As I was embarking on my journey from Ontario to Alberta for the 2012 NiCHE field school at Banff I was beyond excited. Banff is an iconic location in Canada; it’s one of those places Canadians just know about, like Parliament Hill, the C.N. Tower or the Calgary Stampede. It wasn’t until I entered the Recreation and Leisure Department at the University of Waterloo that I really understood the complex nature of Banff National Park. During my undergrad I focused on the management of parks, especially in relation of visitors. Banff was the first park that was always talked about, it’s the park that got the ball rolling, the birth place of Canada’s National Park system. I had done projects on the history of Banff, on the ecologically sensitive species found in the park, and the wildlife management practices regarding overpasses and underpass construction. But I had never been to Banff. I wasn’t able to fully understand all the management issues associated with Banff. While visiting I was able to really learn about and see all the neat management techniques used at Banff. These management techniques consisted of wildlife management, human management, heritage management and ecological intervention. I will summarize my favourite aspects of the trip in regards to management within the park. As a Tourism Policy and Planning graduate student I find the process of management cooperation within parks a fascinating planning technique.
Banff town site and Heritage management.
When we arrived in Banff and drove through the town I was surprised to find that it wasn’t like the typical touristy strip you see so often in tourist towns. It was a town. It had a school and restaurants and local shops. It did have the big souvenir shops but they were usually localized in a certain area. From what I have learned about Banff, the town site is represented in a bad way. I think the way the town provides a home for those that work in the park is great. It reduces transportation pollution that would have been caused by people commuting in. To me it seemed as though this was just a small town within a park. Tourist accommodations were incorporated into the town but large hotels weren’t located on every busy corner. Overall I thought the management involved with including a town site within a national park was done very well.
We visited many heritage sites within Banff: the Banff museum, Bankhead town site, the Archive, Cave and Basins etc. I found that the way Banff is managed is not only natural but effectively engages with the human heritage of the area. By having a museum of a museum (the Banff Park Museum) it allows people to understand how modern museums started as well as how animals were presented for scientific study before technological advancements. As well the amount of old historic homes within Banff was amazing. It was so interesting to learn about the early families that reside in Banff and how they affected the town site and National park.
I think learning about environmental intervention was one of my favourite themes of the Banff trip. One place I found that this was done a lot was at the Cave and Basin. Not only is the Cave and Basin historically significant it also houses a variety of ecological sensitive ecosystems. The Basin snail was my favourite part of the whole trip. I found it so neat how so much management went in to protecting such a small creature. I find that a lot of the time when animals are protected it is because they are valued for humanistic reasons; they’re mammals and furry and cute. The Banff spring snail is a tiny snail! There is so much protection around it that this has affected the way people enjoy and interact with the Cave and Basin. I think this is good, these species need to be protected, and humans need to exist within nature. These species play an integral role in the ecosystem and I think what Banff is doing is great.
I really enjoyed the trip to Banff. It was such a wonderful experience where I was able to meet others interested in the same things I am. As well I was able to learn about environmental history which I did not know about before. The people I met at Banff and the experiences I had have impacted the way I think about management in National Parks. It’s easy to talk about management but it is so much more complex in real life.
Bobbie Swartman is an MA student in Tourism Policy and Planning at the University of Waterloo