SkywalkGlacier Discovery Walk and National Park planning.

GENV 3701 student Natalie Gillis chose to study the role of National Park organizations and public participation within national parks. She will investigate these roles using a case study example of the Glacier Discovery Walk in Jasper National Park. The development sparked extensive objections within the public community and Jasper National Park organizations. The majority of these objections are based on arguments relating to the environmental impacts associated with the skywalk.

The Glacier Discovery Walk is being financed by Brewster Travel Canada, a prominent tourism company in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The development features a semi-circular loop overlooking the Sunwapta Valley. The loop provides tourists a bird’s-eye-view experience of the Athabasca Glacier area. Construction of the glacial skywalk is currently underway, with plans for it to be completed by May 2014. The skywalk will be open to tourists through the months of May to October and will provide an interpretive storytelling description of natural features in the area.

Gillis interviewed many key stakeholders during her time in the area to understand the controversy surrounding the Glacial Discovery Skywalk. She hopes this information will assist her in determining the level of involvement that different stakeholders have in this project. 

“I believe this research will be really beneficial to understanding where our National Parks are at now, and how they take into consideration public input,” Gillis said. “National parks are supposed to be for all citizens and for the protection of the environment, and it will be interesting to see if these commercial developments are hindering this idea of what a National Park is supposed to be.”

Natalie is currently compiling interview data and reading through environmental impact assessments associated with the project. She is hopeful that this background literature will provide evidence for her to determine whether or not National Park organizations and the public were properly consulted in the proposal of this project. Natalie will disseminate her course research through reports and presentations in class and send it back to the park as well.

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