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Parks Canada approves Sturgess Architecture’s Glacier Discovery Walk project


February 9, 2012
by Canadian Architect

Parks Canada officially announced today that the Glacier Discovery Walk project has met all required environment assessment guidelines and is a project that is acceptable within Parks Canada’s policy framework governing the management and protection of our national parks. Parks Canada has given Brewster Travel Canada approval to proceed with the next steps in the development of the project, including negotiating a mutually acceptable construction contract and lease agreement with Parks Canada. While still subject to additional approvals and reviews, the Glacier Discovery Walk is one step closer to reality.

“We are extremely happy with the outcome of this decision,” said Michael Hannan, President of Brewster Travel Canada. “Over the course of these past two years, we have worked with Parks Canada to ensure all environmental guidelines and regulatory processes not only meet but exceed the standards set for projects operating within a national park.” 

The decision for the Glacier Discovery Walk project, a 400-metre-long guided interpretive walkway with a 30-metre glass-floored observation area overlooking the Sunwapta Valley at the Tangle Ridge Viewpoint in Jasper National Park, is a major step in an extensive regulatory process required by the federal government through Parks Canada for all projects occurring within a national park. In addition to meeting policy guidelines for interpretive experiences within the park, Parks Canada’s review process required the completion of a screening level environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) to identify any potential environmental impacts from the project with proposed means of eliminating and/or mitigating them. CEAA also requires an extensive public consultation period following the release of the Environmental Assessment report. A decision is then made by Parks Canada following a fact-based review of all plans, assessments, studies and consultation inquiries.

As part of the CEAA process, Brewster commissioned a wildlife impact study for the project that focused heavily on collecting mountain goat and bighorn sheep data. The study, submitted along with the Environmental Assessment report, provides new information on the behaviour of wildlife to Parks Canada and other environmental stakeholders. In particular, the study provides clarification about how and when mountain goats and bighorn sheep use trails and cliffs in and around the Sunwapta Canyon Viewpoint, providing experts with a systematic look on how these precious wildlife use front-country sites that already have a high human use and, thus, human interaction.

“The regulations set by Parks Canada are very important to the preservation and also the public use of our national parks,” said Hannan. “We share Parks Canada’s desire to protect the area for future generations. The Glacier Discovery Walk will offer visitors the opportunity to enjoy and learn about the park through a fantastic new interpretive experience that is highly sensitive to the surrounding landscape.”

Brewster’s vision for the project is to create a stunning world-class, fully accessible viewing experience in Jasper National Park that will provide an interpretive guided opportunity that focuses on the wonder of the unique ecosystem, glaciology, and natural and aboriginal history of the iconic Columbia Icefield area. Since the project’s inception, Brewster has worked with designers, architects, engineers and environmental associates to ensure the Glacier Discovery Walk exceeds park standards, reflects and is respectful of the natural surroundings while preserving the natural beauty of the area.

The project’s design – developed by Sturgess Architecture in Calgary – recently won a prestigious international architectural award at the World Festival of Architecture for its stunning design that evokes the surrounding landscape and for incorporation of environmentally friendly elements such as a unique Corten material, a type of steel that will both weather well and blend in with the natural surroundings without using any paint or other colour chemicals. The design was also recognized in part for its ability to provide Canadians of all ages and abilities with barrier-free access to view a piece of our national park in a way that will both challenge and educate visitors.

“We look forward to sharing the Glacier Discovery Walk project and the wonders of Jasper National Park with all Canadians,” added Hannan. “We have been operating in these parks for over 120 years, and we are truly honoured to have the opportunity to continue our tradition of providing an outstanding experience to visitors of these parks from around the world.”

The Glacier Discovery Walk will be developed within the footprint set aside by Parks Canada to provide infrastructure and services for visitors. A full description of the project and the environmental assessment can be found at www.glacierdiscoverywalk.ca.


glacier discovery walk
glacier discovery walk


Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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