Parks Canada says no to the proposed gondola from the town of Banff to Mount Norquay

BANFF, ALTA.—Parks Canada has rejected a proposed gondola to take skiers and hikers from the town of Banff to the summit at the Mount Norquay ski resort.

The federal agency was considering a proposal from Liricon Capital, which owns the complex, to redevelop leased land within the Alberta mountain city and in the Banff National Park ski area.

Parks Canada officials said they reviewed a feasibility study and other materials related to the proposal submitted in May 2018.

“There will be no further consideration of the proposed gondola, nor of the proposed Grizzly Pavilion and boardwalks, which would be located on land outside of the Mount Norquay lease,” the agency said in a written statement to The Canadian Press.

“These components of the feasibility study do not align with agency policies regarding the boundaries of ski area development and management in Banff National Park.”

Liricon’s proposal, which was supported by the city of Banff, would potentially have closed the only access road to the ski slope and returned that land to Parks Canada. Visitors would have parked in new lots at the Banff train station and rode the gondola down the Trans-Canada Highway to the resort.

Parks Canada said that would have negatively affected public use of the Mount Norquay access road.

Jan Waterous, a partner at Liricon Capital, said the company is disappointed but will try again.

“We will resubmit a different proposal for … consideration at short notice that addresses your concerns,” he said in an email.

Waterous said the company remains confident that the project, along with some transit proposals, could be beneficial to the environment.

“Fortunately, science is on our side.”

An environmental study conducted for Liricon and published online suggested the gondola probably wouldn’t harm grizzly bears, wolves and cougars. He suggested that more studies on bighorn sheep were needed.

In its statement, Parks Canada said the Banff National Park Development Plan and Parks Canada Ski Area Management Guidelines were developed with broad public input and were based on the best available science and research.

“Parks Canada’s position is that its development boundary policies are critical to protecting the ecological integrity of Banff National Park and ensuring that this precious place is preserved now and for future generations.

“Parks Canada is not willing to change its policies to accommodate this proposal.”

Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen said the city respects Parks Canada’s decision.

“We know how important it is to work within the boundaries of development in Banff National Park,” he said in a statement.

Environmental groups welcomed the decision to reject the gondola, as well as the pavilion and boardwalks.

“We’re pleased that Parks Canada … is prioritizing nature and ecological integrity in the region,” said Katie Morrison, director of conservation for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s southern Alberta chapter.

Reg Bunyan, who is with the Bow Valley Naturalists, said the group hopes the parks agency will also take steps to limit the impact of traffic on the highway by introducing a dusk-to-dawn restriction.

The for-profit proposal would not have done enough to improve wildlife corridors around the city of Banff, Morrison said.

“The scope of development in the proposal would have further compromised connectivity and critical habitats,” he said.

Liricon also wants to develop land to enable passenger rail service to Banff from Calgary.

In the statement, Parks Canada said the possibility of a train connection would be subject to a separate review.

— By Colette Derworiz in Edmonton

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