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New Project Proposal for Icefields Parkway

Brewster Inc. is inviting the public to give input on their proposed Glacier Discovery Walk Project.

On January 31, Brewster Inc. will host an open house in Jasper to provide information on their proposed project. According to a recent release, Brewster Inc. (Brewster Travel Canada) is proposing to develop a new visitor experience at the Tangle Ridge Viewpoint on the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park. The Glacier Discovery Walk will include a 400-metre interpretative walkway and a glass-floored observation platform extending 30 metres out over the Sunwapta Valley.

“Brewster is committed to ensuring that issues and concerns raised by the public are considered in the planning and design of the project,” stated the company in their release.

The Glacier Discovery Walk will consist of three integrated components. The first, the Receiving Area, will see visitors arrive at the site via a free 6.5-kilometre shuttle bus ride from the Glacier Discovery Centre. From there, visitors will have the option to observe the landscape from the free public viewpoint (currently the north-end pull-off area) or to purchase an admission ticket for an interpretive walk along the Discovery Trail that leads to the views of the Discovery Vista.

The second component is the Discovery Trail. Visitors will experience a guided interpretive walk along a 400-metre walkway overlooking the Sunwapta Valley. The walkway will contain interpretive stations that highlight the ecology, geology, glaciology, Aboriginal history and social history of the area.

The final stop on the journey will be Discovery Vista, a glass-floored observation platform that extends 30 metres over the Sunwapta Valley. According to Brewster Inc., the Discovery Vista will enable visitors to engage with the landscape in a way that was not previously accessible to the majority of Jasper Park visitors.

In addition to the walkway and viewing platform, Brewster says it is their goal to keep additional facilities at the site to a minimum.

“All facilities associated with the proposed project will be within the existing 50-metre right-of-way of the highway,” states Brewster.

Public washrooms, ticketing and parking facilities will be provided by the existing facilities at the Glacier Discovery Centre. On-site staff washrooms and emergency toilets will be self-composting with no additional water requirements. Brewster says that electricity will be provided through on-site solar panels and storage batteries. The facility will only be operational during daylight hours in the summer months. Electricity requirements are expected to be minimal.

Brewster explains that preliminary studies have indicated that there is the potential to reduce highway mortality of wildlife in this area as a result of this project.

“Studies also indicated that sensory disturbance in the area is expected to remain at current levels during the operation of Glacier Discovery Walk,” they state.

Species currently seen in the vicinity of the highway include mountain goats, bighorn sheep and mule deer.

Brewster says that impacts to vegetation are anticipated to be minimal as the site is currently in use and is barren rock for the most part.

“The vegetation study commissioned by Brewster determined that there are no occurrences of at-risk vegetation species on the proposed project site,” states the company. “In addition to the environmental studies, Brewster has commissioned a geotechnical study to ensure the safety and stability of the proposed facilities.”

The company says that additional environmental studies will be undertaken as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment being completed for the federal government.

Since the proposed Glacier Discovery Walk is located in a national park, the federal government, through Parks Canada, will review all project plans and determine whether or not the project may proceed. In addition, Brewster will be required to complete a screening level environmental assessment to identify potential environmental impacts from the project and proposed measures to eliminate or reduce them. Interested parties will have the opportunity to review the draft environmental assessment report for the Glacier Discovery Walk and to provide input to Parks Canada prior to the approval of the project.

The current Tangle Ridge Viewpoint is a 500-metre long “pull-out” on the west side of the Icefields Parkway at the crest of Tangle Ridge. There are currently two walls at the north and south ends of the pull-out that separate the highway from the cliff. There is paved parking for approximately 60 vehicles and three viewpoints for visitors surrounded by a one-metre high chain-link fence.

To find out more about the Glacier Discovery Walk Project, attend the open house on Jan. 31, from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the Jasper Activity Centre. For more information, visit the Brewster website, call 1-866-816-2758 or email info@glacierdiscoverywalk.ca


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