honour to have been able to bring closure to this unfortunate event and allow Sgt. Salesse’s family and friends to properly mourn their loss.”
His home has been rendered unsalvageable from a devastating house fire, his living situation is in flux and his financial future hangs in the balance of insurance adjusters’ investigations.
Yet still, Dong Han is a force of positivity.
“If you look at the dark side you can’t manage,” he said. “I don’t want to look that way. Life’s too short.”
On February 3 at about 4:30 p.m., “Grandpa,” as he’s known to Jasperites, was at the post office when he was told his house was on fire. The 76-year-old raced back to the distinct log home at 801 Geikie Street but it was too late. Flames had engulfed the garage and were licking the main structure. Jasper’s Volunteer Fire Brigade was battling the fire’s growing intensity. Grandpa watched and prayed.
“I prayed,” he said. “But the fire did not stop.”
Eventually, thanks to the coordinated efforts of the JVFB, the fire did stop. But the damage had been done. The carport and the vehicles inside—which included Han’s son’s motorcycles and sports cars, as well as the entire inventory of the Hans’ summer convenience store, Grandma’s Place—were completely destroyed. All their clothes were ruined. The kitchen and bathroom was melted. Black water and soot stained everything.Thankfully, irreplaceable memorabilia such as photo albums and his father’s Korean war decorations were not lost. While thumbing through some of those precious items a week after the event, Grandpa reflected on what could have been.
“The fire was so fast, so intense. If it happened in the nighttime we might not be in this world,” he said.
Han’s youngest son Dale, who was about to take a shower when he heard Jasperite Michael Young banging on his door to alert anyone inside to the danger, was also thankful no one was hurt. An industrial designer who’s worked for Bombardier and NASA, Dale said he was sad to lose his portfolio and a custom-designed motorcycle prototype, but the most important thing is that his family can recover.
“Those things I lost are just things,” he said.
Similarly, the Hans’ tenant, Eric Clancy, was looking at the bright side. For one thing, he’s been overwhelmed at the money raised on his behalf in only a week’s time. For another, he knows that it could have been much worse. The entrance to Clancy’s suite was located in the garage. If he’d been home and sleeping—like he’s apt to do after a long week of working late shifts—things might have been much different, he said.
“If I would have been inside and opened the door, I would have been opening it up to smoke, to hell,” he said.
Grandpa knows something about hell. Fifty eight years ago, he watched his comrades die when he was stationed in the Demilitarized Zone in Korea. That experience, along with other sacrifices he made to bring his family to Canada in the 1970s, gives him perspective on the fire that destroyed his belongings.
“I lived a very dark side in my young age,” he said. “I saw horrors, people killed, war, hunger. You have to experience bad things, or you don’t understand what is the bright side, what is good.”
Jasper's new brand might sound similar to competitors' campaigns, but the difference is in the delivery, marketing specialists suggest
As Tourism Jasper invites local businesses to Live the Brand in upcoming workshops, Jasper’s destination marketing organization is confident that the community will get on board with Venture Beyond.
And despite questions regarding the tagline’s originality, experts insist that not only will the way in which it is applied be unique to Jasper, but Venture Beyond’s true distinction will be in its longevity.
“Our brand is Venture Beyond,” said Mary Darling, Tourism Jasper’s CEO. “The brand is who we are.”
This newspaper was critical of Jasper’s new brand when, soon after its unveiling, it came to light that one of Tourism Canmore/Kananaskis’ marketing campaigns was Go Beyond. Since then, The Jasper Local has also discovered that Tourism Calgary uses Basecamp for Adventure, a strikingly similar epithet to Base of Adventure—the description consultants pitched to Jasper tourism stakeholders when explaining “what we’re really selling.”
In each case, the linguistic resemblances are trivial, when compared with how well the brand is executed, how “sticky” it is with visitors and whether it frames the product in the right way, according to Stormy Lake Consulting’s Philip Coppard.
“The differentiation is in the idea more than the words,” Coppard said.
Coppard admitted that during the research process for Jasper’s new strategy, Go Beyond wasn’t identified. Nevertheless, he said Venture Beyond is a perfect match for Jasper because of how well it intersects with what researchers heard from both visitors and locals.
“Venture Beyond is absolutely true to the destination, to both the ideas of the community and the visitor.”
As for Base versus Basecamp, Coppard said the applications are even further apart than Venture Beyond versus Go Beyond.
“[Calgary’s] Basecamp For Adventure is an out-of-market package theme,, [whereas Jasper’s] Base of Adventure is a never-show-above-water idea,” he said, using the “tip of the iceberg” metaphor.
Whether or not the marketing lingo is beyond business operators, Darling hopes Jasperites will attend one of two upcoming Live the Brand workshops on February 25 and 26. RSVP email@example.com before Feb 20 to secure a spot
The Maligne Lake Ski Club is proposing to operate its historic cabin, Shangrila, in the summer.
A draft of the proposal went out to members February 10 for comment. In it, executive members outline operating issues which the club faces in light of recent caribou habitat conservation measures.
“The cabin can [only] be used for the winter period March 1 to April 30th. This severely restricts access to this area for our members, and impacts the financial and membership sustainability of the Maligne Lake Ski Club,” the draft proposal says.
To make up for the loss of revenue and to help future generations develop a connection to the Maligne Valley area, the executive is proposing to re-open the cabin for the late summer season. The new season would run from July 1 to October 15.
“We feel that by offering multi-seasonal access, the Maligne Lake Ski Club can sustain itself,” the document says.
For the past 78 years, Shangrila has given skiers a base from which to explore the safe and snow-laden cirques of the Maligne Range. The cabin sleeps six; members of the non-for-profit club could historically book Shangrila from December 1 to the second week of April.
This year, access to the Maligne Valley has been restricted until March 1 as part of sweeping winter closures to Jasper’s backcountry. The restrictions are designed to mitigate predator access to caribou—wolves use skier tracks to access the alpine, putting increased pressure on the threatened species, Parks says.
MLSC members have until February 18 to provide comments on the draft to the club executive; based on that feedback, the executive will submit their proposal to Parks Canada.
Meanwhile, another non-for-profit ski cabin in Jasper National Park has been proposed to park officials. That project would see a structure built in the northwest corner of the park, near the continental divide, in the Miette Pass area. Proponents Sean Elliott and Dana Ruddy will present the concept to the general public at the Jasper Museum on February 26 at 7 p.m.
By most accounts, 2014 was a banner year for Alberta’s Rocky Mountain operators.
Numbers were up across a variety of sectors including accommodations, restaurants, retail, ski day visits and tour operations, according to the Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment.
“2014 was a busy year in our Rocky Mountain parks,” said AMPEE’s executive director, Casey Peirce.
Locally, businesses agreed: Whether the reports came from rafting companies, liquor stores, pizza joints or home accommodation providers, the general consensus was that 2014 represented an uptick in revenue. The high season started earlier and lasted longer. Occupancy in Jasper was up nine per cent from the year before and after big jumps in visitation numbers in April (18 per cent), June (nine per cent) and July (seven per cent), Parks Canada is projecting an overall increase of six per cent in park visitors from 2013 (final numbers have yet to come it).
So the question is: Why?
What was it about 2014 that made visitors flock to Jasper in droves not seen since pre-SARS? While most would say it’s impossible to single out one factor, one veteran operator in Jasper was willing to dole out a healthy amount of credit to the fact that in 2014, Jasper had a new product to offer. That product was the Glacier Skywalk.
“I think the amount of exposure the Skywalk had directly, and indirectly, for Jasper was significant,” said Paul Hardy.
Hardy, who owns Sun Dog Tour Company, said the huge marketing campaign blasted out by Brewster had an unprecedented reach for Jasper National Park.
“That got [Jasper] into places I don’t think we would have got into otherwise,” he said, noting major ad placements in the New York Times and other international publications.
Moreover, having the Skywalk gave long-time tour operators new content to plug, Hardy said.
Having a genuinely new attraction gives companies like Rocky Mountaineer a whole new slant to their marketing campaign. All summer people were specifically asking about that attraction because of what they heard.”
Of course Hardy knows it wasn’t all Skywalk buzz that brought guests to Jasper last year.
A strong regional economy brought more Albertans; a rebounding global economy allowed more Europeans to get on a plane to Canada; and Americans likely visited because of a dipping Canadian dollar, he noted. But by and large, local efforts paid dividends.
“The product continues to improve and evolve,” he said.
Mary Darling agreed. Tourism Jasper’s CEO said while fantastic skiing in the spring, no mosquitoes in the summer and an extended, warm fall surely contributed to Jasper’s fortunes last year, a more collaborated effort from tourism stakeholders was the key to making the most of 2014. She pointed to improved partnerships with Parks Canada’s visitor experience team; anniversary campaigns at Marmot Basin and the Jasper Skytram; and product reinvestment by Mountain Park Lodges and the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, among others. Tourism Jasper’s Dark Sky Festival represented the epitome of that partnership, Darling said.
“We’re all working toward the same goal.”
Jasper’s new marketing campaign is Venture Beyond.
The tagline will replace Wonderful, By Nature. Tourism Jasper rolled out the new strategy at a stakeholder workshop on January 27.
“It’s powerful because it can be used in so many contexts,” said strategist Charlie Easton of C&B Marketing. “Venture Beyond your comfort zone, tourist traps, the highway.”
The Calgary-based advertising firm was hired on last April to help put Jasper’s story into words. Together with Stormy Lake consulting, the agency conducted more than 230 interviews to get an idea of what visitors, locals, journalists and key stakeholders had to say about Jasper.
“We’re selling the concept that Jasper is the base for adventure,” Easton said. “It’s what’s outside the town that makes this destination really special.”
The closely-guarded campaign was announced in conjunction with the revealing of a logo for Jasper’s new visual language (see inset). The logo draws inspiration from glacial couloirs, skiing and nature, said consultant Byron Edwards.
“We wanted the logo to live in an outdoor world as opposed to a tourism world,” he said, noting its potential for merchandizing opportunities.
Tourism Jasper’s CEO, Mary Darling, said the campaign speaks to the relative adventure that anyone can have in Jasper.
“For some people, driving up the Icefields Parkway and not having cell reception is an adventure,” she said.
Darling is proud of the final product.
“I love it, I believe in it so much,” she said.
Not everyone at the workshop was convinced, however. The Municipality of Jasper’s director of finance, Alice Lettner had some warming up to do.
“I’m not a marketing person, I just know what I like. I’m not sure about Venture Beyond. To where? Valemount?”
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights…
Canadian poet Robert Service knew there are strange things done in the midnight sun. But the Cremation of Sam McGee seems positively ordinary when compared to Greg Van Tighem’s latest mission: fat biking across the arctic circle via the Dempster Highway, and then to Tuktoyaktuk, on a road made of ice.
“There are a lot of unknowns,” he admitted.
Jasper’s fire chief relishes the unknowns. The marathon cyclist has two epic End-to-End journeys under his belt: In 2013 he rode the 2,878 km stretch from Wickenburg, Arizona to Jasper on Highway 93 and last year, riding a fat bike, he soloed the entire length of the Yellowhead Highway, a 3,124 km journey from Masset, B.C. to Winnipeg, Manitoba. In winter, no less.
“I’ve always been a little crazy,” he laughed.
His adventures aren’t solely for kicks, however. As one of the MS Society’s top fundraisers, Van Tighem chooses to engage the unknowns for his friends who don’t have the luxury of such choice.
“You look at someone who has a terminal disease like MS or another auto immune disorder, they’re dealing with the unknowns of their health, the unknowns of if there’s ever going to be a cure, or a new drug that helps them become more mobile.”
When he looks at life through that lens, Van Tighem feels like an unsupported 900 km fat bike journey at the top of the world, catching what little sleep he can in a tent on the side of the McKenzie Delta, isn’t such a great sacrifice.
“I know I’m putting a lot of undue stress on my friends and family who think this is quite extreme,” Van Tighem said after a training ride along one of Jasper’s own ice-covered roads January 25. “But I’m hoping donations will come from the awareness of what I’m doing, that people will consider it a worthy cause.”
The Dempster Highway starts in the Yukon at 67 degrees latitude. It crosses the arctic circle as it heads into the Northwest Territories, ending at the small Inuit village of Inuvik, 737 km later. There are limited services along the highway; the first fuel stop is more than 350 kilometres away from the road’s starting point and dubious-sounding landmarks such as the Tombstone Mountains and Hurricane Alley await Van Tighem’s self-powered rig. All this is before the 190 km ice road to Tuktoyaktuk, which, if all goes according to plan, will bring Van Tighem to the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
“There’s nothing between Inuvik and Tuk,” he said. “Maybe a couple of trappers’ cabins.”
Van Tighem is currently making connections with area trucking companies and snow plow divisions, in case he needs a lifeline.
“Once word gets out everybody in those communities are going to know what I’m doing,” he said. “My hope is that when they see me they’ll check in on me.”
Certainly his supporters down south will be checking in.
Visit endms93.com to pledge.
The Tour of Alberta will bring 120 of the world’s best cyclists to Jasper National Park this September 5.
Jasper’s steep hills will play host to the event’s fourth stage, said Duane Vienneau, Executive Director of the tour.
“[The Jasper stage] will mark the first time we’ve been to the mountains,” Vienna said.
There are six stages in the race, set for September 2-7. The starting stage will be in Grande Prairie while the finish will be in Edmonton.
The exact route through Jasper National Park is still in the vetting process, but Vienneau confirmed that it will start in the townsite and finish at the top of Marmot Basin Road.
“We’re thrilled,” he said. “We’ll have a mountain-top finish.”
In November, council committed $60,000 to bringing the tour to Jasper, with hopes that other local stakeholders could also contribute to the race’s rights fees. On January 14 Parks Canada and Tourism Jasper confirmed their support.
The Tour of Alberta features the top cyclists in the world.
“Half of the guys in our race will be in the Tour de France this year,” Villeneau said.
The average race stage is between 140 and 160 km. The Tour of Alberta features a “rolling closure,” meaning only a small portion of the highways and roads on which the peloton of cyclists and caravan of support vehicles race will be closed at any one time.
The SEED has yet to sprout, but support for a sustainable education classroom module in Jasper is by no means dormant.
Students, teachers, parents, designers, donors, public officials and Jasper Jr./Sr. High School alumni joined together January 13 to rekindle a flame that they weren’t ready to see extinguished. The reunion was an effort to update the community on the progress of bringing a SEED (Sustainable Education Every Day) classroom to Jasper and, by brainstorming with stakeholders, invest new energy into the project.
“We’re here tonight because we believe in this plan,” said moderator Christopher Read. “We all said we’re going to follow the lead of these students because that’s how we got here.”
In 2011, a contingent of Jasper students inspired Seattle-based architect Stacy Smedley to help incorporate the principles of the Living Building Challenge into a portable classroom, destined for Jasper. The initiative came on the heels of the students’ environmental design recommendations for the new high school being rejected by the provincial government. With the backing of the community and thousands of donated dollars, it was a major disappointment to students and supporters alike to then learn that their SEED classroom was destined for another school in Seattle.
“I get emotional whenever I talk about this project because it’s been such a long journey and we’re still not there yet,” Smedley told the group via Skype.
But even though many of the students who were originally involved in the initiative have gone on to post-secondary education, there remains a committed core of alumni. Members of that group dialled in to the January 13 meeting and voiced their ongoing support.
“This is still inspiring to me because its’s something we’ve done,” Theresa Westhaver, now a UNBC student, told the group. “It’s been so long that we’ve been working on this, yet so many people haven’t given up on it.”
Despite there being a feeling of fundraising exhaustion (partners have raised just over $51,000 of the $180,000 SEED price tag), there is still a chance that Jasper could receive a SEED classroom at no charge, if Smedley can sell 20 prototypes so as to offset its cost. Knowing that, when councillor Brian Nesbitt wondered aloud whether education leaders around the district might be interested in considering fulfilling their capital needs with a SEED classroom or two, real excitement started to build.
“That’s a great idea, that’s exactly the kind of stuff we need,” Read exclaimed.
Two local skiers have approached Parks Canada with a proposal to build a winter-use cabin in the northwest region of
Jasper National Park.
Dana Ruddy and Sean Elliott’s concept would establish a club-based hut near Rink Lake, making accessible the untapped ski potential of the Continental Divide and Miette Pass areas.
“This could be a new, exciting destination for people in the ski community,” Ruddy said.
The pair’s letter to Supt. Greg Fenton details their familiarization with the terrain, the generous snowpack and the 10 km ski approach to the proposed cabin site. They hope to model the concept on the Maligne Lake Ski Club’s Shangrila cabin, sustaining the structure with membership fees and cabin rentals. Initial building costs would be borne by a non-for-profit group which would operate the cabin’s use, the pair suggested.
“We want to put it out there, to gauge support,” Elliott said. “We think a club could be not just for the sake of a cabin but more like an advocacy group.”
In February of 2013, Jasper National Park officials hosted public workshops which, along with advancing biologists’ recommendations to limit winter recreational access in the name of caribou conservation, asked users to put forward new recreation areas in Jasper’s wilderness. The Miette Pass area comprises Ruddy and Elliott’s answer to that query.
“[But] it’s far enough back there that it’s not a day hit,” Elliot said. “It’s really great ski terrain but only the most hardy people are going to hoof it up there and winter camp.”
The proposed cabin, accessed via the Yellowhead Mountain Trail and sitting at 1,970 m in the Miette River drainage, would eliminate the need to haul in camping and cooking supplies.
“Access to everything is safe,” Elliott said. “Miette has been recognized as great skiing by local wardens for years.”
The born-and-raised Jasperites have taken several exploration ski tours through the area, but they’re not the first to recognize the area’s winter potential. British mountaineer, photographer and member of the famed Lovat Scouts, Frank Smythe, wrote of the area as a “ski-land of exceptional interest and beauty” in his book Rocky Mountains.
“When this district becomes known, it will undoubtedly rank among the better skiing areas in the Rockies, for it is possible to ski for miles across country over a terrain as safe as it is beautiful,” Smythe wrote in 1948.
Elliott, who happened upon the book in a dusty shop in Kaslo, and Ruddy, whose great-grandfather, outfitter Jack Hargreaves, is featured in the publication, hope that the visions of Jasper ski pioneers will merge with the progressive movement of modern-day winter touring.
“It’s just the beginning,” Ruddy said. “Who knows what it could become.”
Parks Canada has put out a call for proposals to create a permanent art installation in Jasper National Park.
The initiative is part of Parks Canada’s ongoing reconciliation process with Indigenous communities who have a historical connection to the area. Aboriginal Liaison officer Sherrill Meropoulis said the project will help share a complex part of Jasper’s history which is relatively unknown to the public.
“It’s a way for us to honour Indigenous Peoples who were here,” she said. “They have a long historical and cultural connection to these lands,” she said.
The budget for the public art installation is $100,000.
Parks Canada has collaborated with First Nations groups so that native communities can offer input into park management decisions. A cultural committee, struck from that forum, has created a guiding concept which the eventual artist will follow.
“The hope is that [the art installment] is going to share an Aboriginal worldview of this place,” Meropoulis said. “Once we have that symbol, it’s going to be one more element that’s going to instill a sense of place and pride for Indigenous People who now can see themselves here again.”
A five-member panel will comprise the adjudication committee.
The anticipated timeline has the completion date pegged for the summer of 2016.
Wildlife officials remain on alert after an off-leash dog was pounced on by a juvenile cougar.
On December 20, a visitor from Washington State stopped at Old Fort Point to snap a sunset photo and take his dog for a walk. According to Wildlife Conflict Specialist Steve Malcolm, the man did not notice signage alerting users that a cougar was in the area.
“He saw the cougar coming up the slope from the river,” Malcolm said.
The man’s dog, a medium sized lab/mutt that Malcolm estimated weighed 40 pounds, was not on a leash. It was on the other side of a plateau when the cougar became fixated on it.
“The dog turned and as soon as it turned the cougar was on it.”
The man ran to his pet’s rescue. He kicked the cougar and it ran off.
“It slunk away and disappeared,” Malcolm said.
The dog was uninjured. Malcolm suspects the cat hesitated because it is a juvenile.
“It’s still trying to figure things out,” he said.
In the month that has passed since two cougars were first reported in town, wildlife experts have been trying to figure things out, too.
In the early morning of December 1, two cougars were spotted near the high school. In subsequent evenings, other similar reports came in. While the proximity of these sightings to town was concerning, the fact that the animals weren’t hunting pets or stalking humans led Malcolm to believe these were predators hunting their natural prey.
“They were trying to access the elk,” he said.
As the sightings continued, however, officials decided to act.
They believed they were dealing with two juvenile cougars—one male, one female—who were becoming too comfortable hunting near the townsite. They called in a specialized outfitter to help track the cats with the intention of collaring them and potentially moving them out of the area. Then the weather turned.
“We lost the window to track them [through the snow] with all that rain,” Malcolm said.
A few days later, however, on December 16, the biologists’ luck turned. A report came in that a cougar was on a kill site, east of town. Back in came the outfitter with his specially-trained dogs. They immobilized a two-year-old male cougar.
“We treed it, darted it and collared it,” Malcolm said. “But we weren’t 100 per cent sure if it was the individual coming into town.”
Four days later, their doubt had diminished. A pair of cougars was spotted on the Athabasca River on the same day that Parks Canada staff had picked up a signal from the male cat’s collar. With the ability to track the male, they had determined it was indeed one of the cougars seen in town and were comfortable that it was making itself scarce.
“He’s been responding to that treatment quite well,” Malcolm said.
Now the hope is to manage the female in the same way. The plan remains to get a collar on the second cat.
“We want to know where they are so we know they’re not coming into town,” he said. “We also want to give them an opportunity to survive.”
Although the Old Fort Point incident was a close call for the Washington dog owner, Malcolm said the cougar’s behavior wasn’t out of step for a wild animal.
“That’s an unfortunate incident where the cougar is probably hunting sheep and you have a dog that’s off leash,” he said. “A cougar doesn’t associate a dog off leash with a human.”
No charges were laid against the dog owner.
The Maligne Lake Ski Club has extended its spring ski season in light of delays to winter recreational access in Jasper National Park.
The non-profit club operates the Shangrila ski cabin in the Snowbowl area of Jasper National Park’s Maligne Range. The cabin, which was erected in 1936, has served as a base for countless ski groups exploring the generous, snow-laden slopes of the Maligne Valley ever since.
On December 22, as part of its efforts to protect critical caribou habitat in Jasper National Park, Parks Canada announced winter access closures to the Maligne Valley. The closures will be in effect until February 28.
To compensate for the winter access restrictions, Shangrila will be open two weeks longer than usual in the spring.
“The area and cabin will be available for use—travel conditions permitting—from March 2 to April 30, 2015,” MLSC executive member Sandy Cox wrote to members in an email on Christmas Eve. “The Maligne Lake Ski Club will work actively with Parks Canada to ensure the caribou restoration strategy is viable and likely to succeed.”
The closures, which also include the Whistlers’ Creek area adjacent to Marmot Basin, had been anticipated to come into effect November 28. Delays to the announcement caused a mass migration of users to the Maligne Valley as skiers sought to take advantage of excellent December snow conditions. Packed trails crisscrossed the Bald Hills area.
“You could drive a car up here right now,” ski guide Keith Liebech commented on December 21.
Meanwhile, Marmot Basin was the site of a unique encounter on December 17 when eight mountain caribou—believed to be part of the Tonquin Valley herd—were spotted on the upper part of the ski resort. The rare appearance lasted half an hour before the animals bounded over a ridge and out of sight.
On the same day, ski patrol were doing avalanche control work in Trés Hombrés, an off-piste area which has remained closed for operational logistics and Parks Canada wildlife requirements. The run is coveted by local skiers and snowboarders for its 1,000 foot fall line and steep, north-facing aspect. It drains directly into Whistlers’ Creek.
Marmot Basin has not confirmed any aspirations of opening any new terrain.
The Maligne Lake Ski Club, in the meantime, is polling its members for ideas on how to stay viable with a shortened season.
Barb Schmidt is embarking on a new adventure.
The Jasper Jr./Sr. High School teacher has been hired as the new education director at the Palisades Stewardship Education Centre.
And like the students whose connections to Jasper National Park she will be helping create, she feels the very near future is at once exciting, daunting and full of possibilities.
“I think it’s important to challenge yourself,” she said.
Schmidt was hired by Parks Canada and Grande Yellowhead Public School Division to replace outgoing education director James Bartram. Her exact position, which will start in February, has yet to be defined, but in general she will be working to promote the Palisades Centre to other schools, developing and diversifying the Palisades’ programming and collaborating with Parks Canada’s education team to facilitate learning experiences for students.
“I believe strongly in this being an important program for our community and our kids,” she said.
The Palisades Education Centre is a unique collaboration between Parks Canada and GYPSD. At its core, the program aims to create stewards of Canada’s national parks while fostering leadership, team building and engagement. Since it was created 10 years ago, the Palisades Centre has helped hundreds of students see the world with new eyes. Through outdoor activities, interacting with a broad range of community members and learning about the history of the landscape and culture surrounding the Palisades Centre, students get the chance to connect to the place, to each other and to themselves, Schmidt said.
“Experiential education is engagement,” she said. “It’s not always comfortable, but to learn, sometimes you have to be uncomfortable.”
Outgoing education director James Bartram shares those sentiments. For him, after 10 years of driving the program, learning from challenges is one thing; however, applying the learning is something else. Bartram, who has taken a position with the Canadian Wildlife Federation, was critical of Parks Canada’s ability to reinvest in the program. In a time of budget cuts and restructuring, he said, there is a reluctance to think outside of the box.“Parks Canada’s marching orders are pretty specific in terms of pursuing affluent Canadians. [Youth] are not their primary audience anymore.”
Despite his critical analysis, Bartram said that the program will succeed or fail based on that most important resource: staff. Speaking to The Jasper Local before the new hire was announced, he was optimistic that the right person could overcome structural challenges.
“At the end of the day you’re in the people business,” he said. “Your success is going to be about human capital.”
Not to put any pressure on Schmidt who, she said, understands the challenges that are inherent with her new role. Moreover, Schmidt is a believer in a clean slate. Her 17 years working as a teacher in Alberta has given her confidence that she has support from her school board and her provincial government.
When it comes down to it, she said, it’s about the students.
“I’m looking forward to working with people who know it’s not always about the curriculum, it’s about the kids,” she said.
A snowmobiler is recovering from a broken leg after rescue technicians from Jasper evacuated him from a steep slope high in the Valemount alpine.
On Sunday, December 7 Jasper public safety officials received a call that a sledder had driven his snow machine off a cliff near the popular Clemina Creek area. The reporting party—who had been alerted via a group who were practicing avalanche safety skills in the area, and who were carrying a satellite phone—was requesting assistance from Jasper’s technical rescue team.
“Luckily that avalanche safety course was going on in the area,” said visitor safety specialist Max Darrah. “A number of things lined up to make for a positive outcome.”
One of those things was a weather window which enabled them to fly to the site. Having received the coordinates of the accident, three rescue personnel flew to the scene via a helicopter procured out of Valemount. After setting up a staging area, pilot Dale Brady of Yellowhead Helicopters was able to sling Darrah and Steve Blagbrough to the victim.
“We were hoping it would be a relatively simple injury, so we’d be able to grab him and go,” Darrah said. “It became apparent quite quickly that was not going to be the case.”
Along with displaying signs of hypothermia, the victim had a severe mid-shaft femur break. The accident site was on a steep slope in avalanche terrain and the clouds were threatening to close in, which would jeopardize their ability to use the helicopter. Using a heat blanket and an extra jacket, the rescuers attempted to rewarm the victim before packaging him for transport.
“It takes time to make sure there are no other injuries before we can manipulate him,” Darrah said. “But we didn’t find anything else major in our preliminary survey.”
Shovelling out a snow platform on which they could work, they exposed the broken bone—which luckily had not severed any arteries—and got to work splinting the victim’s leg. When that was done, their task was to place the victim onto a backboard equipped with a vacuum mattress (to help stabilize his injury), then place that entire package into a Bauman bag, a single-point suspension carrier designed for lifting a patient during a hoist or short evacuation. Once completed, back at the staging area, they put the patient inside the helicopter and delivered him to Jasper’s Seton Healthcare Centre. The next morning he was shipped to Edmonton.
Darrah said lessons to take from the incident include knowing the terrain you’re recreating in and carrying some kind of backcountry communication device.
“The ability to connect from the backcountry is a great asset,” he said. “A sat phone or a Spot device...if you’re able to tell us where you are and any sort of cursory details it really helps us streamline the response.”
Conditional approval of a rezoning application is being appealed by residents who don’t want a new apartment complex in their neighborhood.
On October 7, Parks Canada’s Planning and Development Advisory Committee (PDAC) recommended to agency planners that a conditional approval be granted to proponent Rob Olson’s application to rezone two lots at 122 Connaught Drive from a two-unit dwelling district (R2) to a multi-unit dwelling district (R3).
Olson wants to build a 10 unit, two-bedroom apartment building on the two lots adjacent to the Crimson Hotel.
“These are premium apartments, they kind that this town needs,” Olson said.
Nine letters of opposition, plus a petition with half a dozen signatures, were presented to PDAC during the original September 25 public hearing. Points of contention included the height of the proposed building, parking issues, increased density and the precedent that spot zoning would create.
“Once you open the gate it is very hard to close,” submitted John and Val Glaves of 105 Aspen Crescent.
However, despite noting “substantial opposition” to the rezoning application, Parks Canada agreed with PDAC’s counsel to move the proposal forward and conditionally approved the application. One of the conditions was that the building height be reduced to 10 metres.
“It was recognized...that communities evolve,” Jeff Anderson, vice president of operations for Western and Northern Canada, wrote to Olson’s holdings company. “Changing demographics and visitation patterns produce both challenges and opportunities that require flexibility and re-examination of what the best guidelines or zoning might be...It was felt that the impacts on the neighbourhood in terms of density and parking would not be significantly different with either R2 or R3b development.”
But since that approval was announced, residents who were opposed to the original rezoning application have launched an appeal. They claimed that there was not enough notice of the development process and have acquired the services of lawyer Kaj Jensen to help convince PDAC that their original rezoning recommendation was ill-informed. Reached at her Hinton office, Jensen said it would be improper to comment on the ongoing matter.
Olson, who purchased the properties six years ago with the intention of developing them as multi-unit dwellings, said a Jasper Community Housing Corporation meeting 18 months ago identified the parcels in question as being suitable for rezoning.
“Any apartment takes the pressure off of Jasper’s housing situation,” he said.
The PDAC hearing takes place December 18.
A fact-finding mission for a new culinary arts school in Jasper has whetted stakeholders’ appetites for the project’s potential.
Representatives from Grande Prairie Regional College (GPRC) were in Jasper December 10. GPRC president Don Gnatiuk was impressed by the interest he saw.
“The enthusiasm was really strong,” he said. “We’re feeling pretty encouraged.”
Delegates met with municipal council, the Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce, the local hotel association, Parks Canada, Jasper’s Habitat for the Arts and the Jasper Legion. The latter organization is struggling with operating costs now that École Desrochers has vacated the building. Ken Kuzminski, president of the Jasper Legion, said the Legion is willing to put anything on the table to make the concept move forward.
“It comes down to ensuring the Legion survives, but it’s also an excellent opportunity for the community [and] the province,” Kuzminski said.
While GPRC has a hospitality program, it does not currently have a culinary school. The main thrust of the project would be to address the provincial labour shortage in the food service industry. After that, sky’s the limit, Gnatiuk said.
“Imagination could take this in all kinds of directions,” he said, stressing that there have been no decisions made.
“We don’t want to create any false expectations,” he said. “We want to see where the numbers land.” GPRC will submit a report to the province on its findings in January. Gnatiuk encouraged Jasperites to voice their support or suggestions through the college’s website.
A planned group RV and wedding site at the Jasper airfield is drawing criticism from residents who suggest Parks Canada is undoing its own restoration work.
Jasperite Ursula Winkler believes that adding an extra level of utility at the airfield represents a slippery slope to building even more infrastructure.
“People who arrive with big RVs don’t want to use outhouses,” Winkler said. “They want water, shower facilities, toilets and power. When you pull an RV, you want a plug in.”
Chris Whitty, Visitor Experience Operations Coordinator with Parks Canada, explained that the proposal for the Jasper airfield is to create an enclosed space wherein 10-12 sleeping units could fit. Roadside fencing would protect sensitive grasslands and at the east end of the area, a small arbor and benches for wedding ceremonies would be erected, he said. Additional fencing, signage and a water tank are also park of the plans.
“We had for the past few years been looking for a site to accommodate people who want to stay in groups in their trailers,” Whitty said. “People would call to book for weddings but we didn’t have any options for staying overnight.”
In the recent past, prescribed burns in the area have been performed to reestablish habitat for ungulates. Similarly, in 2011, the nearby Jackladder road was decommissioned to meet Parks Canada’s goals for protecting ecological integrity.
Winkler fears that with the RV site proposal, Parks Canada may be undoing the work those efforts established.
“There was a considerable amount of money spent to do that [restoration work], now they’re spending money on this because Parks Canada’s vision is changing,” Winkler said.
Whitty said the environmental assessment process kicked off at the beginning of November. Winkler has asked the agency to make that process public.
“They want to entertain people rather than preserve natural spaces,” she said. “I’d like to have an open, honest conversation about that.”
Parks Canada’s proposed captive breeding program to augment depleted caribou herds has been shelved.
The project’s main partner, the Calgary Zoo, announced that it would not be proceeding with the project for financial reasons.
“The funding was not sufficient from Parks Canada to proceed on the [caribou] recovery program,” said Trish Exton-Parder, spokesperson for the Calgary Zoo. “We felt it would only be successful with a multi-million dollar investment.”
The captive breeding program—a partnership between Parks Canada, the Calgary Zoo and the B.C. Government—was pegged as a cornerstone of Parks Canada’s caribou conservation strategy. Jasper wildlife biologists had high hopes that the program could help the park’s dwindling caribou populations recover.
Other caribou conservation measures put in place in Jasper have included delayed winter access to three areas of important caribou habitat.
“Packed winter trails into important caribou habitat can increase the risk of predation on these small herds,” Parks Canada has said.
More conservation measures are expected to be announced before November 28. The agency is currently reviewing its caribou conservation actions to ensure they are aligned with Environment Canada’s caribou recovery strategy, released in June.
“Parks Canada continues to explore options and opportunities for partners in the establishment of a captive rearing facility to support caribou recovery actions,” a spokesperson said.
It’s 5 p.m. on November 12. The temperature is minus 14 degrees Celsius.
The last of the day’s light is receding from the mountain tops and along Jasper’s Aspen Crescent, the only sounds that permeate the crisp air are the crunch of boots on squeaky snow, followed by the rap of gloved knuckles on a frosty door.
A pregnant pause is followed by the telling sound of footsteps from somewhere inside. The door reluctantly creaks open.
“Good evening ma'am, I’m Ryan Maguhn,” the visitor presents. “I’m here about the election that’s happening. I’m running to be your member of parliament.”
Maguhn is the Liberal Party’s nominee in the upcoming (November 17) Yellowhead federal byelection. The 34-year-old is hoping to take the place of retired Conservative MP Rob Merrifield. Maguhn knows he’s got to get his name out there.
“I’m a local boy to the riding,” he says, after receiving a warm welcome by a local senior. “I’m a high school teacher, town councillor and former fire fighter and I’m looking to touch base with folks. Have you heard about the election that’s happening?”
Jasper residents could be forgiven if they haven’t—or if they’ve forgotten. There are no tell-tale campaign signs littering our boulevards or lawns, an All-Candidates Forum couldn’t be organized for other candidates’ scheduling conflicts and for the first time in 10 years, none of those in the running are from Jasper. Political commentator Dave Cournoyer suggests that the “sleepy Yellowhead byelection” will be low on the radar for most voters.
“It is difficult to gauge how many voters in this sprawling rural Alberta riding will take interest in the campaign,” he said.
Indeed on November 12, advance poll numbers seemed to confirm the low interest; advanced polls were 33 per cent of what they were last election.
Locally, carpenter and politics watcher Ken Kuzminski isn’t surprised. He suggested this byelection is the less-interesting opening act during the run up to the main event. The federal election is currently scheduled for October 19, 2015.
“I could see that the other parties are saving resources until the election in 2015,” he speculated.
Confirming that theory, Libertarian candidate Cory Lystang said he’s planning for a better showing next go-around.
“I will be saving some vacation time next year and will be more visible in the coming federal election,” he said.
And while retired RCMP Jim Eglinksi, the Conservative nominee, has been putting up signs in other communities, it’s Maguhn who has been pounding the pavement. Along with knocking on doors in Jasper, he’s hit the streets of Drayton Valley, Whitecourt and Hinton to earn some face time with voters.
“I would love the chance to prove to you I’m here to work for you,” he tells one Jasperite. “If you need to get in touch you can do so by phone or email.”
Kuzminski was surprised to learn Maguhn was passing out placards in Jasper. His experience has taught him that Yellowhead politicians don’t see Jasper voters as critical to their success.
“Jasper is as far left as we can get in Alberta,” he said. “They don’t think Jasper is relevant.”
But the Liberal candidate disagrees. And he also takes issue with Cournoyer’s point that nothing short of a political earthquake will shake up a Conservative victory in this riding. The traditional belt of Conservative support in Yellowhead is changing, Maguhn said, if only because voters simply want an MP who will represent their needs.
“I’ve talked to people in every community and I keep hearing the same thing. People are saying they’ve never had a federal politician darken their doorstep before.”
The federal byelection is scheduled for November 17. Voters can mark their ballots at the Jasper Activity Centre from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
“Breathe in. Hold. How does that feel? Sore? OK breathe out.”
Dr. Declan Unsworth is bedside in the Jasper Seton Healthcare Centre. The patient is been complaining about pains in his abdomanal area. Unsworth suspects appendicitis, but he is hoping to confirm the diagnosis before he sends the young man to Edmonton for surgical assessment.
Enter the community of Jasper’s newest medical tool.
Acquiring a state-of-the-art SonoSite Ultrasound Machine took a lot of hard work and a lot of generous donations from a lot of people. However, since arriving in Jasper last month, the $85,000 machine has been doing exactly what Unsworth hoped it would do when he first floated the idea of obtaining a portable ultrasound to improve patient care last November.
“We’re starting to see how many applications his has,” he said. “It’s definitely getting its use.”
Just prior to wheeling the ultrasound over to the suspected appendicitis patient, Unsworth was examining another patient’s abdomen with one of the machine’s several transducers. He was looking for irregularities or stones in the patient’s gallbladder and while it wasn’t a definite diagnosis, he reported what he found to his colleague, Dr. Braam Swanepoel.
Since arriving in Jasper, the ultrasound machine has helped verify proper alignment on a fracture reduction for a five-year-old boy’s broken arm, helped an 82-year-old trauma victim avoid the discomfort of having a chest tube inserted, saved an uninsured 18-year-old Australian the cost of an ambulance ride and CT scan in Edmonton, and confirmed the health of at least two pregnant women’s babies.
It has helped doctors find information about patients’ nerves, bones, gall bladders, livers and stomach linings. It has given doctors time, patients money and expecting parents peace of mind.
Nurse Lorraine Wilkinson, who, along with Unsworth, was part of a small committee to guide fundraising efforts for the machine, raised more than $5,000 herself. She is thrilled by the idea that the ultrasound has been busy and recounted a story which took place a few days ago, when an expecting mother saw her baby’s heart beating normally.
“That was such a good reassurance for the mom,” Wilkinson said.
Unsworth hasn’t been the only doctor using the machine, but he may be the most intrigued by it. Lifting up his shirt, he was pressing the abdomen transducer underneath his ribcage to give The Jasper Local a demonstration.
“There’s my aorta,” he said. “And my right and left ventricles.”
Rolling with the practical punches, Wilkinson suggested keeping the unit fully charged as the weekend arrived.
“We’ll really get to test this in the next few months as we start to see wrist reductions from the ski hill,” she said.
Greg Fenton has taken an extended leave of absence from his duties as superintendent of Jasper National Park during a time when Parks Canada is expected to make announcements which could affect winter recreation use in Jasper National Park.
Fenton, who will take five months off to spend time with his family, indicated in an interview October 29 that winter users in the Maligne Valley could be affected by forthcoming caribou conservation measures.
“We’re sorting out implications of that then we’ll position ourselves for announcing decisions on what it is we need to do that might impact—or not—winter recreation users in the Maligne Valley,” he said. “Certainly the Maligne Valley is one we need to move on, we’re just figuring out exactly what we need to move on.”
Fenton is taking five months off to help his parents perform humanitarian work in Rwanda. Acting in his stead will be Alan Fehr, a former manager and superintendent from Parks Canada’s Western Arctic and Northern Prairies Field Units. Fehr will inherit a number of Fenton’s files, including implementing Jasper-specific measures to support Environment Canada’s Caribou Recovery Strategy, which was released in June. While Fenton couldn’t say what measures might be coming down the pipe to meet conservation requirements, he did indicate winter users in the Maligne Valley could be affected by a forthcoming announcement.
“Certainly before the end of November there will be some decisions announced,” Fenton said. “Alan will be working with the team on those.”
On October 29, Parks Canada released a document which noted the agency is reviewing its caribou conservation actions to ensure they are aligned with the Caribou Recovery Strategy.
“Under Canada’s Species At Risk Act, Parks Canada now has a legal obligation to implement caribou critical habitat protection measures by November 28, 2014,” it reads.
Fenton admitted the topic was breezed over during the October 15 and 16 Annual Public Forums.
“One of the things we didn’t talk about in detail at the Annual Forum was caribou conservation,” he said.
“We are trying to finish the analysis of what having an improved recovery strategy means to conservation actions on the ground and potential impact on winter users in Jasper. That one’s probably more imminent in terms of timing.”
Fenton couldn’t be more specific about forthcoming announcements.
“You’ll have to stay tuned for those,” he said.
Aquatic species in the Athabasca River will have more space in which to swim now that an improved fish corridor has been built in Whistler’s Creek.
The project, which wrapped up October 24, saw specialized contractors build a stepped fish ladder downstream of the Whistlers’ Creek culvert beneath Highway 16.
“The culverts create a velocity barrier [for fish],” said Resource Conservation Manager John Wilmshurst. “The idea is to allow fish to move upstream through the culvert.”
By using special excavators, pumps and screens to protect aquatic species, contractors created a series of pools which fish—primarily bull trout, but potentially native Athabasca Rainbows, Rocky Mountain Whitefish and (invasive) Eastern Brook Trout—can use to climb upstream. The stepped pools will slow water flow enough to reduce the drop from the culvert, allowing for fish to pass through.
“The objective is to have no aquatic crossing barriers,” Wilmshurst said.
Edmonton-based Farlinger and Associates led the project. The waterway construction specialists said the challenge was to minimize the impact on the environment while moving 1,500 cubic metres of material.
“We’re trying to recreate what’s in nature,” said Mike Farlinger.
The job also included riverbank restoration.
Parks Canada used money provided by Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Legacy Fund to do environmental work above and beyond the remediation required from 2008’s Anchor Loop pipeline project. Two million dollars was set aside for a multi-stakeholder steering committee, administered by Alberta Ecotrust, to provide environmental benefits to Jasper National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park.
“It’s a matter of determining where you get your biggest bang for your buck,” said Wilmshurst, who sits on the committee.
The Whistlers’ Creek monitoring team included aquatic restoration specialists Triton Environmental Consultants, as well as Parks Canada. All parties were involved in similar connectivity construction at Mile 9 Lake, near Snaring Pond, in May.
Wilmshurst said the success of the step pools will be evaluated when water levels rise.
“It’s difficult to evaluate until next spring,” Wilmshurst said.
A body discovered in the Athabasca River, prompting an RCMP investigation, has been deemed that of a suicide victim.
On Thursday, October 2 at 1:30 p.m. two paddlers on the Athabasca River reported finding a human body which had washed up on a gravel bar downstream of Moberly Bridge.
RCMP members and staff from Jasper National Park’s public safety and law enforcement teams responded.
Officers discovered the body of a 60-year-old caucasian male. Jasper RCMP acting staff sergeant, Cpl. Ryan Gardiner, said the body had not been in the river for long.
“We can’t say for sure but we know it was fairly recent,” he said.
After RCMP and Parks Canada Public Safety personnel recovered the body, medical examiners and a background investigation concluded that the deceased was from Alberta. His next of kin were notified of the discovery.
“Foul play was not involved in the death of the male,” Gardiner said.
The RCMP does not typically release news of, and The Jasper Local does not typically report on, victims of suicide. In some cases, however, RCMP hope to alert family members of other victims or missing persons that this discovery was not related to their case.
“We want to be clear for other families who may be waiting for some kind of news,” Gardiner said. “This way they know next of kin has been notified. They know the victim is not [their relations].”
Parks Canada is seeking the public’s assistance with an illegal hunting investigation in Jasper National Park.
On September 5, a large bull elk was discovered having been shot and killed with a crossbow. The animal was found just off Highway 16, approximately 10 kilometres east of Jasper near the Palisades/Snaring Road area.
“Parks Canada considers this a very serious occurrence,” said Alisson Ogle, Public Relations and Communications officer, in a press release. “Elk have special protections and killing these animals can lead to significant fines up to $750,000 and five years in jail.”
The federal agency is gathering information that may lead to the arrest of a suspect. Park wardens are looking for anyone who was in the area of the Palisades Picnic Site or Snaring Road from Wednesday, September 3 to Friday, September 5.
“Anyone who may have noticed parked vehicles, people in the area, people photographing elk or any suspicious or unusual activity [are people park wardens are interested in hearing from,]” Ogle said.
People who may have taken photos of large bull elk in the area during that time are also asked to contact authorities.
Individuals who may have relevant information are asked to contact Jasper National Park wardens toll-free at 1-877-852-3100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous tips can be directed to Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at www.crimestoppers.ab.ca
A climber who had been struck by rockfall on one of Jasper National Park’s tallest mountains was airlifted to safety after rescue officials honed in on his party’s distress call.
On September 21, Jasper rescue technicians received a call that a personal locator beacon (PLB) was signaling a distress call in the Columbia Icefields area. The signal was relayed via satellite to a Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ontario, staff from which then informed dispatchers in Banff National Park about the situation.
JNP officials didn’t have much to go on; emergency contacts registered by the climbing party knew nothing of their trip and the emitting signal was less-than-exact, said Visitor Safety Specialist Rupert Wedgwood.
“We went in anticipating this could be something on the Northface of [Mount] Alberta or someone sitting down with a twisted ankle who just can’t walk,” Wedgwood said.
Flying west from Beauty Creek with a helicopter which had been employed from Canmore, the air team quickly came upon the party of three not far up a large couloir on 3,371m Diadem Peak. The signal had got them close, but it was a sharp eye which spotted the group hunkered down underneath a cliff band.
Setting up a staging ground on a nearby buttress, the team sent in one rescuer with first aid gear to assess the situation. When rescue technician Deryl Kelly got on site, he quickly determined that the route was exposed to overhead hazards.
“He could quite clearly see big rocks—the size of televisions—coming down the route,” Wedgwood said.
The injured climber had sustained a “flail chest”— a condition that occurs when a segment of the thoracic cage is separated from the rest of the chest wall, usually by severe blunt trauma. Luckily, the patient did not have a punctured lung and although he was in a lot of pain, he was in good spirits.
“We put him on oxygen and that immediately brightened him up,” Wedgwood said.
Because of the precarious position that the overhead rockfall presented, rescue leaders were inclined to move the entire party off the mountain via heli-sling. Wedgwood said that all three individuals involved in the incident—two males and a female, all in their 30s—were experienced mountaineers. The problem, he said, was the shedding face of the mountain—a situation exacerbated by a dry, hot summer.
"It’s been such a warm summer that there’s been a lot of ice melt. A lot of rock that may never have been exposed before is coming off the mountain.”
Wedgwood said that climbers should always let their emergency contacts know their objective and what their timelines are. Even though this party wasn’t diligent in this regard, just having a PLB was critical for a successful rescue.
“Without a personal locator beacon this could have been a different outcome,” he said. The patient was flown to Banff’s Mineral Springs Hospital.
Diadem Peak is one of 16 “11,000ers” in Jasper National Park (peaks which are more than 11,000 feet high), and the first one in the Columbia Icefields area to be summited (1898, J. Norman Collie, Hugh Stutfield and Hermann Woolley). There are 54 11,000ers in the Canadian Rockies.
Two rock climbers stranded on a prominent ridge in the Miette Range were heli-slung to safety after spending a night on a 25 cm wide ledge.
Ashlar’s Ridge is a striking rock feature which attracts the eye of many climbers. On September 6, two adventurers set out to climb “Chase/ Rowlands’ Chimney,” a 460m route involving 11 pitches rated at 5-7-plus.
Starting their day at 9 a.m., the climbers progressed vertically for 12 hours before becoming disoriented on the steep wall.
“The route description is pretty vague,” visitor safety technician Deryl Kelly explained. “ The rock is of poor quality and it’s quite possible you’re not going to find a clean route.”
As light was fading, the party made a distressed text message to a friend, who relayed the call to Jasper public safety officials. Technicians were able to make contact with the climbers, who advised that they were unhurt and had enough warm clothes to spend the night out on the mountain.
“It was lucky there was a cell signal,” Kelly said. “We told them to stay put and stay warm and that we’d contact them in the morning.”
Eight shivering hours later, Parks Canada personnel initiated a helicopter sling rescue.
“It was a tricky operation for the pilot because he was working with 200 feet of rope, due to the steepness of the slope,” Kelly said.
Kelly said the men were strong climbers but may have underestimated the ruggedness of Ashlar’s face.
“The rock quality goes from reasonable to pretty manky,” he said. “That kind of route setting requires long run outs with little protection…and takes years of practice.”
Kelly suggested adventurers in Jasper National Park consider carrying a personal locator beacon.
Mountain pine beetle numbers are growing exponentially in Jasper National Park.
Every year since the early 1990s, Jasper National Park has conducted an annual pine beetle survey. In the past, vegetation specialists have been able to count affected trees individually—10 here, a dozen there. Last year the tally was estimated to be approximately 1,900 trees.
In late August, however, when JNP’s Fire and Vegetation Specialist Dave Smith took to the air for the 2014 count, he saw so many beetle-damaged pines that he and his colleagues from the Canadian Forest Service couldn’t tally them up singly. In total, they identified over 6,000 hectares of Jasper National Park forest that has been affected by pine beetle.
“It’s on the way,” Smith said.
Mountain pine beetles attack trees by laying eggs under the bark. The beetles introduce blue stain fungus into the tree, inoculating themselves against the tree’s ability to “pitch” the intruder out with sap. The beetle lives off the cambium layer—the tissue layer which provides cells for plant growth—blocking nutrient flow in the tree. Eventually the tree succumbs to the pest. In its slow death, its needles turn red, then finally grey.
With more beetles showing up to drain the life from more trees, it’s inevitable that Jasper’s pine forest will be killed off. That will have noticeable and potentially dangerous consequences, Smith said.
“We’re going to see the complexion of our forest change,” Smith said. “But it will also mean a build-up of fuel, which could lead to an increase in a high intensity and high severity of fires.”
While wildfire managers in the park will be taking keen notes of where fuel loads may be increasing, mountain pine beetle doesn’t have the same implications within protected areas as it does in the provincial forest. Here, we refer to pine trees as part of the mosaic of vegetation. Across the border, they’re referred to as timber.
“The beetle that lands here is killing trees, but the beetle that lands in the working forest is affecting people’s livelihoods,” Smith said.
In British Columbia, mountain pine beetle has obliterated more than 16 million hectares of forest. The insect, which travels en masse on wind currents, has been known to cause aircraft advisories in Grande Prairie. And a quick glance above Lucerne Lake, 30 km west of Jasper, will reveal the tell-tale tinge of beetle-blighted botany.
In this park, the signs are strongest in the Miette Valley, in the Whistlers Mountain vicinity (including near the campgrounds, which will eventually create visitor safety concerns) and surprisingly, according to Smith, in the Whirlpool Valley area—more specifically, at Simon Creek. That the insect was in such a remote part of the park—with no obvious connecting corridors between it and B.C.—demonstrates just how far the beetle can fly on the wind.
“That was shocking to me,” Smith said. “That tells us that it was coming over Athabasca Pass.”
But they won’t stop there.
With a eastward-trending flight path, the beetles in Jasper could be heading for prime crown forest between Hinton and Cochrane. From there it’s not unrealistic to imagine them finding their way to the great Jack Pine forests of the Canadian Shield.
“They’re already knocking of the door of Saskatchewan,” Smith said, noting that mountain pine beetle doesn’t differentiate between the lodgepoles of the west and the jacks of central Canada.
While it’s a naturally-occurring species, shorter, warmer winters in Canada’s west have allowed mountain pine beetle to breed longer and survive winters more readily. There are stop-gap measures to slow the beetle’s progress, but the only thing that will halt it in its tracks is consistent, freezing winters.
“The best case scenario would be a really cold, bitter winter or minus-thirty days in fall or spring,” Smith said.
The Jasper Legion has asked town council to exempt the club from paying municipal taxes.
At the same time, the Legion’s board is expressing frustration that other institutionally-zoned facilities are able to operate and earn revenues in ways not permitted at the Legion.
“This is a huge financial burden for the Legion,” said Jasper Legion president, Ken Kuzminski. “It jeopardizes our very existence.”
With its main tenant from the last seven years, École Desrochers, vacating the building for digs in the newly built joint-school facility, The Jasper Legion’s revenue stream has all but dried up. There were glimmers of hope when ideas were floated for new potential uses for the building, but limitations for building’s zoning frustrated and ultimately nixed proponents’ plans.
Kuzminski has pointed to other institutionally-zoned lands in Jasper—namely local churches and the Jasper Activity Centre—where tenants earn revenue by operating sports camps. He contends there exists an uneven playing field—and the Legion is dribbling uphill, against the wind.
“We don’t have the same opportunities as a commercial zoning but we pay taxes like a commercial zoning,” he said.
At the September 9 Committee of the Whole meeting, mayor and council discussed what options they might have regarding the exempting of an organization’s tax duty. Notwithstanding the political will that may or may not be there, councillor Brian Nesbitt said the fact-finding mission is still ongoing.
“It’s far more complicated than we thought,” Nesbitt said. “We have to look at what we’re allowed to do.”
The Municipal Government Act indicates that benevolent societies such as veterans clubs can be exempted from taxes. Complicating the issue, however, is the fact that part of the Jasper Legion operates as a licensed commercial venue. The Jasper Legion has won accolades across the country for promoting live music and it was Kuzminski who helped push the foundering club to re-imagine the space as a unique community hub which would welcome touring musical acts.
“We saw in short order how you could get people coming back in,” he said.
But without another major overhaul in the way it operates, The Jasper Legion will soon have no choice but to shut its doors. Kuzminski has applied to Parks Canada for a demolition permit, to at least reduce overhead expenses by razing the space formerly occupied by the school. Exempting the club from taxes would be another stop-gap measure.
“We’re looking for all levels of government to make this Legion viable,” Kuzminski said.
2014 has been a lethal year for black bears on the railroad tracks in Jasper National Park and one local resident wants to see something done about it.
Jasperite Kim Stark has witnessed wildlife on the tracks feeding on spilled grain. She said it’s unfair to the animals that more of an effort isn’t made to prevent and clean up the spills.
“It’s like they’re feeding from a trough,” she said. “I’m pretty upset by it.”
Nine black bears have been killed on the railroad in 2014, a significant jump from the last four years wherein a total of five black bears were hit and killed by trains on the CN right-of-way. Stark has written to CN asking what plans are in place to mitigate the threat of wildlife being killed on the tracks.
“This is not a new dilemma for CN, but it has climbed to a new level this year,” she said.
Resource Conservation Manager for Parks Canada, John Wilmshurst, confirmed the numbers. The most recent black bear death was on August 15 when a cub was struck and killed by a train.
In the past, CN has repaired up to 5,000 of its grain hopper cars. The company has also used a vacuum truck to clean up after the spills from the grain cars. However, CN only fixed its own hopper cars—not the multitude of cars owned by other shippers. Moreover, Wilmshurst said that grain vacuum hasn’t been used in Jasper this summer.
Stark says it’s easy to tell the machine is MIA.
“The results are obvious,” she said.
CN spokesperson Emily Hamer said via email that the company has a comprehensive response plan for grain spills.
“We have implemented a number of measures to mitigate these occurrences,” she said. “In the occurrence of a grain spill...any product that does spill will be cleaned up and removed in a timely fashion through contractors that CN retains for this special use.”
Despite being asked for more details, Hamer did not provide more information on the comprehensive plan.
Stark wasn’t appeased.
“I live right next to the tracks and have not seen [the comprehensive plan] in action to date,” she said.
In 2011, officials in Banff National Park and Canadian Pacific collaborated on a five year, $1 million study to mitigate grizzly bear deaths on the railway. They are experimenting with deterrents such as electric mats and fencing, as well as video monitoring. While the results are encouraging, the solutions might not be suited to Jasper.
“[Electric mats] can be effective, but we don’t have the same wildlife movements as Banff and Lake Louise has,” he said, referring to the fences along the Trans-Canada Highway which dictate the direction of wildlife movement.
Additional food sources along the tracks—dandelions, other animal carcasses—further complicate the issue. But to Stark, there’s a fairly simple way to bring the death toll down: reduce the amount of grain on the tracks.
“The animals are there for the food,” she said.
Exacerbating the issue this summer is the lack of traditional food sources for bears. Wilmshurst said this year’s high fatality numbers may be attributed to a buffalo berry crop failure; the berries typically comprise more than 75 per cent of a black bear’s diet this time of year, he said, and without those calories, the animals will be looking for alternative sources, including grain on the tracks.
“Because the berry crop seems to have failed in the montane we figure the bears will be bolder this year,” he said.
The crop failure could potentially mean more bears in town looking for fruit-bearing trees. For that reason, Wilmshurst is encouraging residents to harvest their fruit to lessen the chance of a conflict.
“Bears will be looking for opportunities,” he said.
And Stark, meanwhile, will be looking for action.
Jasper’s dry summer has created wildfire danger in Jasper National Park as high as its been in 10 years.
“In the last 43 days we’ve had 30 days of high or extreme fire danger,” said Parks Canada’s fire and vegetation specialist, Dave Smith.
As a consequence, JNP’s initial attack fire crew has been on high alert almost every day this summer. A helicopter has been on standby and backfill crews from Yoho, Lake Louise and Kootenay National Parks have been called in to assist with personnel coverage.
On August 6 fire officials snubbed two separate fires—one near Celestine Lake, in the east part of the park and another in the Maligne Valley. While both were ignited by lightning, the former took three hours to extinguish.
Crews responded to the hot spots with buckets of water dropped from a helicopter while simultaneously hand-tooling the area—using chainsaws and other implements to cut away fuels, including trees, stumps and other vegetation. In cases such as these, following the fire being stamped out, Smith’s team will return to the site to ensure nothing is still burning.
The Spreading Creek wildfire which burned more than 8,000 hectares (the equivalent of 16,000 football fields) in Banff National Park is mostly extinguished in the national park; however over the park boundary it continues to burn, albeit a controlled burn.
“That fire shows the potential of this summer,” Smith said.
As of August 12 Jasper National Park’s fire danger remained extreme. Smith asks that members of the public report any suspected fire activity immediately.
Fortress Lake Resort is up for sale.
The remote eco-lodge and trophy brook trout destination is located in B.C.‘s Hamber Provincial Park, a United Nations World Heritage site.
“The opportunity is to buy a turn-key operation and take over the park-use permit,” Sam Hodson, listing agent for LandQuest Realty said.
The asking price is $349,000; assets include several outbuildings including six cabins and three yurts. Access is primarily by float plane.
Hobson said owners Dave and Amelia Jensen of Fly Fish Alberta is pursuing other career opportunities.
“They’re hoping that someone else will want to run it in the same responsible manner that they did,” Hobson said.
The UltraSound committee has reached its final goal—for real this time!
“We have hit our goal of $88,500,” Dr. Declan Unsworth declared on August 11. “It’s a huge show of support from the community.”
The group, which consists of Unsworth, nurse Lorraine Wilksinson, RCMP officer Ryan Gardiner and veteran fundraiser and community champion, Janet Barker—augmented by the Jasper Healthcare Foundation and the Ladies Hospital Auxiliary—originally set a goal of $60,000 to bring in a portable ultrasound machine to Jasper’s emergency room. The machine, doctors believed, would help medical staff treat patients, particularly when diagnosing acute trauma and other emergencies.
“This has the potential to be life-saving,” Unsworth maintained throughout the campaign.
In May, the committee announced it had reached its $60,000 objective. But soon after the announcement, the company which makes the machines released an improved prototype.
Reluctantly, the committee asked the community if it would support its efforts to obtain the new technology.
“We were a bit leery,” Unsworth admitted. “We weren’t sure how it would go over.”
He need not have worried. Thanks to a series of private donations, including a “sizable” pledge from an anonymous donor, the committee raised $28,000 in less than three months.
“It’s something Jasper should be proud of, to be able to come together and raise this amount so quickly,” Unsworth said.
Local medical professionals have been able to practice with the originally-obtained portable ultrasound machine. Unsworth said it’s already become apparent how useful the tool will be.
“We’ve had multiple motor vehicle accidents where we’ve used it. You can look at someone’s stomach or hearth and determine if there’s blood around it.
“All of the doctors have been very enthusiastic,” he added.
The new ultrasound machine is currently on order.
ATCO electric has confirmed plans to close their plant and connect Jasper to the provincial power grid.
The changes mean the public utility provider will will bring in overhead transmission lines to service the community’s power requirements. District Manager Rod Carrothers said timelines are uncertain as ATCO is still very early in the planning stages.
“We’d expect a major transmission development like this to take somewhere between three to five years to complete,” he said.
A feasibility study determined that a major upgrade to the existing plant—buying new core units—would be impractical.
“That’s millions and millions of dollars,” Carrothers said. “We looked at what else we could do.”
Options include routing a transmission line from Hinton or utilizing a combination of a sub-station and transmission lines. Carrothers said ATCO won’t know how many jobs might be affected at the current plant until those decisions are finalized.
“Depending which option this has the potential to impact positions,” he said. He added that the company has been forthright with their plans among staff members.
“Our company is people-oriented,” he said.
To support the electricity load over a long distance, the new transmission lines will be overhead. Carrothers said ATCO would follow right-of-ways already cleared for the railroad and the Kinder Morgan pipeline.
The decision is subject to the provincial regulatory watchdog’s approval; the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) operates a market for the exchange of electric energy in Alberta.
The Jasper power plant has been in operation since 1974, when it was built to replace another plant which burned down. That plant was constructed in 1942. The plant is natural-gas fired; power created for the provincial grid, on the other hand, comes mostly from coal.
Two habituated black bears had to be destroyed July 8 after Park officials determined the animals were a threat to public safety.
In both cases the bears had been fed by humans; wildlife specialists had been monitoring the animals and become increasingly concerned about their bold behaviour.
“These bears exhibited no fear of people,” said acting Resource Conservation Manager Dave Smith.
Reports of an aggressive bear on the Valley of the Five Lakes trail were received on the afternoon of July 8. The trail is one of the most-travelled routes in the park. Smith said visitors reported throwing food towards the bear in order to stop it from harassing them.
“There had been a number of incidents of this bear approaching people,” Smith said.
In the second case, another black bear was reported to have broken into a tent trailer at Wabasso Campground. When Parks staff responded to the incident, the bear approached their vehicle’s window.
“That’s pretty plain evidence it’s being fed,” Smith said.
The second bear was injured, a fact that, combined with its disturbing behavior patterns, informed wildlife specialists’ decision to destroy the bear.
“It’s the last thing we want to do but we have to consider public safety over anything else,” Smith said.
Smith reminded members of the public that staying in one’s vehicle and not feeding the wildlife is for the animals’ safety as much as humans’.
Jasper’s nightclub scene is getting a makeover.
On July 4 ladders, several cans of paint, new furniture and a multitude of boxes were strewn about the space where the Horseshoe Club once kept the party dancing all night long.
Starting August 1, that party will have not only a distinctively feminine touch, but a Francophone touch as well.
Four new Jasper entrepreneurs—all women, all French-Canadian—are ready to revive the rock. New lights, a new sound system and a new sense of style will give customers a chance to celebrate at the Four Peaks Nightclub.
“We want to provide a place where people can talk, dance and have a great time,” said Manon Dallaire, one of the new for managers of the club. “Jasper deserves a nighclub.”
Along with Marie-Pierre Boissonnault, Nadia Dion and Alexandra Moreau, Dallaire has been working hard to give the space a fresh start.
“We’ve been painting the whole club, removing old furniture, cleaning ... it’s a slow process,” Dallaire said.
Dallaire, the food and beverage manager for Marmot Basin, hopes to eventually offer snacks alongside drink specials, but for now the group is simply working on getting the doors open and the music on for August 1.
“We know it’s hard to be successful in Jasper ... we want to open, and see how it’s going”, Dallaire said. “We haven’t planned a big opening party.”
An abandoned vehicle which had been burned to the point of being almost unrecognizable is the main piece of an RCMP investigation.
On June 21 Parks Canada received a report from a mountain biker that there was smoke near the Snaring Road. The mountain biker could see the black smoke from the Overlander Trail, across Hwy 16.
RCMP were alerted to the site shortly thereafter; the source of the fire was a smouldering pickup truck. Parks Canada officials attended to ensure there was no wildfire risk and turned over the investigation to local police.
“It’s unknown at this point what the cause of the fire was,” said Cpl. Ryan Gardiner, acting Seargant for Jasper’s RCMP detachment.
Gardiner said local members responded to a vehicle fire last year and eventually pressed charges relating to insurance fraud.
“Someone had been four-by-fouring, burnt their truck up and reported it as stolen,” he said. “It ended up being an insurance job.”
The recent incident is still under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call Jasper RCMP, 780-852-4848
A family picnicking near Beauty Creek were reunited with their pet after the dog slipped into the water and plummeted over Stanley Falls.
Parks Canada rescue technicians were alerted to the incident after the father of the family called 911 from Sunwapta Falls Resort.
He had hitchhiked there after realizing he’d forgot his keys back at the trail.
Responders learned that the dog was trapped on a ledge in the main pool below the 15m falls. They met the family at the Beauty Creek trailhead.
“We realized it was a little bit more involved than initially thought,” said rescue leader Max Darrah. “A number of hazards were at play.”
The swift-flowing water was one; the canyon feature below was another.
The dog had scrambled onto a precarious perch with an overhanging ledge above, making access by rescuers difficult.
“She’d gotten herself into quite a spot,” Darrah said.
An hour after Darrah first assessed the site, six res-con members were on-scene, with public safety technician James McCormick lowering down to the dog via a rappel system. As the team above swung him into the tight spot, McCormick was able to secure a line, then a dog harness, around the four legged patient.
“She was obviously cold and scared but uninjured,” Darrah said.
The family, who was having lunch when the dog slipped into the creek and over the falls, were grateful to have their pet back.
“It’s a good reminder that especially in spring the rivers are flowing fast and quite unforgiving,” Darrah said.
Neither Darrah nor McCormick took note of the canine’s name. “Lucky?” Darrah guessed.
The Ultrasound Committee is not done yet.
Despite having met their initial goal of $60,000, the group is asking the community of Jasper to jump back on board with a new fundraising goal, one which will enable them to purchase new ultrasound technology that has only recently become available.
“We think if we are going to make the effort to bring this equipment to Jasper, it should be the best possible,” said Dr. Declan Unsworth, who spearheaded the UltraSound Cause in December.
The ultrasound machine that Unsworth and local medical professionals originally sought out was worth approximately $60,0000. Soon after the committee announced that Jasper had helped them reach that goal, an improved version of the machine was released in Canada.
“It was unfortunate timing, but we’re hoping Jasper will understand we want the best for the community,” Unsworth said.
Lorraine Wilkinson, a registered nurse who has raised more than $5,000 for the cause through her marathon pledges, agreed that the committee should shoot the moon.
“A better quality machine will make for faster, better-quality diagnoses,” she said. “I think the community will agree it’s justified.”
The new ultrasound machine is a leap forward in image quality. It will help medical staff assess trauma, musculoskeletal injuries, congestive heart failure, septic shock, abscesses, aortic aneurysms, kidney stones, threatened abortion, appendicitis and fracture reductions.
The price tag of the new machine is $85,000.
“We’re looking to raise $25,000 more,” Unsworth said.
To lend your ideas to the Ultrasound Cause, contact Unsworth at the Cottage Medical Clinic, 780-852-4885.
The Patricia Street Deli, an institution in Jasper and the most popular eatery in town for five years running, is relocating.
And while owner Glen Leitch could be focusing on the idea that he was strong-armed out of his 606 Patricia Street location by his corporate neighbour, The Deliman, as he’s known to loyal patrons, is choosing to focus on the positives as he moves his small business four doors west.
“One door closes, another one opens up,” he said after putting in a nine hour, 130-plus sandwich shift on June 26.
After years of hearing complaints via lawyers’ letters that the smell of his roasting chicken was permeating the building next door, in 2008 Leitch upgraded his ventilation system, at a significant expense. As his lease approached its July 31 renewal date this year, however, he learned that the issue was still alive. Instead of engaging in battle, Leitch chose to seek out an alternative location.
“I didn’t want anyone to control our destiny,” he said.
The Deli will move to 610 Patricia St., next to Jasper Motorcycle Tours, in the space once occupied by the successful Tasty Meats, among others. Leitch has high hopes for his new digs.
“I’m excited, I’m enthusiastic,” he said. “We’ll have better flow, two sandwich [stations] and a patio. It’s going to be better for people I’m working with and for people we’re serving.”
The Patricia Street Deli has come a long way since it opened in 2004. Leitch estimates they’ve pumped out more than 100,000 sandwiches and roasted more than 32,000 chickens. Until the Raven Bistro surpassed it last week, The Patricia Street Deli occupied the number one restaurant spot in Jasper on the popular user-review site, Trip Advisor, for five years.
“We’re so grateful for the support,” he said.
Marmot Basin believes a busy ski hill is good for Jasper and snowmaking on the upper mountain is the way to ensure the ski season starts off strongly.
Representatives for the ski resort are currently bringing its
newly-drafted Long Range Plans to the public; last week President Dave Gibson Sr. was revealing plans for increased parking space, expanded chalet and administration buildings, minor glading projects and new snowmaking infrastructure.
“Snowmaking is the number one priority,” Gibson said. “You never know how the snow is going to fall.”
Snowmaking on the lower mountain has allowed the ski resort to meet target opening dates more consistently since Marmot Basin got approval from Parks Canada to turn water from the hill’s reservoir into snow in 2006. Being able to greet guests with skiable snow in mid-November has been key for shareholders, but also Jasper-at-large, Gibson said.
“Snowmaking has been a huge success story for Marmot Basin and the community of Jasper. Getting open in mid-November has made a world of differnce.”
Gibson estimated work on an upper mountain snow making system could begin in 2016 if Parks Canada approved the plans.
Gibson claimed that an independent study showed that opening in November versus opening at the beginning of Christmas, as was the case in pre-snowmaking years, represented an an $18 million injection into the community.
“That’s things like payroll, bars hotels, secondary spending, taxes, spending money on gas, burgers, etc.,” he said. “That puts a lot of pressure [on Marmot Basin] to get running.”
The LRP identifies specif projects which were broadly addressed in Marmot Basin's 2008 Site Guidelines. The facility expansion includes the Caribou (lower) Chalet, where Marmot plans to close in a deck for more inside seating, and increasing the north end of the chalet for food storage and administration space.
The minor glading projects will thin forest on the upper mountain, area like Milk Run and Elevator Chutes, where maintenance hasn't been considtent since it was gladed 35 years ago.
June 9 was the beginning of a 30-day public consultation period for Marmot Basin’s Long Range Plans. Open houses are scheduled for June 23 and 24 for Edmonton and Jasper, respectively. Tera, a Calgary-based consultation firm, is spearheading the public consultation.
In drafting its Long Range Plans, Marmot Basin has contracted out services to at least seven different specialists, including water experts, engineering firms and individuals with experiences working in national park process, including former Jasper National Park Superintendent Ron Hooper.
“He’s been a wealth of information and help,” Gibson said.
The Jasper public forum will take place at the Lobstick Lodge, at 4 p.m. on June 24.
For more information on Marmot Basin’s Long Range Plans, see www.skimarmot.com
The Jasper Folk Music Festival will once again bring an eclectic, wide-ranging lineup to the September event.
Top acts Sweet Alibi, Tim Vaughn, The Royal Streets, Shred Kelly, The Pick Brothers Band and The Bright Light Social Hour represent a diverse range of musical styles, according to music coordinator Matt Cushing.
“This is a true folk festival in every sense,” he said. “We’re so excited to bring such a wide range of music to Jasper.”
Other notable acts include The Randall Scott Band, from Jasper, Sam Spades (led by former Jasperite Sam Heine), The Ray Elliot Band, The Rockies, Willhorse and Jenie Thai.
The festival, which is in its second year of its current incarnation, takes place September 12-14 in Centennial Park. Last week volunteers were cleaning up tents and configuring the site layout in preparation for the event.
“We’ve tightened everything up,” said committee director Simon Chisotti. “Our sight-lines will be better, the layout will be better for everyone.”
The Jasper Folk and Blues Society’s recent Battle Royale saw two acts earn their stage time through a judged competition at the Legion; 100 Miles Across and solo banjoist Doug MacNearney will open the Friday and Saturday night events.
Stay tuned to local poster boards and the Jasper Folk Music Festival Facebook page for information on advanced ticket sales.
An unprecedented study will give local businesses the opportunity to highlight what works, and what doesn’t work, in Jasper’s economic environment.
Community Futures West Yellowhead, a regional business advocacy organization, wants to help Jasper identify its needs and opportunities for moving its economic goals forward. The wide-ranging information gathering tool will query local business owners on everything from retaining and obtaining staff to operating within a national park.
“The data we collect will be used as a bench point,” said consultant Morgan Roberts, the author of the study.
“Right now Jasper doesn’t have a document that highlights major regional and community themes that are impacting businesses.”
Roberts will be in Jasper over the next three months interviewing business owners. Participants are assured the information they provide is kept confidential, Roberts said.
“We want people to feel they can be completely honest,” she said.
The results of the study will be shared with the community in October, during Small Business Week.
For information, contact Roberts: email@example.com
Jasper Municipal Council has indicated support-in-principle for a proposed mountain bike park.
The Jasper Park Cycling Association approached council May 13 looking for broad support for the concept. On May 20, at council’s committee-of-the-whole meeting, the JPCA seemed to get it.
“If you look globally, anybody who has mountain biking in their set of attractions [has a bike park],” councillor Gilbert Wall said. “We’re quite a ways behind.”
Council discussed next steps generally: talk included investigating with Parks Canada about the potential costs of released land, potential liability issues and budgeting for a municipal contribution.
“Independent of all of the issues I think we should throw our support behind this initiative,” Wall said.
Mayor Richard Ireland suggested if there is an intent to move the issue forward that council draft a motion to that respect.
The next regular council meeting is scheduled for June 3. "Skills bike park" is currently listed as agenda item 9.1.
The Jasper Local reported the JCPA’s introduction of the concept in March. Read that report here.
Sometimes names can be deceiving.
Vancouver’s Jon Walker—nephew of former long-term Jasperite, Ken Walker, is raising money by travelling on foot from Victoria to Saskatoon.
He’s not walking, as his name might suggest. He’s running. And the 24-year-old is doing it for students in Nairobi, Kenya.
“I wanted to do anything I could to support these students,” he said while in Jasper a week before he laced up for 1,500 km on pavement. “The work this school does is vital for impoverished youth in Kenya.”
Walker connected with the Great Hope Education Centre, an all-ages school in one of the largest slums in Nairobi, when he spent six months in Africa as park of a photomapping study with the University of British Columbia. Meeting students, teachers and administrators, and learning that the land the school sits on is slated for new housing developments, he said he was moved to action.
“You get a totally different perspective,” Walker said. “I wanted to get involved and continue to stay involved.”
That desire has led his to Western Canadian ulta-marathon. On May 27 Jon set out from Hope, B.C. As of Saturday, May 30 he was in Kamloops, with a plan to run into Jasper on June 2.
“I wanted to draw people’s attention,” he said.
The Great Hope Education Centre gives approximately 150 students, many of whom are orphans, tools and knowledge to succeed.
“Anything I could do to support the purchase of land and finding a permanent school would be worth it,” he said.
Walker is confident the funds will go to where they are most needed—he co-founded Healthy Settings Kenya, an organization that oversees the disbursement of money.
He hopes to raise $115,000. That would pay for the land, a three-classroom school, administration block, toilets, fencing and utilities.
Help Walker reach his goal
Watch CFJC Kamloops’ story on Walker here
The Jasper Legion is reviewing a proposal for a culinary arts network in space currently occupied by Ecole Desrochers.
“There is so much potential,” said Marianne Garrah. “There’s a market there.”
Garrah, an arts promotor whose work takes her all over the region, has presented a business plan to the Jasper Legion’s board, which is also considering the merits of a proposal for a transitional workers accommodation in the same space. The latter submission is currently being reviewed by Parks Canada administrators.
Garrah, who emphasized she was not attempting to upstage any other potential projects, was inspired to pair food with education after being involved in a culinary program with local chef John Riedler. After Garrah tried for months to find a suitable location for an appetizer and wine pairing course, Riedler generously donated his kitchen at The Raven Bistro.
“The program got a standing ovation, people were thrilled,” she said.
Her vision includes partnering with an established culinary school. She has drummed up interest from top administrators at NAIT.
The goals of the project would include augmenting Jasper cooks’ culinary education, utilizing the knowledge of local chefs and ultimately, helping fill the gaps in Jasper’s workforce.
“I think it’s a great idea. I think it has the potential to solve a lot of staffing issues and make Jasper more of a culinary destination,” said Clayton Anderson, a local food and beverage outlets manager.
Ecole Desrochers will vacate in September when the francophone school will join the Jasper Jr./Sr. High School in the Jasper’s new joint school facility.
Jasper Legion president Ken Kuzminski could comment neither on the culinary arts network proposal or the transitional workers
“We are looking at all proposals presented to us,” Kuzminski said.
A homeowner on Geikie street wants the community to reject a proposal for a Transitional Workers Accommodation.
Margot Simpson says if such a project went ahead, it would exacerbate the nightly disturbance issues which currently plague residential areas close to Jasper’s commercial district. Moreover, she says the proposal is off the mark when it comes to addressing Jasper’s true housing issues.
“That’s going to add significantly to the [noise] problems,” she said, noting the nuisance is primarily a summer issue. “And this doesn't address the problem of where the workers will live after their job search is over.”
Simpson has lived in her home, on the 400 block of Geikie Street, for 25 years. She said the disturbance issues have become worse recently.
“It wasn’t like this when I first moved here,” she said. “Now I can’t sleep with the window open.”
In April, The Jasper Local reported that proponents Mark Howe and Marc Chalifoux proposed developing temporary housing in the Jasper Legion building for new staff looking for work. More recently, the planning and development advisory committee (PDAC), a panel appointed by Parks Canada and the Municipality of Jasper to advise on development decisions that are of a discretionary nature, recommended Parks Canada decision makers allow a variance for the project.
Parks Canada has not approved anything. PDAC does not have the authority to made land use decisions.
Regardless, Simpson would like to see the proposal scrapped. She has countless stories of stolen property, fights outside her bedroom window and other petty crimes.
“Jasper is known as a summer party town. It’s an element that needs to be addressed,” she said.
Jasper RCMP acting staff sergeant Ryan Gardiner empathizes with Simpson and her neighbours. Peak times for his staff are after the bars close until 5 a.m. on weekends, he said.
“It becomes a challenge, you might have a couple hundred people milling about, some are highly intoxicated,” he said.
This summer, Jasper RCMP will adjust their shift schedules to have more of a presence late at night. Gardiner said while prevention work is important, ultimately, the offenders are people who don’t live in Jasper.
“If you come to Jasper on vacation you have some anonymity,” he said. “You don’t have that connection to town.”
Simpson agreed. She said a transitional workers accommodation does not address the real need of the community: finding more permanent homes for young people.
“Transitional workers have no vested interest in the community,” she said. “They’re not intending to stay here.”
The Jasper-Yellowhead Museum and Archives needs a new way of doing business, councillors say.
“We’re still at the point where when we get the financials they’re absolutely dismal,” said Gilbert Wall during the May 27 committee-of-the-whole meeting.
On May 20, museum manager Karen Byers presented the museum’s three year plan to council. In it, she outlined the cold, hard truth: the museum can expect an average deficit of $45,000 over the next three financial years.
“This is untenable, it’s not going to work,” Wall said to mayor and council.
While Byers was required to crunch red numbers, she also reminded council that the museum is not like other businesses.
“It’s an incredible resource, not a liability,” she said. “Perhaps that gets missed when people look at the financials.”
The museum has budgeted for a $46,302 municipal contribution for 2014. Parks Canada will contribute to the tune of $15,000. Fundraising makes up a projected $19,995; donations are forecast at $20,000.
“There’s a concept that it’s a pet project. It’s the town’s history for pete’s sake,” Byers said.
Trail 6B will get a mini makeover so bikers and hikers can avoid the major trail mutilation wrought by commercial horse users in that area of the park.
“The moguls there are this deep,” said Jasper Trail Alliance member, Loni Klettl, holding her hand to her hip. “It’s not even an option [to bike or hike] there.”
Last year the Trails Alliance—a volunteer group with the Friends of Jasper National Park—and Parks Canada had success creating new options around Trail 2, another route that gets pounded by commercial horse tours. Now Klettl and other volunteers are hoping a new 6B will do for Cottonwood Slough what the “Pony Express” (Trail 2J) did for the Pyramid Riding Stables area—in other words, skirt the worst of the washboarding with swoopy singletrack.
“We want to keep the system appealing to users,” Klettl said. “This will give us more options, more variety.”
From creating new trails to upgrading signage to certifying users for trail improvement, the Jasper Trails Alliance has contributed in myriad ways to the local trail network since it was created four years ago. Its pise de résistance may be the Ganges Trail near Trail 3, where together with the International Mountain Biking Association, volunteers reworked the Wildland Route so it made better use of the landscape and incorporated technical rock features. The end result was a more appealing, more interesting trail experience.
“We learned a lot on Ganges,” Klettl said. “It shows you what a group of people are capable of.”
A bear mauling, a fallen hiker and a missing child. What else could go wrong?
Parks Canada staff were sharpening their skills in preparation for another summer of incident response last week. Creating overlapping rescue scenarios, on May 13 public safety staff responded to mock-incidents that tested the skills and the communication of all units, according to Resource Conservation Manager John Wilmshurst.
“The idea was to stretch our resources,” he said just before stepping into a debrief with more than 30 employees who were involved in the scenario. “We don’t often get three incidents at a time but often we’ll have two at once.”
As res-con staff were packaging up a bear-mauling victim on Trail 7 near the golf course, the call came in that a hiker had taken a dangerous fall at Maligne Canyon. Radios squawked as people were put in place to cordon off trail heads and relay information to visitors while rescue technicians rigged an impressive hauling system and lowered a stretcher board some 30 m down into the canyon.
“There are 120 to 140 visitor safety occurrences every year,” Wilmshurst said. “Some are small, but some are big, with 25 or 30 people involved.”
Such was the case when the third mock-call came in: a missing girl at Wapati Campground.
Inflatable Kayaks were launched for a water search while other staff combed the banks of the Athabasca River.
“We had to redeploy people who had the skills necessary to do a water search.”
Jasper National Park is unique for its across-the-board collaboration, Wilmshurst said. As Jasper is a large park with a bevy of resources at its disposal, incident commanders will rely on not just visitor safety staff, but law enforcement officials, wildlife conflict employees, media relations officers and campground staff.
“It’s not just visitor safety [staff]. Everyone who has a role to play has to train,” Wilmshurst said.
Jasper’s planning and development advisory board has given its stamp of approval for a proposal for a Transitional Workers Accommodation in the Jasper Legion building.
The Planning and Development Advisory Committee (PDAC), a panel appointed by Parks Canada and the Municipality of Jasper to advise on development decisions that are of a discretionary nature, agreed that new Jasperites looking for work need temporary housing while they search for their job—in so much that they recommended a variance be allowed which would allow for staff accommodations to be built in a building zoned industrial.
“I think our decision was easy,” PDAC board member John Ogilvy said. “As usual we did raise a few of our concerns, but these require answering in the future, as they proceed.”
Those concerns revolve mainly around how a transitional workers accommodation would be regulated. The board would like reassurance that guests would be utilizing the accommodation for its intended purpose: i.e., to give job-seekers a temporary place to stay while they look for work.
Proponents Mark Howe and Marc Chalifoux are proceeding with the project’s next step: configuring the hostel’s potential layout.
“We will now meet the health inspector to find out how many beds could potentially go in each room,” Howe said.
While there has been some indication of support for a hostel concept, some residents in the neighbourhood oppose the idea of a transitional workers accommodation near a residential area.
Margot Simpson, who lives less than a block from the Jasper Legion, says there are already significant noise and disturbance issues on Geikie Street; new staff accommodations would add to the problem, she said.
“The parties, vandalism, theft and late-night yelling and screaming has reached the breaking point during the summer months,” she said. “To add to these existing serious issues with a proposal for temporary accommodations for a large number of transient staff will be the final nail in the coffin for this neighbourhood.”
When it comes to taking care of Jasper’s health, this community is ultra responsive.
That’s the conclusion drawn by a committee of volunteers who’ve been spearheading fundraising for a portable ultrasound machine; the group recently reached their goal of $60,000, paving the way for the purchase of the specialized medical equipment.
“I’m just amazed,” said Lorraine Wilkinson, a local Registered Nurse who’s been beating the ultrasound drum along with Dr. Declan Unsworth and long-time community health advocate, Janet Barker. “I can’t believe we’ve done it!”
Mrs. Barker, 85, was equally as pleased, but not nearly as surprised.
“We’re fortunate, the way people come together here,” she said. “If you can get organized, you can raise money in Jasper.”
Unsworth first proposed the fundraising campaign in November.
A portable ultrasound machine, he said, would give medical staff at Jasper’s Seton Healtchcare Centre a valuable tool for assessing internal trauma.
“Transport decisions would be simplified for medical staff. This is the tool that would most improve patient care,” he said.
The campaign struck a chord with Jasperites. Wine tastings were planned, beer was brewed, raffles were launched. Auctions, luncheons and live music events were organized. Quilts were sewn, paintings were created and elaborate culinary evenings were celebrated. All came together with a common aim: to give Jasper’s residents and visitors the best care possible.
“People were stopping us on the street, businesses were organizing fundraisers on their own,” Unsworth said.
And now the fruits of those passions are being realized. Unsworth placed the order for the potentially life-saving technology last week.
“I can’t wait to get it in here,” Wilkinson said.
Families visiting Jasper National Park this summer will have another overnight option at the iconic Maligne Lake.
A four-pad, paddle-only campground will be installed at Deep Cove, five kilometers down the lake.
Communications officer Kim Weir said the new campground is designed with first-time paddlers in mind.
“Hidden Cove provides a relatively short paddle for beginners and families, along shorelines with little wind and wave exposure,” said Weir.
“The cove has shallow water and can easily be accessed in one to two hours.”
The project is part of Parks Canada’s attempt to renew and refresh the park’s visitor experience; it was included in consultations leading up to the approval of the 2010 park management plan.
Weir said along with the tent pads, Hidden Cove will have an outhouse, a fire-pit and a cook shelter.
“This campground will provide opportunities for groups not represented at existing lake-based campgrounds,” she said.
The campground, which after wages and materials will cost approximately $50,000 to build, will be off limits to boaters using electric motors.
What...you thought we were talking about a different proposal for overnight accommodations?
The suspension of the federal government’s Temporary Foreign Worker program will hurt Jasper, business advocates say.
“Jasper relies on Temporary Foreign Workers,” said Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce general manager, Pattie Pavlov.
The JPCC is drafting a letter on behalf of its members to condemn the recent cancellation of Canada’s Labour Market Opinions for food-sector businesses.
“The decision is short-sighted,” Pavlov said.
On April 24, Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney announced a moratorium on the fast food industry’s access to the program after it was discovered that some businesses were abusing the program. But Pavlov said the broad stroke is harmful to communities which rely on Temporary Foreign Workers to staff their kitchens, bakeries and dining rooms.
“To penalize the many for the guilt of the few is disconcerting,” Pavlov said.
As the busy tourism season approaches, the timing is particularly poor, Pavlov suggested.
“I really hope everybody has their workers in place,” she said. “God forbid you’ve got applications processing or you have permits that run out in July, because they’re not getting renewed.”
Pavlov is hoping for more clarity in the coming days as to what businesses will be affected.
“We agree with the Minister that there’s some areas that need tweaking but there’s been no discussion, no timeline,” she said.
Kim Stark has always plunged in with both feet.
The 40-year-old entrepreneur had no idea about the world of commercial baking when she bought a bakery 11 years ago. She was working long hours driving a taxi in Jasper when she saw an opportunity to be her own boss.
“I didn’t know anything about owning a bakery,” she laughed.
It didn’t take her long to learn. Since acquiring The Bear’s Paw Bakery, the pastry shop has become a staple for tourists and locals alike; it has appeared in the pages of Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine; and a sister store, The Other Paw Bakery, opened in 2007, tempting even more passers-by with sweet and savoury aromas.
“I would rather try and fail than wonder ‘what if,’” Stark said.
Sometimes, on a busy morning, if you look past the line-up of folks waiting patiently for white-chocolate raspberry scones or cinnamon sticky buns, you can see Stark, pastry bag in hand, sculpting one of her wondrous wedding cakes. In the past 12 months, however, catching a glimpse of her has been rare. Somehow, between business endeavours, Stark has found the time and energy to train for, and complete, marathons in Boston, China, Athens, Jordan and Antarctica.
“It’s been busy, but amazing,” she said.
Now, Stark, along with her new business partner, Hana Dankov-Bye, will be cramming even more into their schedules. The duo is opening a new gourmet food store on Connaught Drive, right next to The Other Paw.
“The opportunity came available to take over the space,” she said. “I said yes to the space before I knew what I wanted to put there.”
At the beginning of April, she and Dankov-Bye began revealing what they have been working on. Experience Gourmet Living will provide epicurean guests with an opportunity to take a part of their holiday home with them—and when they get there, to taste it all over again.
“It’s exciting,” Stark said. “We think it’s a pretty cool idea.”
A retail seminar which urged participants to create an experience for their customers sparked the idea to put food and celebration and entertaining into a one-stop shop. Experience Gourmet Living will sell delectable delicacies such as black truffles and Okanagan jams, but also offer tablescaping decor and products for entertaining.
“We want to help people bring a little something different to their dinner parties,” Stark said.
Experience Gourmet Living will take over the space formerly occupied by Sheriffs of Jasper. The store will connect to The Other Paw though a foyer near the back of the space. Stark and Dankov-Bye will continue to retail Christmas ornaments, a product Stark believes sells well anywhere in the world.
“I found myself buying Christmas ornaments when I was walking around shops in the Middle East,” she said.
Stark and Dankov-Bye are hoping to open Experience Gourmet Living by Mothers’ Day (May 11).
A proposal to create a new commercial hostel in Jasper has been told to hit the road before it was even unpacked.
Local business owners Mark Howe and Marc Chalifoux had submitted a proposal to The Jasper Legion to operate a hostel out of the space currently occupied by École Desrochers, the K-12 francophone school at 401 Geikie Street. And although the
proposal was looked favourably upon by the Legion’s executive board, Parks Canada’s zoning restrictions do not allow commercial hostels in an area zoned institutional.
“A commercial hostel is not permitted on lands zoned institutional,” Parks Canada told The Jasper Local. “The Jasper Legion space could not be used as a commercial hostel.”
The space in question is part of the building leased by the Jasper Legion, which operates out of the attached wing. École Desrochers will move out in September to join the Jasper Jr./Sr. High School in the school currently being built. Having a lessee is paramount to the Legion’s bottom line, president Ken Kuzminski said.
“That extra income is what keeps us afloat,” Kuzminski said. “If we can’t rent out that facility it would be tough for the Legion to survive.”
After learning about the obstacles facing them, Howe and Chalifoux are re-examining their options.
“We’ll have to back off the commercial hostel route,” Howe said.
Although a commercial hostel is not permitted, staff housing is a discretionary use.
“The space could potentially be used as housing for workers,” explained Kim Weir, communications specialist for Parks Canada. “
Any discretionary use must go through Parks Canada’s Planning and Development Advisory Committee (PDAC), a group comprised of local residents. PDAC would then make recommendations to the Planning and Development division.
In the future, Jasper may not be Wonderful, By Nature after all.
A new initiative to articulate Jasper’s brand to the world is being rolled out by Tourism Jasper. The end result could replace the tagline that’s graced Jasper’s welcome signs, fleet of municipal vehicles and mayoral lapels since 2001.
“We’d like to figure out the best way to tell Jasper’s story,” said Philip Coppard of Stormy Lake Consulting, the firm subcontracted to put Jasper’s unique draw into words for visitors.
To do that, Coppard’s team, with the support of Tourism Jasper, will attempt to gain a better understanding of the needs and wants of not only tourists, but locals as well.
“We want to find that sweet spot between how the community sees itself and how visitors see the destination,” Coppard said.
Thirteen years ago, Jasper decided it was Wonderful, By Nature. While that brand was the right one for the time, the world of marketing has changed, said Leigh Abra, Tourism Jasper’s director of marketing and brand development.
“I would say it’s overdue,” Abra said about the brand refresh. “Tourism Jasper hasn’t gone through this process. We’ve mostly adopted stuff that was already existing.”
Jasper’s destination marketing organization, which is in its fifth year, wants the community to help articulate its story. On May 8 Tourism Jasper is welcoming all community members to take part in a consultation, to contribute to the message that will eventually be broadcast to the world.
“This is about the community, not just about Tourism Jasper,” Abra said.
Watch for more details about the May 8 consultation in an upcoming issue of The Jasper Local.
A proposal to open a youth hostel in the space currently occupied by École Desrochers is being considered by the building’s leaseholder, the Jasper Royal Canadian Legion.
While the application is still in its infancy, proponents Mark Howe and Marc Chalifoux see a market opportunity in a town with limited dorm-style accommodations.
“We feel there’s a market for it,” Howe said on March 26. “We’ll roll the dice.”
Howe and Chalifoux, local business owners, will need to satisfy Parks Canada’s requirements regarding parking, staff accommodation and zoning, but Howe believes there is a desire from all parties to entertain the idea.
“If we can meet [Parks Canada’s] guidelines then we can see whether this is going to be economically viable for us,” he said.
Ken Kuzminski, president of the Jasper Legion, said the executive board has seen a variety of submissions since advertising a Request For Proposals for the space in December.
"We had lots of people kicking the tires,” he said.
The lease to the building, which is part of the same structure as the Jasper Legion, was taken over by the Greater North Central Francophone School Board in 2006. École Desrochers’ lease expires in August; in September the francophone school will move to the new school currently under construction, sharing that space with the Jasper Jr./Sr. High School.
To keep the lights on and its doors open, the Jasper Legion needs to rent the space.
“That extra income is what keeps us afloat,” Kuzminski said. “If we can’t rent out that facility it would be tough for the Legion to survive.”
Howe knows it’s a long road ahead but is hoping to have a clear picture of whether or not he and Chalifoux will be able to make a go of the venture by the spring.
“Nothing’s signed, sealed or delivered,” Howe said.
Jasper’s cultural capital just got a $9,000 shot in the arm.
The 2014 Jasper Folk Music Festival will benefit from an Alberta Foundation for the Arts grant. Executive board members received the good news via email March 21.
“It’s exciting,” said the festival’s executive director, Cristin Murphy. “It means we can build on what we did last year.”
Last September, after years-long lull in the two-decades-running Jasper Folk Festival, Jasper revived the music with a three-day event that featured Juno award-winning artists such as Alex Cuba, Oscar Lopez and Five Alarm Funk. The production was the result of hundreds of hours of volunteer work, corporate sponsorships and a tireless fundraising campaign. The bill for artists alone totaled almost $50,000, but the festival managed to break even.
Murphy said the foundation has been laid for a new note on the evolutionary scale.
“This year will be so much easier because we’ve already done it once,” she said.
The 10-member executive will strive to improve on things like pricing, formatting and accessibility for locals.
“We’re listening to feedback,” Murphy said.
Currently, artists are competing for festival slots through an online bidding process. Approximately 80 acts have submitted applications, Murphy said.
“It’s a great way to judge bands on an even keel.”
The 2014 Jasper Folk Music Festival is scheduled for September 12, 13 and 14. See jasperfolkandblues.com for updated information.
The Edmonton Oilers will bring their future stars to Jasper this summer.
Hockey fans will be able to watch the young snipers July 3-8 when they practice at the Jasper Arena.
Director Yvonne McNabb of Jasper's Department of Culture and Recreation made the announcement at the March 25 Committee of the Whole meeting.
The contract represents a $16,000 boon for the department; there is a potential for an ongoing contract, McNabb said.
Mayor Richard Ireland anticipated residents would be pleased with the news.
"It's good to hear that the Oilers have prospects," he winked.
Two skiers involved a large slab avalanche in behind Marmot Basin ski resort March 14 were shaken but unhurt after being dragged some 50 m through snow and rocks.
The local skiers were skinning up the Whistler Creek drainage from Marmot Basin’s parking lots when their position at the top of a rocky ridge triggered a fracture in the snowpack. The fracture propagated towards the main draw of the slope, resulting in a size 2.5 avalanche. When it stopped, the debris field was approximately 200 m long and 80 m across.
“They were lucky,” said Parks Canada public safety specialist, Steve Blagbrough. “The avalanche danger is still present.”
On Saturday, March 15, Blagbrough and colleagues from Parks Canada and Marmot Basin’s avalanche safety team hiked up and over the peak at Marmot Basin to investigate the avalanche. There they found a 120 cm crown wall, 2.5 m of debris and evidence that the snowpack has not only one weak layer, but two.
“That’s not unheard of in the Rockies, but it is unusual,” Blagbrough said.
The skiers had reached a high, rocky ridge when they felt the snowpack change. Moments later they were tumbling through the shallow snow on the far side of the avalanche. One skier lost a ski and both ski poles; the other lost both his poles; they managed to walk out on their own. Marmot Basin staff said had they been involved in the middle of the slide, it's likely they wouldn't have been so lucky.
The accident highlights what Parks Canada avalanche experts have been saying all winter: a weak layer buried deep in the snowpack means there is a risk of large avalanches on cross-loaded slopes.
“It’s one of those layers you can easily forget about,” said Parks Canada public safety technician, Steve Blagbrough. “But the consequences of a trigger are still great.”
Blagbrough said the slope had been skied a few days previous, demonstrating how quickly a slope can go from stable to unstable.
“It's a good example of how rapidly things can change,” he said. “On this occasion it was from a significant wind event redistributing all that good skiing snow onto lee aspects and cross wind-loaded features.”
Parks Canada emphasized patience while accessing backcountry lines.
“That line you want to ride might not be in condition this weekend, next weekend or this month,” Blagbrough said. “It might not even be stable enough this year. But it's not going to go away. The mountains never do.”
Parks Canada’s daily avalanche bulletin—which showed a considerable avalanche danger at treeline on Friday, March 14—is available at avalanche.pc.gc.ca
Members of the Jasper Local Food Society are celebrating today after learning that they will be able to hold their upcoming summer Farmers’ Market at the McCready Centre parking lot.
After much discussion, municipal council and administration have concluded that the Farmers' Market fits within existing bylaws; the JLFS will be given the opportunity to use the space for a one-year trial period.
“We’re very excited,” said JLFS co-chair, Julie Des Becquets. “I feel like [council and aministration] were extremely supportive and they were trying hard to make this work.”
When the request to use the parking lot initially came forward, council had reservations about contravening a local bylaw which states business licenses shall not be granted to food vendors. Despite being supportive of the idea to move the weekly market from the Jasper Legion’s private lot to the bigger, more central, more family-friendly McCready Centre location, council’s consensus was that granting a license to the JLFS might set an unwelcome precedent.
Now, after researching the issue and hearing directly from JLFS members, council has found a way to make the farmers’ market work—for now.
"They're not street vendors," Chief Administrative Officer Peter Waterworth said. "The bylaw doesn't need to be changed as long as they're acting inside of it."
Waterworth added that the Local Food Society's goals fit within the Jasper Sustainability Plan.
"Essentially [the Farmers' Market] is a community-driven exercise," he said. "It's promoting healthy lifestyles."
The pilot period will allow for 10 markets over the summer. Administration will then decide if if the market impacts local traffic, parking or has other unforeseen consequences.
Des Becquets is excited to be able to showcase the market to more tourists and residents—particularly seniors.
“This is going to be a great location for the community,” Des Becquets said.
The JLFS still has to have their markets approved by Parks Canada's Planning and Development Advisory committee but members are optimistic they'll find support there.
Wheels are in motion for Jasper to create its own mountain bike park.
Preliminary plans to build a skills park on the west end of town on lands designated for greenspace have been gaining momentum. Park planners and municipal administrators appear supportive of the concept and a cycling-based working group is building a business plan to ensure their vision of community collaboration doesn’t become derailed.
“This could be a great addition to what the community already has,” said Matt Staneland, who presented the idea to Jasper’s Culture and Recreation board on March 13.
The proposed location, adjacent to the Discovery Trail in between the CN right-of-way and Connaught Drive, currently contains existing rudimentary dirt jumps.
Staneland, the current chair of the Jasper Park Cycling Association, said the timing is right to push for non-traditional sport infrastructure in Jasper. He and other members of the JPCA foresee a facility where bikers of all ages can learn to ride in a safe, progressive and sustainable bike playground. A pump track, dirt jumps and an area containing a range of riding features are all conceivable elements which would work to develop local biking —and develop Jasper as more of a biking destination, Staneland said.
“This doesn’t have to be huge and extravagant...it just needs to compliment our existing trail system,” he added.
Initial consultations with leading bike park designer Jay Hoots have led the JPCA to speculate the park could carry a price tag of approximately $150,000. Corporate sponsorships and grants will make up part of the JPCA’s business plan.
Liability concerns and environmental assessments notwithstanding, local administrators have indicated their initial support of the idea. Research into what precipitated Hinton’s highly-praised bike park has highlighted the strong relationship between the Town of Hinton and area bikers. While the Hinton Mountain Bike Association was the driving force behind the park, the town has been, and remains, supportive of volunteers’ enormous efforts.
“To have a successful bike park you need a strong club,” Staneland said.
JPCA’s anticipated timeframe for a Jasper mountain bike park is two or three years. Staneland, who toured the proposed site with his three-year-old daughter last week, was excited for the future of Jasper cycling.
“She’s the reason I want to build this,” he smiled.
updated March 13—see above
Council will not facilitate a request to relocate the Jasper Farmer’s Market to space near the McCready Centre, despite being supportive of the idea.
A request from the Jasper Local Food Society to allow the weekly summer market to take place on a municipal parking lot was discussed at the February 25 committee of the whole meeting.
At that meeting, council was reminded that they are bound by a municipal bylaw which dictates no business license shall be granted to a street vendor, even if that business is a non-for profit cooperative.
“As the bylaw currently stands this falls smack in the middle of it,” CAO Peter Waterworth told the group.
After using it for a one-off market last summer, the Jasper Local Food Society discovered the parking lot near the McCready Centre is preferable to its current location, on the apron of the privately-owned Jasper Legion.
After using it for a one-off market last summer, the Jasper Local Food Society discovered the parking lot near the McCready Centre is preferable to its current location, on the apron of the privately-owned Jasper Legion.
"There are several advantages of the McCready Centre’s upper parking lot, including more space for vendors...potential for an indoor venue...green space...and it’s safer for children,” wrote JLFS secretary, Tracy McKay.
Mayor Richard Ireland recognized the benefits of moving the market, but also the potential to create a difficult precedent.
“People can’t use public land for private gain,” he said. “[If we amended the bylaw], this wouldn’t be the only thing people ask for.”
Two local businesses are still reeling from the effects of flood damage after a power outage caused a pipe to burst in the Venchiarutti Building.
The Soft Rock Café and More than Mail suffered major water damage when a sprinkler system ruptured in the upstairs hallway at 632 Connaught Drive. On February 25, Soft Rock was still closed while More Than Mail was operating its courier services out of the front of the cleared out space.
“It’s been devastating,” said More Than Mail’s Jenny Hatto. “We lost a third of our inventory.”
On February 5 at 4:30 a.m., with temperatures hovering around minus 30 degrees Celsius, power was knocked out in Jasper. While investigators haven’t determined exactly why the Venchiarutti Building’s heating system didn’t turn back on when power was restored at 7 a.m., the end result was that the four-inch pipes in the building’s sprinkler system froze, then burst.
First responder Fire Chief Greg Van Tighem said water was cascading down the back stairwell from the hallway above.
“There was five inches of water on the floor,” he said.
Water pooled from the hall into the building’s apartment suites, but the real damage was below. The ceiling collapsed in the Soft Rock Café; at More Than Mail, all of the business’ paper supplies were destroyed.
“It's a disaster,” said building owner Lena Venchiarutti.
Other Jasperites were affected by the power outage during the extreme cold. too. Jasper Park Plumbing and Heating’s Kurt Anderson was called to several residences which were experiencing failures with their hot water heating systems.
“Everyone’s hoping we’re almost out of this freeze,” Anderson said.
Venchiarutti did not yet have an estimate for damages.
Seasonal closures on the Cavell Road as part of Parks Canada’s caribou recovery plan were lifted today (February 15).
Yesterday, the road was packed down to allow skiers easier access to the Tonquin’s Astoria River trailhead.
“The Berlin Wall is coming down,” trail advocate and recreational skier Loni Klettl cheered on the Jasper Trail Alliance’s Facebook page. “Thanks for respecting the closures.”
Since 2009, the Cavell Road has been closed to skiers from Nov 1 - Feb 15. This winter, more restrictions were put in place to limit access to the Tonquin Valley, where approximately 60 caribou make their home. Last year, wildlife experts showed that ski tracks can help wolves access caribou habitat; recommendations followed to close some areas of the park to skiers, a decision largely viewed as a compromise by both recreational users and environmentalists.
The Portal Creek entrance to the Tonquin Valley, accessed via the Marmot Basin Road, has not seen any ski traffic for the closures. “If anyone has some get up, gumption and extra energy, the Portal access would benefit from some extra skis and experience. People would really appreciate a broken trail,” Klettl implored online.
Other caribou-related closures to the north and south boundaries of Jasper National Park will be lifted come March 1.
A caribou’s death in Wilmore Wilderness Provincial Park has scientists with the Hinton-based Foothills Research Institute (FRI) puzzled.
On January 23, researchers were alerted to a stationary GPS collar from one of the members of the Red Rock/Prairie Creek caribou herd, a group of approximately 127 animals which make their home in the mountains northwest of Grande Cache. Flying over the location point in a helicopter, the team spotted the deceased caribou.
“We saw a caribou at the base of a cliff,” said Laura Finnegan, project lead for FRI’s caribou program. “As far as we can conclude right now, it probably fell, although we can’t say for definite.”
Read the full story
A hand-held blowtorch is thought to be the cause of an early morning fire in the Jasper arena January 26.
Investigators are focussing on the propane-burning tool as the most likely source of fire after determining that the blaze started in a cabinet in the Zamboni room.
“In these types of situations we don’t always find out exactly what happened,” said Deputy Fire Chief Don Smith. “But evidence supports that the fire started in the cabinet.”
Smith said the torches, which have an adjustable flame control and trigger start mechanism, have been known to malfunction.
“They don’t always close right down,” he said. “The knob is finicky. That could be an issue.”
The torch was used earlier that day, Smith said.
At approximately 2 a.m. Sunday morning, Smith received a dispatched call, alerting him that the heat detector in the arena had been triggered. Four minutes later he was at the Activity Centre, where a control panel told him the alarm was coming from the arena.
Unfortunately, his master key wouldn’t unlock the doors to the rink. He could smell acrid smoke and called in the rest of the fire brigade.
“Even through the windows in the door I could see it was a little hazy,” he said.
Eight minutes after he sent the alert, 12 members arrived on-scene.
The team forced open the side exit doors (across from the daycare entrance) to gain access to the arena. The smell of burning plastic was apparent, and the crew could see the haze turning into smoke near the Zamboni room.
“We ended up forcing the garage door on the Zamboni room,” he said. “We could see a bit of fire under the seal.”
Dragging a hose from the fire truck through the back exit doors, Smith said members doused the fire, which had heated the room to more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Plastics, cellophane and other petroleum-based products were burning a “very hot, messy and toxic” fire, Smith said.
“Plastic burns almost like a fuel,” he said.
Fortunately, the fire was suppressed before the gasoline in the Zamboni could ignite.
“Everybody was happy it didn’t end up blowing up that end of the arena,” Smith said.
Though it wasn’t a huge blaze, the smoke and heat damage was significant. The Activity Centre was closed that day and because of potential damage to hydraulic lines and heating units—plus damage to the Zamboni, which is being serviced in Edmonton—the arena is out of commission until February 9 at the earliest, according to manager Peter Bridge.
Ironically, the next big hockey event on the books was the Jasper Fire and Ice Tournament, a weekend exhibition between regional fire departments.
A new working group hopes to curtail future development frustration in Jasper by bringing land use and zoning regulations out of the past.
Outdated, vague and inconsistent Parks Canada development regulations will be scrutinized by a to-be-formed stakeholder group which will include local contractors, builders and designers, as well as Parks Canada staff.
“Our regulations are outdated,” said Cathy Jenkins, Manager of Municipal and Realty Services for Jasper National Park. “We’re working now to get them updated.”
It’s only been 46 years. The current land use regulations that Jasper National Park administrators subscribe to have been on the books since 1968. In April of that year, Pierre Trudeau was elected Prime Minister. In August, the Beatles put out “Hey Jude.”
And in Jasper, it was deemed that any development worth more than $25,000 would require an architect to create, and an engineer to sign off on, the project’s plans. That number might have made sense four decade ago, admits local carpenter Eric Dietiker, but it certainly doesn’t make sense in 2014.
$25,000 in 1968 currency works out to $172,000 today (adjusted at an inflation rate of 4.28 per cent). A bathroom renovation can cost more that $25K.
“That [the regulation] isn’t tied in with inflation...flies in the face of all common sense,” Dietiker said.
The policy isn’t just obsolete, it’s also expensive.
Ken Kuzminski, who runs a crew of 12 on a variety of construction jobs, from large commercial projects to small custom builds, notes when Parks Canada requires an architect to sign off on a plan, the cost of those signatures are passed on to the project proponent.
“We’re talking about people fixing their houses, building fences or upgrading staff accommodations,” Kuzminski said. “It’s eventually going to bring a halt to development.”
Jenkins knows something about slow processes. The former senior policy advisor in Ottawa has been working in Parks Canada townsites since 1994, including Banff, Field and Waterton. The difference between those communities and Jasper is that here, Parks Canada shares administrative responsibilities with the local government. Land use, however, remains the tenure of the feds, hence that portfolio’s decades-removed policies. To change a regulation, it has to be passed through parliament, an onerous process with many bureaucratic bumps on which to become derailed.
“You look at the regulations that affect Jasper, they affect 5,000 people as opposed to other things [parliament] is working on,” Jenkins explained.
“[However], national office at this point has told us the development regulations across the country are something they’re ready to look at.”
Kuzminski, for one, can’t wait. The carpenter spends most of his time on paperwork to satisfy development requirements which he calls “vague and up to interpretation.”
“It’s hard to meet with a client and pick siding, for example, and meet a standard that doesn’t exist.”
Jenkins disagrees the Parks Canada guidelines are inconsistent, but she admits there isn’t a clear checklist for contractors to follow.
“A lot of our guidelines follow the national building code, or the provincial code if it’s more stringent,” she said. “But we definitely want checklists so people can have something very clear.”
Creating those checklists to guide local contractors is one thing, but Jenkins is also hoping to enact new directives to respond to Jasper land use peculiarities. Unlike regulations, directives don’t need to be enshrined by parliament; they can be created at a lower level—possibly even by the park superintendent.
“We’ll be looking at how we can streamline,” Jenkins said.
The contractors aren’t holding their breath, but Kuzminski is hopeful that the stakeholder group, which he’ll be a part of, can come up with solutions.
“We have to all sit down and work together,” he said.
“We want to find out where and why the regulations are causing angst,” she said.
The working group is scheduled to begin discussions in March.
Upgrades to the community’s electrical distribution lines will help mitigate the risk of Jasper’s infamous power outages in the future.
Travelers south of town may have noticed contractors working beside the highway; ATCO Electric has been trenching a utility line which connects the community’s south hydro station, near the Astoria River, to the main plant, near the Transfer Station.
“We’re putting underground about [11 kilometers] of line that has given us some problems over the years,” said ATCO’s district manager, Rod Carrothers.
Decades-old overhead lines currently feed power to Marmot Basin and several outlying commercial accommodations. The new lines will perform the same function, but with less exposure to the elements, Carrothers said.
Wind-blown trees have knocked out Jasper’s power supply in the past.
“With this work there’s an increase in view of future capacity and improved reliability,” Carrothers said.
A skier who ducked a patrol closure January 3 was caught in the first in-bounds avalanche at Marmot Basin in seven years.
The incident took place on Party Slope, a rocky terrain feature on the upper mountain which, because of the unpredictable nature of the snowpack, released a class two slide even after technicians performed avalanche control work on the slope.
“The control work that day was aggressive,” said Marmot Basin’s Director of Public Safety, Kerry MacDonald. “[But] the snowpack this season across the Rockies is very weak at its base.”
That day, avalanche control staff at Marmot Basin were dealing with 32 cm of new snow, plus an additional six centimeters before the Knob Chair opened.
That type of aggressive loading on a weak snowpack is “like building your house on top of marbles,” MacDonald said.
In that regard, forecasting avalanches on Party Slope, with its large rock outcrops acting as anchor points and yet containing unpredictable trigger points all throughout the feature, was made even more challenging.
“We know that at the top it’s thin and weak and below the ridge crest it’s very rocky. It’s a great hazard to riders.”
And although a patrol sign said as much, at 3:10 p.m. a group of four skiers crested the ridge above Party Slope.
The first skier descended, rode through the rocky section and made a left turn. That’s when the slope released.
“He was carried for about 15 metres and ended up on the side of the slide,” MacDonald said.
Buried up to his waist and unhurt, the skier was able to free himself and walk down. The rest of his group met him at the bottom.
Meanwhile, ski patrol was calling “code white.” One patroller had witnessed the incident from the Eagle Ridge chair; another off-duty patroller was able to communicate to the involved party and determine there was only one victim.
Within five minutes several ski patrollers were on scene; in less than five more minutes a Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association team showed up to do a final sweep.
“For an organized response it was exceptionally fast,” MacDonald said.
The last in bounds avalanche at Marmot Basin took place in 2006, in Knob Bowl.
“We work very hard to mitigate avalanche hazards and other hazards,” MacDonald said. “But there are inherent risks you accept as a rider to participate in this activity.”
A high speed pursuit on January 1 ended near Jasper after RCMP members chased a stolen vehicle traveling in excess of 150 km/hr.
The vehicle, a four-door Chevy Malibu, had been reported as stolen in Calgary and being dangerously driven near Canmore. RCMP members in that community called off their pursuit after the suspect vehicle was driving dangerously on Highway 1.
“Members in Lake Louise attempted to stop the car at the south end of the Icefields Parkway but the suspect side-swiped the police cruiser and continued north,” said Cpl Ryan Gardiner of the Jasper RCMP.
Meanwhile, Gardiner headed south from Jasper and arranged for any south-bound traffic to be diverted off of Highway 93. Parks Canada law enforcement responders, Jasper fire department members and Jasper dispatch assisted.
“Our concern at that point was to try to get the vehicle stopped before it got to Highway 16,” Gardiner said.
Gardiner met the suspect vehicle at Jonas Creek, 75 km south of Jasper. He pursued the vehicle but had to back off when the driver pushed the vehicle over 150 km/hr.
RCMP members deployed a spike belt near the Highway 93A turnoff to Marmot Basin.
The car’s tires were disabled; the vehicle eventually came to a stop in a snowbank after the suspect attempted to turn into Wapati Campground.
The driver, a 29-year-old female from Calgary with no fixed address, will face mulitiple charges, including impaired operation of a motor vehicle, failing to stop for police, and possession of stolen property exceeding five thousand dollars.
Three other suspects, a male and two females, were charged with possession of stolen property.
The driver is set to appear in Jasper Provincial Court on January 23.
A booming hostel business at 106 Patricia Street has its neighbours wondering WTF.
Meanwhile, owners of the World Travellers’ Fraternity Guesthouse insist their eight-bed guesthouse is not only within Parks Canada’s guidelines of appropriate use, but that their neighbours’ complaints are misinformed.
“I think there are some misconceptions about problems associated with the hostel,” said Mike Kliewer, the 30-year-old homeowner who, along with his wife, Ashley, started the WTF Guesthouse in June.
While visitors have showered nothing but compliments on the entrepreneurial couple (WTF rates an impressive 92 per cent on hostelworld.com), not everyone is singing their praises. Parks Canada has received letters of complaint from neighbours of 106 Patricia Street, with concerns ranging from disturbances due to noise, to parking issues, to the fact that plans for an eight-bed guesthouse were never revealed during the approval process.
“I’m not sure they were completely honest [in their application],” said a neighbour who asked not to be identified.
This past spring, while renting out their basement to six of his employees from Earl’s in the Rockies (“that was where the noise complaints came from,” Kliewer says), the Kliewers obtained permission from Parks Canada to renovate. When the modifications were complete, consistent with what they were told they were allowed, the Kliewers’ basement contained one six-bed dorm room and one double-bed suite, plus a kitchen area and two shared bathrooms.
“We spent $20,000 to renovate, we weren’t taking chances,” Kliewer said. “I have two years worth of emails with Parks Canada letting them know what was happening.”
His dream of owning a hostel goes back much further. A globetrotter who’s visited more than 60 countries, Kliewer said all his adult life he’s wanted to own a place where visitors from around the world could fraternize and share their experiences in a fun, relaxed setting. He looked into opening a hostel in Jasper’s commercial business district, but it was unfeasible. Next he inquired about opening a hostel in the residential area, but according to Parks Canada’s land-use regulations, a home-based hostel business would have to be run out of the main floor, which wasn’t tenable either. The solution—and one which Kliewer claims came at Parks’ suggestion—was to operate as a guesthouse with no more than eight beds.
“Whether you say I’ve ingeniously read between the lines or cheated the system...we’re the first of our kind,” he said. “But it’s legit.”
Whether they tapped into a loophole or not, the World Travellers Fraternity is definitely tapping into a niche market. Since opening their doors on June 27, they’ve operated at 100 per cent capacity almost every single night—including during November, Jasper’s typically slow season.
“We’re appealing to a new crowd,” Kliewer said. “These are people in their late 20s or early 30s with a backpacking mindset but a little bigger budget.”
Charging $33 for a bunk or $35 per person for the double suite, WTF is attracting the type of traveller who doesn’t want to spend big bucks on a hotel room—but who is selective enough to not go for the cheapest bed available. And since they’ve been full, they’ve had the luxury of being selective, too.
“I don’t want 18-year-old partiers staying here any more than my neighbours do,” Kliewer said.
On that subject, Kliewer says the noise complaints received by Parks Canada have come from his own gatherings upstairs, not from his paying guests. And as far as parking concerns go, the nature of WTF’s clientele make parking a moot point, he said.
“The parking thing is a joke,” he said, flipping through the guestbook to show that the majority of guests arrive by train or bus. “No one has a vehicle.”
The next door neighbour wonders about that claim. But more troubling, she said, is the precedent that opening an eight-bed guesthouse could set.
“What would happen if everyone wanted to do that?” she asked. “They’re good people, but I think you have to think about the future.”
The future is exactly what the Kliewers are thinking about. The success they’ve had with the WTF Guesthouse has inspired them to start considering expansion; they already have their eye on another property.
“Jasper, whether we do it or someone else does, needs another hostel to appeal to these crowds,” he said. “We’re operating close to capacity, reviews are through the roof...during the summer you could have a dozen other places like this.”
How Parks Canada feels about that statement remains to be seen. In the meantime, the Kliewers are hoping that they can demonstrate to their neighbours that their guesthouse is just what it says on hostelworld.com: The friendliest home in the friendliest town.
“I’m tired of feeling like I’m doing something wrong when I’m not,” Kliewer said.
Parks Canada could not be reached for comment before the Jasper Local’s deadline.
Jasper is backed up.
The town’s accumulation of biosolids—treated sewage sludge which has been processed into nutrient-rich organic materials—has been building up to the point where the Jasper Transfer Station no longer has room for the materials.
“They were piling up,” said Parks Canada landfill supervisor Ross Pigeon.
Since 2004, when Jasper’s wastewater treatment plant was installed, class B biosolids have been brought out to the Transfer Station—where they've been cured in windrows with the intent to use them as fertilizer on Parks Canada’s large reclamation projects.
But as of two months ago, the stockpile has been too much to store. The town hasn't been able to use them in the way they were originally planned.
“We were hoping to have people use it as compost,” Pigeon said.
Class B biosolids are treated but still contain detectible levels of pathogens. They are often used for composting and can have application for agriculture, forestry and mine reclamation.
In Jasper's case, the exposed windrows left the semi-solid materials vulnerable to non-native seed contamination. After testing the product, Parks Canada determined the biosolids were no longer acceptable for cultivation purposes.
"They were tested and it was discovered they weren't suitable for [Parks Canada's] reclamation projects," said Jasper's Environmental Stewardship Coordinator, Janet Cooper.
As a result, two months ago, dozens of truckloads of biosolids from the Jasper Transfer Station were moved to the town’s former sewage lagoons, adjacent to Highway 16 and Cottonwood Creek Road, near Pine Bungalows. The solution is hardly permanent, but the huge lagoons are a way out until a market can be found for the biosolids, or until the Transfer Station can be updated—an improvement not likely to take place before the municipality takes over the facility.
“We need an in-vessel processor,” said Environmental Stewardship Coordinator, Janet Cooper. "Non-native weed seeds have been settling into the piles."
Cooper said another idea with potential is for other west Yellowhead communities to collaborate to combine their organic biosolids materials; were volume high enough, the materials could fetch a feasible return.
"It would be great if we could become the regional area for processing," Cooper said.
In the meantime, Jasper will continue to have a burden of biosolids.
"We can't store it [at the Transfer Station] anymore," Pigeon said.
West Yellowhead MLA Robin Campbell is Alberta’s new Environment and Sustainable Resources Minister.
The appointment was part of a significant cabinet shuffle in the Alberta government on December 6. As Premier Alison Redford delivered the news to Campbell, she also told the former Minister of Aboriginal Relations that he was replacing Dave Hancock as House Leader.
“In case I was bored,” Campbell laughed.
Campbell, who calls Jasper home, was elected to the legislative assembly in 2008. His work as deputy house leader, as well as chair of a ministerial working group that included ministers and deputy ministers from the energy, environment and treasury board portfolios, will have relevance to his new posts.
“I’m familiar with the policies of Environment and SRD,” he said.
Some critics are questioning if Campbell is too familiar with resource development. Provincial NDP leader Brian Mason said he’s worried Campbell will have a pro-energy perspective, considering the MLA’s background as a coal miner.
“I’m concerned of his objectivity when it comes to regulating the environmental impact of the coal industry,” Mason said.
For his part, Campbell pointed out that besides being a miner, he also spent 30 years as a fishing guide.
“I get both sides,” he said. “If you’re going to mine minerals or cut down trees you have an obligation to return it back.
“Part of my job will be to hold industry accountable.”
Mason suggested the new Environment and SRD Minister focus on pipeline safety, tailings ponds and threats to the Athabasca River.
“He needs to ensure our water courses are better protected, existing legislation is enforced and something is done to clean up tailings ponds,” Mason said.
Campbell told the Jasper Local his top priorities will include getting Alberta’s environmental monitoring agency up and running. Creating a third-party agency to oversee environmental monitoring across the province was a key recommendation from a 2012 report.
He added he’s hoping to build relationships and promote collaboration.
“As the province continues to grow it will face more challenges...all stakeholders will be looking for resolve rather than win or lose.”
A revived push to open a regional commercial airport is being propped up by Jasper’s destination marketing organization.
Tourism Jasper told Jasper municipal council and administrators that were a commercial airport to open in Edson, tourism in the northern Rockies would follow.
“A feasibility study showed that there are 200,000 available seats per year for Edson’s catchment area,” Mary Darling told committee of the whole meeting members on December 10.
Darling was asking council for upwards of $15,000 to help engage policy writing and government relations consultants.
“We need the whole of governments’ support to grow tourism,” Darling said.
The idea for a regional airport isn’t new. As recently as May, Edson town council was discussing rounding up regional dollars for a location study. When it was discovered that the airport would require Canadian Air Transport Security Authority status, however, the idea was shelved. Now, the CATSA approval is not so pie-in-the-sky.
“We’re working with the provincial government and have had meetings with Transport Canada to see what we can do,” Darling said.
Since September 11, 2001, no new airports in Canada have been granted the high level security status, a pre-board screening process overseen by CATSA. But murmurs of possible changes are happening in three Quebec communities, as well as in Cold Lake, Alberta.
“It’s something we desperately need,” Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland told the Cold Lake Sun.
Here in the Rockies, some local residents aren’t so sure a regional airport would benefit Jasper as much as is being touted. Tour operator Art Jackson said the small trickle of tourists that might be catching flights into Edson doesn’t represent a large enough market to be spending “what if” dollars.
“I would caution council and town administration on where your money is being spent,” he said.
Darling admitted that the majority of customers on WestJet or Air Canada flights would be those working in the energy sector. But the ability to leverage funds from different partner municipalities makes this an opportunity worth pursuing, she indicated.
“We need this group to include tourism, oil, gas and mining industries,” she said.
Council suggested they’d like to see those industries at the table now.
“It occurs to me the resource industry stands to profit if someone else does the initial investment,” Mayor Richard Ireland said.
Council will deliberate on the proposed budget, which includes a $10,000 item for an airport study, in the coming weeks.
Jasper municipal administrators are asking council to ratify a 6.38 per cent tax increase in 2014.
New administrative studies make up a large portion of the rate increase. CAO Peter Waterworth outlined three initiatives that would raise town administrative costs by 22 per cent: a $9,000 benchmark study that would help identify comparative costs of town services; a $10,000 line item to help spearhead work on a regional commercial airport based out of Edson; and a $115,000 study with Parks Canada to move forward conversations of joint land-use. To move discussions on land use from water coolers to meeting tables, a baseline discussion document would have to be conceived, Waterworth told council.
“Previous councils have said this is a priority [but] the there are barriers to investment,” he said. “There is no overarching integrated plan, no structural plan or planning tools.”
A 3.5 per cent across-the-board wage increase, plus hiked utility fees, will also create significant expenditure increases for the coming year. The wage hike was negotiated as part of CUPE’s last collective bargaining agreement.
For the most part, however, the proposed budget is fairly static. Director of finance and administration, Alice Lettner, said directors tried to reflect what standards of services residents currently enjoy.
“In terms of operations we asked directors to indicate...a fair and equitable increase,” she said.
Department heads presented their projections to council during public budget meetings on December 9 and 11. Aging infrastructure was a primary concern for newly-appointed Director of Operations, Bruce Thompson.
“In our water system...there are a number of inoperable mainline valves, dead-end valves and places where we have probable water loss,” Thompson told council. Thompson is asking council for enough money to replace five water valves, with a cost of $10,000 each. Water fees will go up 15 per cent should council approve the budget.
A handful of interested residents listened in and posed questions to presenters. Ray Knight wasn’t keen on council making budget room for another regional airport initiative.
“That should be tossed out; they’ve tried that three times,” Knight said.
The proposed changes mean a Jasper homeowner with a property assessed at $750,000 would see their taxes increase by $120 this year. The utility hike would represent $48/annum.
Education taxes and Jasper’s regional Evergreens Foundation contribution are requisitioned in the new year.
Doctors at the Seton Health Centre are hoping Jasperites will agree that acquiring new, life-saving medical equipment is an ultra-sound cause.
Dr. Declan Unsworth is leading the rally to raise funds for an ultrasound machine in Jasper. Having such specialized equipment would help medical staff assess injuries more accurately and efficiently, and ultimately improve patient outcomes, Unsworth said.
“Transport decisions would be simplified for medical staff. This is a valuable tool in a centre that is four hours away from a tertiary care facility.”
Unsworth, who saw first hand the utility of such a machine during his temporary placement in hospitals across the province, said an ultrasound can quickly determine if a patient has internal bleeding so medical staff can triage accordingly. Currently, if an individual is admitted to the hospital with blunt abdominal trauma, for example, doctors must perform a clinical observation, which cannot deliver as accurate results as that of an ultrasound machine.
“You either jump the gun and send them out or end up doing serial exams,” he said. “An ultrasound is that much more definitive.”
The specialized equipment is not covered by Alberta Health Services. In Hinton, the hospital foundation raised money to make the purchase. The Sonosite Edge Ultrasound Machine that Unsworth has his eye on costs upwards of $60,000.
“It’s expensive, but it has a multitude of uses,” he said. “I think it’s probably the thing that would most benefit patient care.”
The machine could also be used to help assess musculoskeletal injuries, congestive heart failure, septic shock, abscesses, aortic aneurysms, kidney stones, threatened abortion, appendicitis and fracture reductions, Unsworth said.
Unsworth has approached the Ladies Hospital Auxillary to join the Seton Healthcare Centre staff in their fundraising goal.
To join the cause, contact Unsworth at the Cottage Medical Clinic.
“How much does that cost?”
It’s a question budget-conscious tourists in Jasper ask everyday. Now, Jasper wants to turn the question around: How much does it cost to provide basic services to travellers?
“We’re the product, but we need to know what the product costs,” said Chief Administrative Officer, Peter Waterworth.
And so long as the province foots the bill for a study, three resort communities in the Rockies could soon have the answer.
On November 26 council ratified a grant application to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Worth $250,000, if approved, the grant would allow Jasper, Banff and Canmore to commission an analysis of the costs of providing services for visitors during the summer.
“Some of it is very simple stuff, but we want to know ‘what’s the totality of it?’” Waterworth said.
Jasper National Park counted nearly 2 million visitors in 2012. While those visitors provided the backbone of Jasper’s economic existence, providing wastewater services, road upkeep and other services for 25,000 extra people in the summer comes at a cost. Finding out just how much that cost is will help identify gaps and give Jasper a bargaining position with the province; taxes and user fees aren’t sustainable sources of revenue.
“Our interest first is providing for citizens...getting these numbers will help us find a balance,” Waterworth said.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
An ambitious proposal for a 2,000-bed, 20,000 acre, year-round ski resort is being met with cautious optimism by a village that has heard grandiose promises before.
Developers are currently seeking provincial approvals to move forward with a plan to develop glacier skiing, high-alpine sightseeing, pool and spa facilities, cross-country ski trails, ziplines, mountain bike trails and fine dining just west of Valemount.
A group called Valemount Glacier Destinations, represented by some of the same architects and investors involved with the Jumbo Glacier Resort in the West Kootenays, is working on a resort master plan.
“It’s real enough that we’re commissioning a boundary expanse study, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen,” said Valemount’s mayor, Andru McCracken.
Valemount has first-hand experience with bold development plans going awry. In 2003, Canoe Mountain Resort was trumpeted as the answer to the village’s economic woes when president Gerry Levasseur announced the company’s intention to build a $100 million, four-season resort. Housing prices shot up; media outlets were in a frenzy. However, in 2010 the company called it quits, blaming rising construction costs and investor disinterest.
For Valemounters, that experience still lingers. McCracken said whether the project goes ahead or not, this time around will be different.
“I think the town is supportive, but I think we have a practical view,” he said. “We’re going to make sure we have a good dialogue with the developer to make sure we don’t sell the town out.”
bob Covey // with files from Laura Kiel
The small herd of caribou which make their home in the Maligne Range has been further depleted, according to Parks Canada’s most recent surveys.
Biologists could only count five animals—down from last year’s count of six—during their fall aerial surveys, said Integrated Land Use Planner, Amber Stewart.
The announcement was made at the November 6 Annual Forum. During a follow-up interview, Superintendent Greg Fenton confirmed that scientists counted two collared cows and three bulls this year.
“The large male they expected to see was missing,” Fenton said.
Jill Seaton of the Jasper Environmental Association is curious about the missing bull, but she’s more interested in what Parks Canada will do about the overall problem: that is, the ever-dwindling caribou population in the Maligne Valley.
“I do think the one thing they can tackle is wolf predation and making the caribou difficult to get at,” she said.
Parks Canada is currently discussing the overall use of the Maligne Valley. The first phase of the process will bring users, operators, environmental groups and visitors together to share information on the area’s experiences, resources and opportunities. The second phase will propose actions based on that data.
Fenton indicated at the forum that as those actions roll out, there will be a focus on facilitated predator access. Meanwhile, recreational users are pointing out the Maligne Valley’s unparalleled opportunities for winter travel.
“If they close that area we’ll have absolutely no wilderness backcountry skiing experience until February,” said trail ambassador Loni Klettl.
The deadline for public comments on phase one is November 22. The next session will
take place in December or early January.
To provide feedback or to receive background information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
A Jasper couple’s dog that was missing for 13 days survived its ordeal and lived to tell the...er...tail.
On October 20, Jeremy Blackwood was taking his new dog, Kady, for a stroll near Athabasca Falls when the excited collie yanked the leash out of Blackwood’s hand.
“She bolted down the river bank,” Blackwood said. “I spent the rest of the day looking for her but when dark came, that was it for the night.”
Concerned for the dog’s safety in the wild, Blackwood got up early, posted some Lost Dog posters around town and headed back to the Athabasca Falls area. When he got there, he saw a fresh kill.
“I was thinking the worst,” he said. “It wasn’t until I got two feet away and saw a hoof that I saw it was an elk.”
Eventually he found a sign Kady was near: her leash, which the wily dog had chewed through, provided a tantalizing clue. With new resolve, Blackwood set up a customized doggy attractant: blanket, stuffed animal and Kady’s favorite cheese biscuits. Leaving the bait for the night, the following day the biscuits had been eaten but there was no sign of the pooch.
“So many people were helping,” said Blackwood, a CN employee. “One day I got off the train and there were 15 people, spread out 10 feet apart and marching in a grid search.”
Friends, strangers, even tourists were taking time out of their day to look for Kady.
Finally, a helpful hand came when Mike Dillon baited three Parks Canada coyote traps near the Athabasca Hostel site. On the night of Friday, November 2, another Kady crusader, Harry Thomas, drove down to the site to see what he could find. To his delight, a scrawnier, but ultimately healthy Kady was inside one of the traps.
Reunited with their pet, Blackwood and his girlfriend Melinda Hill are happy the ordeal is over. Blackwood estimates he put in about 100 hours of searching in 13 days. He couldn’t say enough about the help he received from the community, and only wished Kady had the same problem.
“I wish she could talk. I’d love to know what happened out there.”
A water main break in the 1000 block of Patricia Street had municipal crews and contractors working into the wee hours November 7.
Utilities workers noticed town water flows were higher than normal during routine inspections that day; a subsequent call from a resident who spotted water pooling on the road alerted them to the possibility of a significant break.
“At that point we didn’t know who would be affected,” said Christine Nadon, the municipality’s communications manager. “At 2 p.m. we had to shut off the water before we could warn anyone.”
Cue the excavator. With the help of Jasper Concrete, crews dug a deep hole in front of the 1030 block of Patricia Street. They found the corrupted pipe 15 feet below the surface. While they hoped to establish water service by installing a temporary sleeve over the crack, it was soon discovered they’d have to replace the section of pipe that night.
“The sleeve didn’t contain the leak,” Nadon said.
While the crews worked on the repair and bled the water from the connecting plumbing, Nadon alerted the residents living in the apartment buildings just south of the construction site. The Walk Ups and the southern-most subdivision of the Trijon Development rental units were affected.
“When people don’t have water it’s a big deal,” Nadon said. “People were happy to see me and learn about the situation.”
The crews had the new section of pipe installed and water flowing to residences at 11:45 p.m.
“The crews were very dedicated,” Nadon said.
A caribou which had its antlers caught in the wire cables from a backcountry campsite pole was still not freed from its constrictions 11 days after it became entangled.
On October 30, biologists had tracked the animal but were unable to free it from its accidental snare.
“We found the animal but we couldn’t get it into the open where it would be possible to net it or dart it,” Parks Canada’s Resource Conservation Manager, John Wilmshurst, said.
Eleven days earlier, on Oct 19, Edmontonian Dean Albrecht and his wife were hiking towards Amethyst Lake in the Tonquin Valley when they saw an unusual site at Surprise Point Campground.
“We could see something thrashing around in the trees,” Albrecht said.
That something was a caribou—a male individual from the threatened population in Jasper National Park’s Tonquin herd. Albrecht and his wife could see that the animal had become trapped in the wire cables which are normally used to hang food out of the reach of animals.
“Its antler was firmly snared around one of the food cables,” he said. “And then when it saw us, it panicked.”
After snapping a few photos and a short video, Albrecht and his wife backed off, not wanting to further stress the animal. The following morning, they returned with tools. To their dismay, the caribou’s thrashing had twisted the wires around the other bear pole cables, tensing and tangling the system until the caribou was hoisted in the air, eventually only supporting itself on its hind legs.
“It looked like it hung itself,” Albrecht said.
When Albrecht approached the caribou it sprang to life, but its movement was restricted for the tangle of wires. Using a hacksaw, Albrecht cut away the wires near where they were tethered to the ground. The animal immediately took up the slack, but although the wires were freed from the bear pole, they were still tangled around the caribou’s antlers.
“It ran off,” Albrecht said.
Reporting the incident to Jasper National Park visitor safety personnel, Albrecht hoped experts could track the animal and free it from its trap and for several days last week, that’s what Parks Canada resource conservation personnel tried to do. However, after multiple failed attempts, Wilmshurst said the costs were too high.
“We just can’t afford to be flying in there all the time,” Wilmshurst said.
The caribou, a male, is estimated to be three years old. Wilmshurst said young males typically drop their antlers sometime in February but with the heavy burden of the cables, that process could be sped up.
“That may be its saviour,” he said.
Biologists who tracked the animal reported that while it was still dragging the cables around, the caribou seemed to be coping reasonably well.
Wilmshurst emphasized the importance for visitors to use the backcountry campsites properly.
“The key here is we want people to be conscientious of reconnecting those cables,” he said.
After more than a year of struggling to break even, The Jasper Reuse-It Centre is getting dumped from the town’s operational budget.
The two-year pilot project will be dismantled at the end of this year, unless the newly-elected municipal council has a change of heart, said Janet Cooper, Environmental Stewardship Coordinator.
“We’ve had growing pains...but we’re not breaking even,” said Cooper.
Those pains have mostly included finding a suitable location for the program and attracting enough customers and goods to make the operation viable.
After opening in the Stan Wright Industrial Park last summer, the Reuse-It Centre moved to the space beneath the Anglican Church, on Geikie Street, where rent was more affordable and it was thought that foot traffic would be more abundant. Since moving in June, however, the centre continued to lose approximately $1,200 per month.
“We dramatically reduced the deficit from the first year,” said Cooper. “But we’re not self-sustaining.”
The Reuse-It Centre was conceived as a way to reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill while responding to a transitory population’s demand for used furniture and appliances. However, just as Cooper was cooking up the project’s plans, a powerful market force in Jasper was also gathering steam: the Facebook group, Jasper Buy Sell and Trade.
“We have to consider that a lot of people are choosing to move their bigger furniture items through Jasper Buy Sell and Trade,” Cooper said.
The Jasper Reuse-It Centre is funded through the Environmental Stewardship Reserve fund, which, like Cooper’s position itself, is jointly funded by MOJ and Parks Canada.
Staff members of Tourism Jasper were all atwitter after taking home two industry awards at the recent Travel Alberta conference in Banff.
The destination marketing organization took top honours in two Marketing Excellence categories of Tourism Alberta's Alto Awards: campaigns with a budget up to $10,000 and campaigns with a budget between $10,000 and $50,000.
“I’m super proud of the entire team,” said Tourism Jasper CEO Mary Darling. “We’re marketing people. This is what we do.”
Tourism Jasper won accolades for harnessing the power of social networking with its Twitter hashtag, #MyJasper. The simple but effective tool allows visitors to group photos and topics about Jasper. Darling said other communities in Alberta were adopting the strategy; a Twitter search for #MyBanff confirmed as much.
“That’s a huge compliment,” she said.
Tourism Jasper also won for its Dark Sky Correspondent campaign, another social media-based venture which brought winners of an online contest to Jasper.
“We had an excellent experience,” said 2013 Star Correspondent winner, Sara Hamil via Twitter. “The Star Correspondent campaign is a wonderful way to...get people from all over the world excited about the Festival and the value of the Jasper Dark Sky Preserve.”
A delegation of 30 Jasperites representing local industry, municipal council and Parks Canada travelled to Banff to celebrate with Darling and her staff.
“We made a statement last night. We said ‘here’s Jasper and we’re proud of what we’re doing,’” Darling said.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
Weather permitting, skiers in Jasper could be making new tracks in a new recreational node as early as December 1.
As part of Jasper National Park’s commitment to enhancing winter recreational opportunities while protecting caribou, a new cross country skiing “hub” will be created at Decogine (25 kms west of Jasper on Hwy 16).
Five to seven kilometres of track setting, parking and a privy, along with a warming hut and a fire pit will give winter users skiing alternatives, now that areas along the north and south boundary trails are restricted to backcountry travel until March.
John Wilmshurst, Resource Conservation Manager for Jasper National Park, said he’s satisfied the modifications to originally-proposed backcountry restrictions take steps to protect dwindling caribou populations.
“We’ve reached a critical point where the measures we have to take are reasonably dramatic,” Wilmshurst said.
“When you’re doing that, your chances of success are relatively diminished but we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think we’d be successful.”
More recreational enhancements are proposed for the Pyramid Lake area, but it’s unlikely that project will be undertaken this winter, Wilmshurst said.
Direction regarding winter recreational access in the Maligne Valley will be determined as part of an upcoming process to develop an implementation strategy for the Maligne Valley Area Concept, Parks Canada stated.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
After almost 10 years of helping locals celebrate special occasions, Deb Bottomley is putting Elysion Florals and Gifts up for sale.
“It’s just that time in life,” Bottomley said between creating flower arrangements for three different weddings on October 10. “It’s time to do something different.”
When Bottomley entered into the horticulture business with little experience, the former financial planner plunged right in.
Having come to Jasper from Peterborough, Ontario, she obtained her retail floristry certificate and enrolled in every design course that came her way. One of the biggest rewards of growing the business has been working with other wedding specialists in Jasper, she said.
“We’ve collectively marketed Jasper as a wedding destination,” she said. “Cross-referring and working together has grown the wedding business in Jasper like crazy.”
In the process, her life has also become a bit too crazy. While she was initially surprised by the amount of hours she needed to dedicate, she said owning Elysion Florals has been “one of the most rewarding, enriching things I’ve ever done.”
“You go from congratulating people for their newborn babies to consulting for a funeral to crying with people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer,” she said. “You get an amazing connection to the community.”
Bottomley is hoping to sell the business to a like-minded owner/operator.
“The best case scenario is finding someone who will love it and promote it like we did,” she said.
A retired Jasper National Park administrator is calling Parks Canada’s consideration of a hotel at Maligne Lake a direct violation of its guiding principles.
Grant Potter, who worked as Jasper National Park’s Business Liaison Officer from 1995-2012, is speaking out against what he calls an exclusion of policy and the dilution of important directions in the federal agency’s management plan.
“Changing a few words here, deleting a phrase there [has] the result that long standing policies have been changed significantly without the appropriate explanation to the public of the implications,” Potter said in a letter to JNP Superintendent, Greg Fenton. “It has not been a transparent process.”
Potter went on to say that by considering a proposal for a hotel at Maligne Lake, the government is undermining the 1998 Redevelopment Guidelines for Outlying Commercial Accommodations and Hostels in the Mountain National Parks (OCA), which Parks Canada committed to in 2000. That document directed that there would be no new outlying commercial accommodations in mountain parks.
“Releasing lands for commercial development and undermining the OCA guidelines are huge pry bars that will guarantee more and more pressure for development,” Potter said, referring to the new license of occupation that Brewster Canada was granted to erect a glass-floored observation platform on the Icefields Parkway.
Potter pointed to the Guiding Principles and Operational Guidelines (GPOP), which is posted on the agency’s website. He said important directions laid out in that policy document are clear that preference will be given to basic visitor accommodation (i.e. camping) and only activities that promote appreciation of a park’s purpose will be considered, requiring a minimum of built facilities.
The Glacier Discovery Walk, Potter said, “flies in the face of GPOP.”
Accommodation at Maligne Lake would also violate this policy, Potter said.
“If you really want to reach more visitors, you’d put in a campground,” he said.
Jasper Park Superintendent Greg Fenton stressed nothing has been decided.
“Parks Canada has not given any approvals for redevelopment to Maligne Tours, nor have Maligne Tours advanced a formal proposal,” he said.
Potter said his retirement has allowed him to speak out.
“I saw it all going to hell [but] I couldn’t speak,” he said. “I could express my concerns but no one was listening.”
Potter says he’s hoping Canadians take up the rally call.
“I think everyone should write a letter to the Minister,” he said. “If the government starts to see the threat that they might not get re-elected, maybe they’ll change.”
Piglet the pot bellied pig will stay in Jasper after Judge C. D. Gardner dismissed the Municipality of Jasper’s case against the pig’s owner, Lynda Knight.
“It was wicked, it was an epic day,” Knight said after the decision came down September 26.
Knight’s case was heard last after a long day of Jasper trials. The municipality’s argument, that owning a pig contravenes a local bylaw which disallows livestock to be kept as domestic pets, was interpreted by the judge in Knight’s favour. Pot bellied pigs are not commonly kept on farms or for agricultural purposes, Gardner said. After making this distinction, the judge threw the case out.
“They’re traditionally kept as pets,” Knight said. “Have you ever seen one on a farm?”
It seems Wikipedia would back Ms. Knight’s claim. From the popular online encyclopedia: “The pot-bellied pig is a breed of domesticated pig originating in Vietnam.”
The day marked the end of a saga that had many Jasper residents on the side of Piglet. Internet comments from those following the story decried the use of municipal tax dollars to take Knight to court.
“Tax money well wasted,” said one poster on the Fitzhugh’s Facebook page. “A sincere thanks go out to Gardner for having some common sense!”
Piglet’s supporters were outside the court room last Thursday. Children lined up to pet the black and white lil’ porker. Knight said she purposely walked Piglet in front of the judges’ deliberation room during recesses.
“I’m sure he saw the pig from his window,” she said.
Knight, who represented herself in court, said she was proud to stand up for her beliefs and have them vindicated.
“They might have looked at me and thought I was helpless,’” she said. “But I can articulate my point pretty well when I have to.”
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
Shangrila, the ski cabin operated by the Maligne Lake Ski Club, has been granted a renewed license of occupation, signaling the future of skiing is healthy in the Maligne Valley.
The new license contains a clause which states that, should the caribou situation so dictate, access to the cabin can be closed out or restricted.
“We can live with that,” said Maligne Lake Ski Club Vice President, Chris Garnham.
Garnham said earlier this year, based on Parks Canada’s evolving strategies to ensure caribou protection in the park and specifically, the Maligne Valley, members weren’t sure if there would be a 2013/14 ski season,.
“There was a lot of room for doubt,” he said.
The Maligne Lake Ski Club has approximately 50 members. The non-profit organization is unique in the park in that it is not a commercial operation. The new lease completes a 10-year license of occupation, expiring in 2022.
“Our occupation would have timed out in October,” Garnham said. “We would have had to, in theory, tear down the cabin.”
Shangrila is located in the Jeffery’s Creek drainage, between Little Shovel and Big Shovel passes, in the Maligne Range. Built in 1930 by Curly Phillips, Doug Jeffery and Willard Jeffery, Shangrila was originally created to answer the first demands in western Canada for a backcountry skiing experience.
“We work hard to be respectful of our history,” Garnham said.
If you needed proof a dog is a man’s best friend, you need only have looked skyward September 10.
Sheba, a black lab from Jasper, was rescued from a precarious ledge by helicopter sling after her owner dialed 911 with a unique distress call at 2 p.m. The report said the dog was “cliffed-out” on Morro Peak.
“The caller had down-climbed the limestone terrain but the dog had given up,” said Visitor Safety Technician Deryl Kelly. "The climber kept moving down until the point where the dog decided it couldn't go any further."
Public safety officials approached the area below where the dog had become trapped—near the mountaineer’s route on Mount Morro. After consulting with the dog’s owner, a Jasper local, Kelly said the team agreed to call in a Bell 407 rescue helicopter.
“The reporting person agreed to pay for the helicopter rescue,” Kelly said.
One rescuer slung in above the stranded pup and down-climbed to the he ledge, which, according to Kelly, was “as wide as your boots” and approximately 100 metres high.
Concerns that the dog would be panicked or aggressive were quickly curtailed.
“The dog was a perfect patient,” Kelly said.
Using a harness made for rescue animals, the technician secured Sheba to an anchor. Another visitor safety specialist official slung in via helicopter.
The canine and its rescuer were slung to safety.
Helicopter rescue expenses can total up to $5,000.
“The dog is obviously well-loved,” Kelly said.
A 54-year-old Massachusetts man is dead after falling off a cliff near Parker Ridge.
At just before 5 p.m. on September 8, Parks Canada received a call that a hiker had not turned up to his car, which was located at the parking lot.
The hiker was last seen by his partner that afternoon. The two separated after the partner became tired and decided to abandon the hike to the summit and head back toward the vehicle.
"The victim continued towards the summit with the intention of finishing the hike," said a Lake Louise RCMP spokesperson.
The victim's partner alerted officials in the afternoon, after the hiker did not return to the vehicle.
Parks Canada ground, canine and helicopter crews immediately initiated a search, continuing until nightfall.
The search resumed the following morning with Parks Canada and members of the Lake Louise RCMP detachment using a search grid until the victim's body was located just after 10 a.m. Rescue crews found the man’s body at the base of the 200-metre-tall cliff.
RCMP Sgt. Jeff Campbell says it appears the man lost his footing and fell.
Foul play has been ruled out, said the RCMP.
Parker Ridge is located off the Icefields Parkway, 106 km south of the Jasper townsite in Banff National Park.
Syrah's of Jasper restaurant will close its doors September 14 after two years of fine dining service on Patricia Street.
Owner DJ Bowen said an opportunity exists for a chef/operator to take over the lease and compliment the wine, beer and spirits selection he takes pride in purveying at next door's Jasper Liquor and Wine Cellar. Operating the restaurant isn't in his best interests, he said.
"I don't want to live there," he said.
Bowen opened Syrah's after Andy Allenbach dissolved Andy's Bistro in 2011. Bowen said he felt the high food and service standards that the 40-seat bistro established when Andy's was first opened in 1999 was met by Syrah's.
"I felt Syrah's kept a lot of what Andy created," Bowen said.
Bowen emphasized Syrah's is not for sale but that there is an opportunity should the right person come along.
"With the right person it can run itself," he said.
On August 30, Syrah's of Jasper was ranked number 8 of 70 restaurants in Jasper. The Patricia Street Deli held the top spot, followed by the newly opened Raven Bistro, Oka Sushi, The Bear's Paw Bakery and Tekarra Restaurant.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
A 56-year-old man is dead following a heart attack, despite heroic efforts from fellow campers to alert rescue officials.
On August 22 at 10:45 p.m. Parks Canada dispatchers received a call from a pay phone at Maligne Lake that a camper was in distress at Fisherman’s Bay. The victim, who had earlier that evening arrived at the campsite by canoe with his 15-year-old son, had been complaining of chest pains and difficultly breathing.
“We had several reports of difficult paddling on the lake that day,” said Rupert Wedgwood, public safety specialist for Parks Canada.
High winds and stormy skies had made for a long, tiresome journey to Fisherman’s Bay. The trip would have been even longer than the posted 13 kilometres, considering boaters were hugging the shoreline as they tried to avoid the worst of the waves.
The father and son arrived at 8 p.m. At 8:30 p.m., when the victim’s signs of distress were not abating, a camper volunteered to paddle to Home Bay, where he could send for help. He paddled back in less than 2 hours. In the meantime, campers continued to perform emergency CPR.
After the alarm was raised with Jasper paramedics, Maligne Lake visitor safety specialist Mike Westbrook sped out to Fisherman’s Bay in a jet boat. Westbrook arrived at 11:30 p.m. with an Automatic External Defibrillator while paramedics arrived later in a Maligne Tours boat.
At 12:25 a.m., paramedics informed Parks Canada that CPR could be discontinued.
Wedgwood noted the son of the victim was stoic in the face of tragedy.
“By all accounts everyone was impressed with how stoic the boy was, how he was determined to stand by his father,” Wedgwood said.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
Mount Redoubt in Jasper’s Tonquin Valley lived up to its reputation as a crumbly, dangerous peak when an experienced soloist fell to his death August 14.
On August 15, at 1:20 p.m., Parks Canada public safety officials were alerted that a mountaineer had not checked in as per his usual routine while climbing in the Tonquin Valley. Richard Gebert, from Carnell, Maine, had been in the Jasper area for more than a week racking up climbing objectives in the Brazeau and Maligne areas. Unfailingly, he checked in with his wife via satellite phone to assure his well-being. However, on the night of the 14th, he didn’t call.
“That’s when the alarm was raised,” said Rupert Wedgwood, Parks Canada public safety specialist.
Officials determined that Gebert‚ a 60-year-old experienced mountain climber who had been to the top of many of the Rocky Mountains’ highest peaks, had decided to climb 3,115 metre Mount Redoubt, and had bivouacked on the mountain’s northwest ridge in preparation for a summit bid the following day. Weather had been spotty but the 14th provided a brief window of opportunity.
“There were strong winds on the 14th ...[but] for an experienced mountaineer that’s not a game-stopper,” Wedgwood said.
After learning of the overdue climber, Parks Canada organized a search team on the 15th. Ground crews ensured the subject didn’t exit the valley from a different access point while a Bell 407 rescue helicopter was procured from Golden, B.C., to perform an aerial search of the mountain. Officials found no sign of Gebert that evening.
On the 16th, while ground team members attempted to locate the bivvy site, air-searchers spotted a linear feature in a prominent gully on Redoubt’s west face. The linear feature was Gebert’s rope. The subject was located on a small snow patch, 500 m below the summit. Officials could see that the climber had taken a significant fall while rappelling and had expired.
“We think the anchor failed. All indications are he’d probably put the rope over a boulder and the boulder moved,” Wedgwood said.
After receiving permission from the RCMP and British Columbia’s coroner (Mt. Redoubt is just over the Alberta border, in Mount Robson Provincial Park), the team packaged the body for removal.
Wedgwood said that while it is easy to dismiss this incident as a soloist taking bold and unnecessary risks in the mountains, Gebert was an experienced and calculated climber.
“He understood the risk he was taking and had the skills and fitness and a solid and reliable check-in schedule with his family,” Wedgwood said. “By all accounts, the route was well within his skill set and he had the means to retreat.”
It’s not known whether Gebert made it to the summit before his fatal accident.
Mount Redoubt has a dubious history. In 1926, a party went missing after declaring their intentions to become the first climbers to ascend the mountain. It was assumed they did not reach the summit; however, two years later, another party was surprised to find a cigarette container on the top of the peak containing a hastily-scrawled register.
“Mount Redoubt has a reputation for being loose and for rockfall,” Wedgwood said.
The bodies of the original ascendents were never found. Wedgwood said local experts believe the group fell to their deaths in the same drainage where Gebert lost his life.
“Many of the sub-peaks drain into that feature,” Wedgwood said.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
A broken sewage pipe leaked more than 5,000 litres of raw effluent at the Columbia Icefields Centre but Brewster Travel Canada, the leaseholder near the hydrological apex of the continent, isn’t making a big stink about it.
“This event was in kind with what households and businesses experience every day,” a spokesperson said.
On the afternoon of July 31, Parks Canada received a call from Brewster staff who reported there was an ongoing sewage release from the main line leading from the Icefields Centre to the building’s nearby Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“There was sewage bubbling up from one of the pipes...sewage was being released onto the ground,” said Jurgen Deagle, Environmental Management Specialist.
To mitigate any further spillage, flow was shut off from the Icefields Centre and public washrooms were closed. The visiting public was directed away from the spill and a clean-up effort commenced.
“The spill was controlled within minutes, contained and cleaned up following the high standards set by Parks Canada. There were never any concerns of the spill reaching waterways or any other environmentally sensitive areas,” said the statement from Brewster.
The spill took place at the east end of the parking lots, adjacent to the paved “Moraine Path.”
While a vacuum truck was on its way from Jasper, it was determined that a blockage had restricted the sewage flow, causing a small access port valve to blow out. Brewster ensured the spill was vacuumed, the area hosed off, then vacuumed up again. The company estimated the spill was 5,000 litres.
“It’s not an at-fault thing,” Deagle said about future risk mitigation. “It’s routine maintenance they could maybe do more frequently.”
Deagle said because it’s comprised of organic materials, even though it smells bad, sewage is “transitory waste.”
“Nature is used to breaking it down,” he said.
The Columbia Icefields Centre can process up to 100,000 litres of waste per day during the summer.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
Jasper National Park is picking up what Mother Nature is putting down.
Two new weather stations have been installed in Jasper, improving Parks Canada’s ability to monitor the fire hazard and keep the townsite safe from a wildfire.
“If we ever do see a fire that could compromise the townsite, it would likely come from the west,” said Fire and Vegetation Specialist Dave Smith.
One new weather station has been installed in the Miette Valley, approximately half way between town and the west gate; another replaces the collection centre at Devona, between Celestine Lakes and the Athabasca River. During a summer that’s seen more lightening strikes than Smith can remember in his 15 years of serving the park, the timing of the new infrastructure is, well, mainly sunny.
“It’s nice to have something a little more specific to Jasper,” Smith said.
The cost of the new station is approximately $40,000 after installation. Humidity, temperature, precipitation, wind speed and wind direction are gathered before being spat out by an algorithm which tells fire specialists how dry the forest is.
While the park has been hit by more lightening than usual this summer, those events haven’t translated into wildfires, mainly because the electric storms have been accompanied by rain. But Smith says Jasper’s not out the woods yet.
“There’s still a lot of fire season ahead of us,” he warned.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
Kerkeslin campground is closed to tents and tent trailers as Parks Canada officials worry a black bear in the area has become habituated to human food.
On August 4 a black bear was observed helping itself to the contents of two coolers left unattended and unsecured at a campsite on the south loop of the Kerkeslin campground. Subsequently, on August 8, a black bear visited a number of sites there, poking its nose into two tents close to the sites where the food had been left.
“Wildlife learns quickly to associate people with food,” said Geoff Skinner, Human Wildlife Conflict Specialist.
Since then, Parks Canada has closed the south loop of the campground and limited the other loops to hard-top vehicles only. Human Wildlife Conflict team members also set up a culvert trap and remote camera, Skinner said.
“We wanted to determine if the bear was still around,” he said.
What they discovered was that there were six bears in the area: one grizzly, one female black bear with cubs and two solitary adult black bears, both of which looked like the suspected “cooler” bear. Skinner’s team had video of the cooler bear, shot by campers near the site of the unattended food.
“We confirmed that one of the bears was the one we were looking for,” he said, noting that the bear had distinctive markings on its chest.
With two pieces of video evidence to confirm that the bear was near, the culvert trap has been left active and Parks Canada is performing regular patrols of the area. So far, the bear has not been spotted or captured on camera.
Skinner said not only does unattended food threaten wildlife—a bear that had discovered food in a campsite in Kananaskis Country was recently destroyed—but it affects visitors too. The site will remain a hard-top site only.
“This is a sad and frustrating situation that easily could have been avoided,” Skinner said.
Visitors to bear country must keep all food, drinks and toiletries in designated lockers or in their vehicles when not being used.
“Anything with an odor may be an attractant to bears,” Skinner said.
The campers responsible for leaving the coolers out were charged under the National Parks Act.
Kerkeslin campground is located 36 km south of Jasper.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
Two climbers caught in the elements—and who may have been out of their element—were rescued from a high col on Mount Edith Cavell last Friday.
At 2:15 p.m. on August 9, Jasper National Park dispatch received a 911 call from two Alberta-based men, both in their 30s, stranded above the east shoulder on the 3,363 m Jasper classic. Convection thunderstorms were starting to build, the men were tired and the objective was becoming more and more intimidating, said Rupert Wedgwood, Public Safety Specialist for Parks Canada.
“Thunder clouds, a bit of precip and the fact that they bit off a bit more than they could chew (led to the call for help),” said Wedgwood.
The party, one member of which claimed to have climbed the mountain in the past, were stuck on a ledge at 2,900 m, adjacent to the prominent thin snow band which is visible from the north. Able to get reception on his cell phone, one of the climbers text-messaged Parks Canada officials a photo of their location.
“It’s not a bad ledge,” Wedgwood said. “With the image we could see where they were and drop unneeded equipment.
“We could go in pretty light.”
The rescue team elected to perform a helicopter sling operation, plucking the men off the ridge and back to a staging area near the base of the mountain. The cost of the rescue is covered in climbers’ Park user fees.
In mid-summer, convection clouds are not uncommon. Wedgwood said climbers should have a back-up objective if weather looks like it might cause problems.
“You shouldn’t be trying to figure out the weather when you’re on the route,” he said.
Carrying the proper gear, such as a bivouac sack, is paramount to being self-reliant in committing terrain, and climbers should always take advantage of Parks Canada’s registration system at the Information Centre.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
A pair of disoriented hikers who found themselves “cliffed out” on Sulphur Mountain had to be rescued by Parks Canada public safety specialists July 26.
Parks Canada received a call from Miette Hotsprings staff, who had heard shouts for help shortly after 4:30 p.m. Two hikers had attempted to descend from the Sulphur Skyline trail but got stuck in the high cliffs above the Fiddle River hiking trail, said Rupert Wedgwood, public safety specialist.
Miette Hotsprings staff helped locate the hikers while rescue technicians set up a staging area for a helicopter-assisted rescue. Meanwhile, a storm was rolling in and light was fading.
“We were under the gun a bit because of the lightning storm that was brewing,” Wedgwood said.
Having procured a helicopter that was in Jasper National Park for fire-hazard patrol—the same machine which had earlier that day been used to locate a downed aircraft on the western border of the park—rescue officials were in the air, leaving Jasper, by 7:25 p.m.
Worried that the helicopter’s spinning rotors would produce dangerous rockfall onto the stranded hikers, Wedgwood, the rescue leader, decided to climb up to the hikers rather than attempt a sling-style extrication. Using a hilting gun to drill bolts into the cliff face, Wedgwood anchored himself to the cliffs before giving the hikers helmets and improvised harnesses.
He first lowered the 36-year-old male, from Edmonton, to where two other public safety technicians set up a belay station, then did the same for a 26-year-old female from Ontario.
Wedgwood gave credit to the Miette Hotsprings staff members who assisted with the rescue.
“We were able to spot the climbers easily from the helicopter because [staff member Cameron Mitchell] was standing at the base of the cliffs in a bright red Parks shirt,” he said.
Wedgwood said that experienced hikers and scramblers can often navigate off-trail to find an alternate route down but that if there are any doubts, park users should stick to the trail.
“The ante goes up significantly if you don’t have a map or compass,” he said.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
The pilot of a float plane travelling from Vernon to Edmonton was killed when the aircraft crashed 20 km west of Fortress Lake, in B.C.’s Hamber Park Friday, July 26.
Jasper’s visitor safety specialists received a call from the Edmonton RCMP at 3 p.m., asking for help locating the origin of an emergency signal coming from near the border of Jasper National Park. Canada’s rescue service SARTEC, were simultaneously dispatched from a base in Comox, on Vancouver Island.
“Comox dispatched a Cormoront helicopter and a Buffalo aircraft,” said Rupert Wedgwood, public safety specialist for Jasper National Park.
Two Jasper search and rescue technicians, accompanied by a fire technician, flew by helicopter to the site of the crash.
“When an aircraft goes down there’s also the possibility of a fire,” Wedgwood said.
The Jasper team located the aircraft but couldn’t land at the heavily forested site. The pilot put down nearby and the technicians hiked 10 minutes to the crash site.
When they arrived, they discovered the plane was precariously balanced over a steep slope leading to Alnus Creek, (elv 2880 m). Rescuers found that the pilot, the aircraft’s lone occupant, had expired.
“There was a lot of twisted metal,” Wedgwood said.
As is the case in all fatalities, the incident was then transferred to the RCMP and the Provincial coroner’s office. The unstable nature of the aircraft necessitated SARTEC to take over the extrication of the pilot.
The float plane was not working for the nearby fishing lodge on Fortress Lake, but the pilot had stopped in on a friendly visit before taking off, said Dave Jensen of Fortress Lake Retreat.
Details of how the plane crashed will come to light after a Transport Canada investigation.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
Winter backcountry users in Jasper are breathing a sigh of relief as changes to the park’s access points in the name of conservation are less restrictive than initially proposed.
Parks Canada had initially slated some of Jasper’s best, safest and most accessible winter recreation areas for closure from November to March. The proposed closures, designed to mitigate human-facilitated access of predators into caribou habitat, had met resistance from recreational users who called the strategy severe.
On July 26, Parks Canada announced the scope of the 2013 winter closures. Access to winter recreational nodes in the Tonquin, A La Peche and Brazeau caribou ranges will be delayed until March 1; however, the Whistler Creek and Maligne Valley areas are not included in the modifications. In addition, conceptual ideas to enhance winter recreational opportunities at Pyramid Lake and Decoigne (Hwy 16 west of Jasper) are being explored.
Jeff Wilson, an avid backcountry skier since 1976, said he was pleased by the announcement.
“Overall, I’m encouraged,” Wilson said. “If this is what Parks Canada feels it will take to possibly save the caribou then I’m willing to make some sacrifices.
“Although with the Maligne area to be determined, that will be the deciding factor,” he added.
Future access to the Maligne Valley, where some of Jasper’s safest and most accessible winter terrain lies, will be determined with the completion of the Maligne Valley Implementation Strategy, to commence this fall. That process will also consider the recently-tabled draft proposal for overnight accommodations at Maligne Lake, as well as all other activities in the area.
Jasper National Park Superintendent Greg Fenton said he felt the public consultation process to engage interest groups went extremely well and that the resulting modifications represent a win for all interest groups.
“We were able to capture the conservation gains on the caribou side while continuing to demonstrate that we’re a premiere location for winter activities,” he said.
Wilson, who spoke passionately at the February 28 public forum, admitted the government was responding to users’ suggestions.
“If they improve access to Pyramid .. and put track skiing at Decoigne, I’d be ecstatic,” he said.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
Trail users on the Pyramid Bench will no longer be saddled with having to go through commercial horse territory.
A newly-minted route will allow bikers, hikers and private horse riders to bypass commercial horse trails, reducing potential conflicts and increasing loop options on the highly-used network. Up to 100 horses per day use the trails around the Jasper Riding Stables in July and August.
“Commercial horses use that area intensely and other users get displaced,” said Marci Dewandel, Product Development Officer for Jasper National Park. “When we worked with the community they told us they wanted a trail that goes around the horse area.”
The result is an old trail made new again. Trail 2j, as it will be signed, offers a unique linkage to trail 2b. The sporty single track winds through the forest, crisscrossing the 2e horse highway as well as several “wildland” trails. It comes out at the popular Edge of the Bench overlook.
Jasper Riding Stables’ Dale Fullerton, who is one of two operators taking guests out on commercial horse trips, likes the idea of a bypass.
“Everybody should be able to enjoy their sport of choice without coming into conflict with others,” he said.
Find the start of the 2j loop at the Jasper Riding Stables parking lot.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
Mobile users and computer operators will soon be able to experience Jasper’s natural wonders via the comfort of their electronic devices.
Parks Canada and Google have teamed up to bring Jasper National Park, as well as other natural and cultural sites in Canada, to the virtual world of Google Street View.
In the future, anyone with an internet connection will be able to have a panoramic view of not just Jasper’s primary and secondary roads, but of Jasper’s backcountry trails, hiking paths and campgrounds.
“We can do all kids of stuff with this data,” said Sean Nardella, Parks Canada’s Visitor Experience Promotions specialist. “We can help people with trip planning who want a sense of what they’re in for or we can help with basic wayfinding.”
To capture Jasper roadway images, Google’s Street View car was zipping around the park last week with cameras rolling. To record trail shots, the Trekker—a backpack-mounted, 15-lens camera system that shoots a photograph every 2.5 seconds—made its Canadian debut. The Trekker has been used to record images of hikes in the Grand Canyon, but Nardella said this was the first time it was used in a Canadian mountain park.
“We’re trying to capture some of the most popular trails to get the most value out of the mapping,” he said.
Google’s Street View software allows Google Maps users to visually explore and navigate neighbourhoods, cityscapes and rural spaces through stitched-together, street-level photographs. For the last year, users of the program have been able to take a virtual tour of the Icefields Parkway as well as some of Jasper’s primary streets and avenues. Now, pending the uploading of the data, users will be able to explore Highway 93A, the Marmot Basin Road and Cavell Road.
“As Jasper locals we take navigating a lot of our roads for granted,” Nardella said. “It’s nice to have this for people travelling with smart phones, tablets or GPS.”
And you thought people staring at their devices weren’t enjoying the great outdoors.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
There is a faint light at the end of the dark tunnel known as Jasper’s housing crisis.
Recent conversations between business leaders, Parks Canada and the Jasper Community Housing Committee (JCHC) have spurred new ideas in the vein of addressing Jasper’s housing needs. At a recent JCHC “conversation café,” businesses in Jasper were looking at the residential co-op models and asking how they could create something similar for staff accommodations.
“We’re hoping that with all this discussion someone sees an opportunity,” said Leanne Pelletier, administration officer for the JCHC.
Together with Parks Canada, the JCHC is making it clear that proposals to develop new accommodations on available parcels of land in Jasper are being actively welcomed.
“No one is going to stand in your way as long as it meets the needs of the community,” Pelletier said.
Those proposals could come from a private developer, or they could come from a group of businesses. The problem with the former, is that the community’s needs (more low-cost housing) and a potential developer’s needs (to make a profit) don’t mesh. Rent caps and other revenue-neutralizing restrictions that would allow Parks Canada to release the land at an affordable price mean there isn’t exactly a line-up of potential developers to alleviate Jasper’s housing crisis out of the goodness of their hearts.
“No one has come to us or to Parks Canada at this point,” Pelletier said.
As for the latter—a group of businesses collaborating to develop affordable housing—there are murmurs of hope. Cathy Jenkins, Municipal and Realty Manager for Jasper National Park, said her office is hoping the business community will come forward with a proposal, knowing the value in having quality accommodations for their staff.
“We’re hoping that even though they won’t make a profit they’ll be willing to engage,” Jenkins said.
Jasper Tramway’s Todd Noble attended the last JCHC meeting and was pleased with the tone and the idea-sharing.
“Parks Canada is taking suggestions and participating and asking ‘how can we make this work,’” Noble said. “There might be a light at the end of this long dark tunnel we’ve been going through for a long time.”
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
Don Pickle is jumping mad.
Last year, Pickle wanted to make his kids' trampoline experience a bit safer. He has a small yard, and the high flying tricks the kids were pulling worried him.
"It was dangerous. They could have hit the fence and broke their backs."
Solution? Dig a 17 x 9-foot hole in his front yard. He figured the kids would be less inclined to jump off of his neighbour's roof, too.
"The neighbours didn't like that," he said.
But Parks Canada didn't like his solution. On September 17, 2012, Pickle was served with a stop work order from the agency's compliance officer. He proceeded to drop in the trampoline this past spring.
The issue is unique. Parks first deemed the modification an accessory building and treated it as such: they told Pickle he'd need a variance to have two "buildings" on his property.
But then, Pickle said, their tune changed. The feds were now more worried about his parking stall not being big enough.
"The principal issue at hand is that you modified the parking on your leasehold property and dug a hole in your yard triggering the need for a development permit," said a letter from Parks Canada's Realty office.
Pickle's take on the need for a 20 x 9-foot parking stall is that he already has one, it's just not orientated parallel to his house. He also rebuffs Parks Canada's more recent assessment that the hole is akin to that needed for a swimming pool.
"The Provincial Safety Codes Officer we conferred with has advised that the trampoline installation should be considered similar in requirements to a swimming pool installation, therefore a development permit is required to ensure the fencing is secure," states a sternly-toned letter from the Superintendent.
In that same letter, Parks Canada said if Pickle doesn't move the trampoline and fill the hole, they'll hire a contractor to do the job and send Pickle the invoice. On the morning that the contractor was said to arrive (June 27), Pickle's kids were bouncing around with a petition to save their fun space. "I heart Tramp" their t-shirts read.
Pickle says he is surprised by the whole ordeal. "This has turned into a ridiculous saga," he said. While the kids were pulling triple corks on the trampoline, Pickle was sifting through piles of bylaw history and building codes.
"Things were definitely simpler in the good old days," he said.
BOB COVEY // BOB@THEJASPERLOCAL.COM
Jasper’s first gas station will close its doors in the fall.
The Jasper Shell Service Station, an institution in the community since 1936, will be up for sale come October. The news comes as line ups at all of Jasper’s gas pumps extend onto the streets.
“My suggestion for locals next summer is to get up early to get your gas,” said Salli Madore, who’s owned the Connaught Drive business for 12 years.
The Jasper store is one of a handful of Shell service stations in Western Canada which operate as a lessee-site. Shell Canada is gradually homogenizing their sites to be more corporate, Madore said.
“They want the site the same as the ones in the UK or in Calgary,” she said. “That doesn’t work here.”
Jasper is indeed different. For four months, from May to August, customers pump more than 2 million litres of fuel from the Jasper Shell. The rest of the year sees half of that volume.
Madore said she’s concerned for her 10 employees, who will have to move on.
“I don’t like putting anyone out of work,” she said.
The site is zoned C4—as an automotive services site. The lease with the federal government is valid for at least another 30 years.
Madore predicted the other service stations in town will reap the benefits.
“They’re going to increase business quite a lot,” she said.
Jasper’s Destination Marketing Corporation (JDMC) is recruiting a new Chief Executive Officer to lead the young organization through its next challenges and opportunities.
“We need a strong leader and a good communicator who can articulate our plans for the destination,” said Doug Goss, Chair of JDMC.
Maggie Davison, Tourism Jasper’s first CEO, resigned from the organization in April, having accepted a job with Tourism Edmonton. Goss said Davison’s legacy includes her bringing the organization from infancy into its current form. During her tenure, Tourism Jasper’s budget has gone from $1 million to $2.5 million and moved from Davison’s home office to the historic Jackman House on Patricia Street. The organization now has 10 permanent employees, plus six personnel who operate out of the Visitor Information Centre.
“She’s built a machine, our job is to make sure the machine doesn’t slow down,” Goss said.
Tourism Jasper membership has grown to more than 50 shareholders. Shareholders, which includes area hotels, restaurants and activities, contribute to Tourism Jasper’s revenues via a two per cent Destination Marketing Fee (DMF). Goss said the board hopes to see membership and revenues grow.
“Collectively we can do much more,” he said. “Ideally we’d like unanimous buy-in across town.”
While the membership has been on the rise, not all Jasper businesses are on board. Earl’s in the Rockies revoked their membership from Tourism Jasper last year. Owner Rob Olson said the organization’s values didn’t match those of his restaurant’s.
“It’s a lot of money,” he said. While he didn’t want to elaborate on the decision to withdraw, he said the question of joining again isn’t necessarily off the table.
“I hope that over time they can develop into a positive marketing organization for Jasper,” he said.
Goss understands that there will be critics. Some of the common brushback suggests that Tourism Jasper’s marketing initiatives, particularly those that take the team abroad, are expensive and unquantifiable. Goss’ response is that the results will soon speak for themselves.
“At the end of the day there are always naysayers,” he said. “This organization has only been going for a couple years. We think you need a good five years of activity and strategic planning.”
In the meantime, Tourism Jasper has hired a corporate search firm to find the organization’s new leader. Goss said the ideal candidate will understand the lifestyle in Jasper, as well as inspiring the community’s confidence that the organization is going in the right direction.
“The new candidate will gain the confidence of the community that they’re the person to take the organization to the next level.”
In a month when job seekers are usually pounding the pavement looking for work, Jasper is experiencing a dearth of prospective employees, according to local experts.
Jasper’s Career and Employment Centre is typically inundated with young people looking to spruce up their resumés and find out who’s hiring. That’s just not the case this spring.
“It’s alarming,” said Ginette Marcoux-Frigon, Executive Director of Jasper Adult Learning Centre. “We’ve had almost no people coming into the office.”
The Career and Employment Centre helps direct those looking for work to job openings. One such vacancy, at Smitty’s Restaurant, has sat unanswered for more than six weeks.
“That’s unheard of for this time of year,” Marcoux-Frigon said.
As a consequence, owners and managers in Jasper’s restaurants, retail shops and hotels are having to work extra hours just to stay open. In some cases, despite the approaching summer season, businesses have been forced to temporarily close their doors so what few staff they have can get a break.
Syrahs of Jasper has taken that severe step. Known as one of Jasper’s best places to find a meal, the 40-seat bistro has been turning away potential diners who want to eat on Mondays or Tuesdays.
“Good people are hard to find,” shrugged owner DJ Bowen.
At the Best Western Jasper Inn, restaurant manager Jesse Lent said he’s advertised for line cook positions for months.
“You can’t buy a resumé at this point,” he said.
Theories for the vacancies are varied. A hot economy in the energy industries—and not just in Alberta—has an impact. Changes to the foreign worker program which make it more expensive for employers to turn to foreign workers, also has an effect. A zero-vacancy Jasper rental market certainly doesn’t help. But another factor that Marcoux-Frigon suggests is a changing trend in how young people are approaching the workplace. Particularly with Millenniums—those aged 18 to 20—there are new challenges for employers in keeping them engaged. This group is less interested in leaving home after high school, has higher expectations in terms of rewards and less inclination to stick with a job if other options present themselves.
“I suspect all of this has an impact on the services levels in our community,” Marcoux-Frigon said.
Elk babies are on the move.
Every spring, even as grizzly bears satiate their massive appetites in the valley bottom, it’s Jasper’s ubiquitous ungulates which pose the greatest safety risk, as pregnant cow elk move into areas populated by humans to birth their young. The townsite, area campgrounds and the Jasper Park Lodge property are prime places for mother elk to turn squirrelly.
“They want to be near people but they become overly protective and very aggressive,” said Grant Peregoodoff, Parks Canada’s human-wildlife conflict specialist.
To mitigate the risk, resource management and public safety personnel often move the newborn babies out of high human traffic areas.
The tactic requires a bit of finesse. After the calf is discovered, a designated “calf carrier” picks up the 40 pound bundle while three other hockey stick-wielding personnel “defend.” Having selected a safe place to drop the baby, the group moves in a way that will keep the mother at bay, but still interested in its young. Often that means producing a baby elk squeak, either with an imitation call or by giving the calf a pinch to achieve the real McCoy.
“The call will re-engage the mother,” Peregoodoff said. “Then we re-unite them in a safer location.”
Parks staff can’t always come to the rescue, however. On May 28, a cinnamon bear was spotted feeding on a newborn calf approximately 50 m behind the Catholic Church. Peregoodoff said the baby elk are scentless when they’re born, so the bear likely discovered the calf by accident.
Resource management staff hazed the bear into the forest and moved the carcass.
Local trailblazers can finally own up to their name.
The Jasper Trail Alliance (JTA) and Parks Canada are certifying trail users to perform basic upkeep on Jasper’s network of trails.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Marci DeWandel, who works in Parks Canada’s Visitor Experience office.
Once certified, individuals are permitted to carry small hand saws and trimmers to clear small trees and branches which impede the trails for hikers, bikers and horse riders.
Until this spring, Parks Canada did not allow trail users to clear trails, although DeWandel admitted the practice was known to be fairly commonplace. Now, with Parks’ support, 17 people have attained their Basic Sight Line and Trail Clearing Level 1.
“The interest has been great,” she said.
Don Pilger was one of those certified. On May 26 the avid hiker was setting out for the Pyramid bench with his hiking poles, water and a lunch. Strapped to his pack was a hand saw.
“There were 76 trees down on the Saturday Night Lake Loop last week,” he said. “I had my work cut out for me!”
To track the success of the program and make the clearing more effective,
DeWandel said that those certified with the JTA are required to report their progress to the Friends of Jasper National Park office.
“We want to avoid doubling-up with the trail crew,” she said.
Parks Canada’s nine-person trail crew works mainly in the Three Valley Confluence, focusing on special projects such as upgrades to the Old Fort Point bridge and repairs to the Mt. Edith Cavell area. While newly-certified trail clearers will help their efforts, the trail crew will take care of those downed trees requiring more power than a hand saw.
“The big trees require chainsaws,” DeWandel said.
To find out how to sign up for the next Basic Sight Line and Trail Clearing certification workshop, visit the Jasper Trail Alliance’s Facebook page.
Jasper's book club just got a lot bigger.
On Monday, dozens of books were turning up on park benches, trail heads, street corners and cafés in Jasper.
To help spread the love of reading, the Jasper Adult Learning Centre and Literacy Alberta dropped dozens of books in public spaces where they hope they'll be picked up by curious readers.
Readers like Valerie Grunwald were delighted to discover a present from the book fairies.
"It's a great idea, books should be read, not stored away on a shelf," she said.
Jasperites who find the books are encouraged to tell Literacy Alberta which book they found, where they found it, and to share their stories on social media with the hashtag #readmeAB.
flags fly high to celebrate International day Against homophobia
Mychol Ormandy, OUT Jasper's Program Coordinator and recent recipient of Jasper's Ambassador Share the Spirit Award helped raise the rainbow flag, a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pride over Jasper May 17.
Ormandy was joined by a group of supporters and allies including representatives from Community Outreach Services, the Municipality of Jasper, the Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce and local youth.
"This is amazing," Ormandy posted on the OUTJasper Facebook page. "This is history being made."
The flag was raised in honor of International Day Against Homophobia. Pride-filled Jasper activities continue today (May 17) at Lake Annette, with a BBQ. Everyone is invited.
Stavro Korogonas was flying like an eagle on Thursday, May 16.
The Jasper local was celebrating his first hole-in-one after he aced Jasper Park Lodge's ninth.
Teeing off from the blacks and looking at a blue pin, Koroganas was playing the famed par three about as lengthy as it gets.
"He won't stop talking about it," said his girlfriend, Gabrielle Valcourt. "It's getting annoying."
But what golfer could blame the guy? Taking the post-game celebration well into dinner at Jasper's Tekarra Restaurant, Koroganas was in a generous mood.
"Drinks on me!" he announced. In fact, drinks were on Chef Dave Husereau, who was hosting the restaurant's soft opening.
Derek Baker, assistant pro at the Jasper Park Lodge said he's never seen a shot drained on a blue pin on hole nine.
The hole, which offers a picturesque view of Pyramid Mountain, is 231 yards in length from the black tees but plays about 20 yards shorter on account of the hole's dramatic elevation loss.
When Stavro rolled his in, it was playing about 220, Baker said.
Asked whether Koroganas would have a better chance of getting a hole-in-one from such a distance or winning the lottery, Baker said it was a "coin flip."
New trees are being planted along Connaught Drive.
A small work party of MOJ's Public Works employees, code-named Team Awesome, were filling giant holes with Douglas Firs along Connaught Drive May 15.
The trees average eight feet in height. The municipality received funding through CN, Tree Canada and Communities in Bloom for the beautification project. The grant, which the municipality matched with labour and equipment donations, is worth $25,000.
The program is called CN Eco-Connect.
Jasper's project will create a visual barrier between the railyard and the town, but project outcomes also include increased shading and the chance to reduce vehicle speeding, said Christine Nadon, Communications Manager for the Muni.
"When drivers see things going by them like trees it will actually help them to slow down a little," she said.
Irrigation will be placed to make sure the trees survive.
The holes, 104 of them, have been covered in plywood for the last few weeks, confusing visitors and residents alike.
"I thought y'all they were drilling for oil," said one baffled passerby.
Team Awesome was too busy at being awesome to comment.
May 7, 2013
If a tree falls in Jasper, everybody hears.
At least that’s what Monika Schaefer was hoping for; the local resident recently took up the cause for a 70 year old spruce tree slated for destruction, setting up a vigil over the May 4/5 weekend for the better part of 20 hours.
"I'm telling everyone to write to mayor and council and let them know we don't want this tree destroyed," she said at the time.
The tree in question is beside the Jasper Aquatic Centre. It, along with two others, is to be removed to make way for a new high voltage power line. The line will feed into the new high school, which is being built on the adjacent lot.
ATCO has said the choice to remove the tree was a reluctant decision. Digging under the road, where a cluster of utility lines including water, gas, storm sewer and other cables already lay, was considered too risky.
"The liabilities of crossings, the future impacts of digging...it gets foggy pretty quicklly," said Rod Carrothers, District Manager of ATCO's Mountain District.
Schaefer, who ran for parliament as Yellowhead’s Green Party candidate in the last three federal elections, has for years admired the trees from her home across the street. On May 3 afternoon she and a small group of supporters staked out a spot underneath the largest spruce's broad canopy and brandished signs, protesting the trees' removal. "Why can't they put the power line around the tree?" she said.
The reason, according to ATCO, is one of logistics. Officials considered three alternatives: going under Pyramid Lake road; going across the road to the museum and then back again; and even going on the other side of the Aquatic Centre. None were ideal.
The safest, most cost effective and least risky option was to take the right-of-way where three large spruce trees have grown up for the last half-century.
At the May 7 regular council meeting, Schaefer expressed her disappointment at the decision but said the larger mistake was that the municipality agreed to a land swap with the school division In 2011, the Municipality of Jasper exchanged the "bowling green" area for a parcel where the elementary school stands. A local plebiscite supported the swap, with 60 per cent of voters giving local officials the go-ahead for the exchange.
"That was the mistake that led to this," Schaefer said.
In the meantime, the trees are slated for destruction. ATCO is pledging to plant more trees to replace the greenery.
"When all things are considered, we feel right about the solution," Carrothers said.
officials announce $1 million upgrades to ofp bridge
The bridge spanning the Athabasca River at Old Fort Point is slated for $1 million in repairs, officials announced Tuesday morning.
Yellowhead MP Rob Merrifield made the announcement with JNP Superintendent Greg Fenton.
"I'm pleased to make sure our parks stay current as far as infrastructure goes," Merrifield said.