Parks Canada is considering several tourism proposals for authentic heritage experiences which, along with Maligne Tours's proposed heritage overnight accommodation, could lead to big changes in visitor experience in Jasper.
A Heritage Logging venture based in the Whirlpool valley is one of the most ambitious.
"Logging in that area is an authentic part of Jasper National Park's history," says Parks Canada planning officer May B. Whynot. "The group campsite at the confluence of the Whirlpool and Athabasca Rivers is often empty so a Heritage logging camp there could be a real draw for visitors. Maybe even some youthful new Canadians and that sort of thing."
Pointing out that the trees logged in the Whirlpool valley back in the early 1900s "have all grown back," Whynot added, "There's no doubt that seeing an authentic log drive would be a unique and meaningful visitor experience, especially for a park visitor who has had the opportunity to cut down his or her own trees."
Farther east in the park, a Hinton-based company is looking at reopening the former town of Pocahontas as a high-end but, of course, extremely green eco-sensitive heritage-themed and several other really nice things, resort. Spokesperson Chevy Luscar says that the resort would have a coal mining theme in order to provide an authentic heritage experience based on the history of Pocahontas as a coal mining area inside a national park.
"We recognize the sensitivities of developing in a national park," Luscar says. "That's why the golf course will be landscaped to look like an authentic strip mine and all the trails will be surfaced with coal slack." He added that the company is prepared to offer themed activities such as pit-lamp tours, coal-based face painting for kids and dynamite blasting on New Years Eve and Canada Day.
Whynot says it is too soon to say which elements of the Pocahontas proposal will be approved, but points out that in other areas bighorn sheep thrive on reclaimed coal mines. "This could be a real win for ecological integrity."
Whynot was not prepared to comment on a rumour currently circulating that Parks Canada is also reviewing a proposal for Heritage carnivore control, other than to confirm that until the 1960s predators were regularly killed in the park "...so, yes, an argument could be made that it is an authentic heritage activity and one which could help increase visitation and revenues by bringing in a market segment we have had some difficulties connecting with."
As with the heritage resort proposal at Maligne Lake, Whynot advised that proper public consultation is important before Parks Canada says yes. "But we are requesting,"she added, "that only males provide comments as, from a heritage point of view, women were not considered persons back when these authentic heritage activities were happening. We need to ensure we respect that historical integrity by conducting only authentic heritage consultations on these proposals that we really, really like but haven't decided on yet."