Monday, April 11, 2016

Save the Waterton Field concerned about visitor centre plan

Proposed site for the new Waterton Visitor Reception Centre

Rashelle Leishman, Letter to the Editor - Parks Canada Administration is planning on building a new Visitor Reception Centre and parking lot on the playing field next to the playground and tennis court without ANY genuine consultation with the public. There are numerous reasons why this is an undesirable location, but with enough public awareness we hope to stop the proposed site from going forward.

The alternative site for the new Visitor Reception Centre would be located on the hill close to the Park operations buildings across from middle Waterton Lake. This would be a better solution. On this site, it would provide easy access and visibility for those entering Waterton Lakes National Park, with extensive space for parking. However, we believe no final decisions for any site should be made without public input and thorough review.

Background Information

​Parks Canada has been granted $7.6 million to build a new Visitor Reception Centre (VRC) in Waterton Lakes National Park. The existing VRC is small and has inadequate parking to meet the needs of those visitors who require assistance. 

The Park settled on two locations to review:
  • Site #1. The area adjacent to current Parks Canada operations buildings (compound) up on the hill across from Middle Waterton Lake.
  • Site #2. The play field next to the Spray Park/Playground/Tennis Courts/Basketball Courts. 
Parks Canada hired specialists and consultants to review those two options and make a decision with NO genuine consultation from the general public. Parks Canada alone decided the factors and weighting of the details that were given to the consultants in order to skew the resulting recommendations to deliver the precise results that they wanted.

After these closed door meetings occurred, Parks Canada announced the new Visitor Reception Centre with parking would be built in the current Play Field.

Current zoning regulations prohibit the building of the new Visitor Reception Centre in the proposed site by Parks Canada as it is an Environmental Reserve/Recreational Reserve, but the Park intends to ignore their own Community Plan and proceed with this site.

​Issues Surrounding the Proposed Site for the new Visitor Reception

  1. Building a VRC with the associated traffic next to a busy playground and spray park poses a significant danger.  Adding more traffic to this already congested area would pose a major hazard to the safety of children who use the spray park, play ground, tennis courts, and restroom.
  2. This is the worst possible location for a view.Waterton Lake is not visible from the proposed site. The view from this location does not provide “unparalleled beauty” as suggested in the Parks Canada news release, as it is surrounded on all sides by man-made structures. In contrast, the view from the suggested location near the compound is absolutely breathtaking. 
  3. The proposed location will be DIFFICULT for visitors to find.  Having discussed this with four different people who have been employed at the current VRC within the last 10 years, their experience has been that visitors require directions BEFORE entering the town site to locate key attractions, and sometimes still have difficulty finding the campground, even WITH directions from Staff at the park entrance
  4. The proposed parking lot for the VRC will be problematic for parking. A parking lot built there will be used by people parking in the morning, who would see it as a convenient spot to leave their vehicle for the entire day, leaving no parking for visitors who might arrive at the VRC throughout the day. 
  5. This playfield has been used by children, young adults, park employees, families, tourists and wildlife for generations.  This is the location used for soccer, frisbee, baseball, slacklining, large group games and so forth. There are a limited number of green spaces in the townsite suitable for use by large groups. Occupying this site with the Visitor Reception Centre, Administrative offices, and associated parking lot will destroy this well loved play field.
  6. It is completely inappropriate for Parks Canada to ignore the Community Plan. The Community Plan specifies the proposed area is zoned as Environmental Reserve and Recreational Reserve. The introduction to the Community Plan is very clear that there is to be no net negative environmental impact from development. Changing a green space designated as Environmental Reserve into a very large building, which even includes administration and office space, as well as a paved parking lot, produces a negative environmental impact in a national Park. 

What you can do

Time is extremely limited. If you would like to see this field stay a field, here is what you can do:

Tweet it!  
  • It’s fast. It’s easy. It’s important! 
  • #WatertonField
  • Waterton MP: @JohnBarlowMP
  • Leader of the Opposition: @RonaAmbrose
  • Minister of the Environment: Catherine McKenna @ec_minister
Write a letter! 
  • You can write a letter to John Barlow (Macleod MP who represents Waterton Lakes National Park) and the following people to express your opposition to this plan. 
  • Macleod MP: John Barlow MP, House of Commons, Ottawa ON, K1A 0A6 (Postage free in Canada)
  • Local MP: Your MP, House of Commons, Ottawa ON, K1A 0A6 (Postage free in Canada)
  • ​Waterton Superintendent: Ifan Thomas, P.O. Box 200, Waterton Park AB T0K 2M0 
  • CEO Parks Canada - Ottawa: Daniel Watson, 30 Victoria Street, Gatineau PG J8X 0B3
  • Minister of Environment: Catherine McKenna, House of Commons, Ottawa ON K1A 0A6 (Postage free in Canada)
  • Waterton External Relations Manager: Doreen McGillis, P.O. Box 200, Waterton Park AB T0K 2M0

  • You can email your letters of concern to or if you don’t have the time to send a letter or don’t have twitter. They will happily print and courier all letters to all the appropriate officials. Please have any letters or emails sent by April 17th so they can be sure they are there before the proposals are due.
You can also visit the website

Related story:
Upcoming infrastructure projects in Waterton Lakes National Park (updated)

1 comment:

  1. Does anyone have a copy of the Park Management plan? or know of how I could get one?


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