It sounds like a no-brainer — a bike trail alongside a world-famous scenic highway through two of Canada’s best-loved national parks.
But Parks Canada documents show the proposed trail down the Icefields Parkway between Banff and Jasper raises a host of complications, from damage to wildlife habitat to safety concerns and increased development pressure.
“It might sound like an innocent trail, but it also comes with other considerations,” said Alison Ronson of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, which has opposed the current proposal.
The most recent federal budget contained $66 million to develop a 107-kilometre bike trail from the Jasper townsite to the Columbia Icefields along the parkway. The trail could eventually extend all the way to Banff.
Cyclists currently hug a narrow shoulder along the highway. Parks Canada is proposing a separate, paved route buffered from the busy road by 10 to 20 metres of trees.
Parks Canada is conducting public consultations on the idea.
Environmental groups have expressed concerns about it. Documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation by researcher Ken Rubin and provided to The Canadian Press suggest Parks Canada officials have some of the same qualms.
“Trail use is likely to be high and will induce further development … or at least demands for further development,” reads a 2016 background document.
Route map of the proposed 109-kilometre Icefields Trail,…
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