June 18th, 2024

New infrastructure vital to Waterton’s long-term recovery

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on November 5, 2022.

Herald file photo Guests explore the grounds as Parks Canada held its opening ceremony for the new Visitor Centre in Waterton Lakes National Park earlier this summer.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Waterton Lakes National Park has gone through many changes since the Kenow Wildfire burned through the park in 2017. A lot of work has gone into rebuilding what the fire destroyed.

“There has been a period of extensive rebuilding since the wildfire and we have completed many of the projects,” said Christy Gustavison, visitor experience manager for Waterton Lakes National Park.

She said one of their milestones was having both Akamina and Red Rock parkways open to visitors, as 16 kilometers of the Akamina Parkway and 15 kilometers of the Red Rock Parkway, as well as bridges, guardrails, signs, picnic areas and parking areas were affected by the fire.

Gustavison said many of the trails and day-areas have been restored and at the same time they had other infrastructure projects that are either finished or wrapping up, including the new Waterton Lakes Visitor Centre.

“Immediately after the fire we assessed all of the areas – including the hiking trails and some of our passes – for damage, and we started first by having to remove some of the hazard trees and then looking at what needed to be done from the ground up and it really depended on which area of the park and how much damage there was from the fire,” said Gustavison.

She said other popular places like the Peace Park Plaza and the overlook at the Prince of Wales Hotel have also been recently refurbished.

“We refreshed the Peace Park Plaza and put down some new flagstone and some new walking trails in and around that area,” said Gustavison.

She said that an area called the Linnet Lake Loop Trail has been resurfaced with asphalt.

“The hope is that we’ll make it accessible to a wider range of users and along the trails are some new pullouts with benches for people to soak in the scenery in the wilderness,” said Gustavison.

She said the Bear’s Hump Trail has also been refurbished.

“That was quite an extensive project that required crews to go and rebuild the trail, put in some new stairs and new gravel resurfacing along the way,” said Gustavison.

She added that the townsite campground has also had some work done on the underground utilities.

“We enhanced the number of sites that have water and sewer connection, we resurfaced the campground and it’s also been refreshed and ready to welcome campers again and we can tell it’s been very popular,” said Gustavison.

She said some of the projects were underway prior to the fire, so it has been a real team effort to get many of the areas reopened.

“We’ve had quite a team working on many of these projects with all kinds of expertise, and of course the support of our local business community to make the park look as it does now,” said Gustavison.

She said one of the most recent projects to be completed is the visitor centre, which opened its doors to the community in February this year.

“That particular project was really exciting, because we worked closely with our Indigenous partners on that project. The building itself reflects the longstanding presence of our Indigenous people, especially the Blackfoot, and their connection both to the land and to the park,” said Gustavison.

She said other projects are still being completed, including Crandall Mountain Campground.

“We just completed the underground utilities, and it is a high priority for the agency to secure funding to complete that particular campground,” said Gustavison.

She said visitation to the park has remained strong regardless of construction and she is hoping that will continue.

The visitor centre will remain open during the shoulder season.

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