No gondola from Banff to Mount Norquay, feds say

Parks Canada dismisses proposal for gondola, Grizzly Pavilion and boardwalks

Smoke haze from forest fires burning in Alberta and B.C. hangs over Banff National Park, Friday, July 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Parks Canada has rejected a proposed gondola to take skiers and hikers from Banff townsite to the summit at the Mount Norquay ski resort.

The federal agency was considering a proposal by Liricon Capital, which owns Mount Norquay, to redevelop lands both inside the Alberta mountain town and at the ski area in the national park.

Officials with Parks Canada said they carefully reviewed a feasibility study and other materials related to that proposal, which was submitted in May 2018.

“There will not be further consideration of the proposed gondola, nor the proposed Grizzly Pavilion and boardwalks, which would be located on lands outside the Mount Norquay leasehold,” the agency said in a written statement to The Canadian Press.

“These components of the feasibility study do not conform with the agency’s policies on limits to development and ski area management in Banff National Park.”

The proposal by Liricon, which was supported by the Town of Banff, would have potentially closed the only access road to the ski hill and returned that land to Parks Canada. Visitors would then park in new lots at the train station in the townsite and ride the gondola over the Trans-Canada Highway to the resort.

Parks Canada said that would negatively affect public use of the Mount Norquay access road.

Jan Waterous, a partner at Liricon Capital, said the company is disappointed with the comments on the proposal but it will try again.

“We will be resubmitting a different proposal for Parks’ consideration in the near term that addresses their concerns,” she said in an email.

Waterous said the company remains confident that the project, along with some transit proposals, could be beneficial for a wildlife corridor that goes across the Norquay road.

“Luckily, the science is on our side,” said Waterous.

An environmental study done for Liricon and posted online suggested the gondola was not likely to have any negative impacts on grizzly bears, wolves and cougars. It suggested further study was needed on bighorn sheep.

In its statement, Parks Canada said Banff National Park’s management plan and the Parks Canada ski area management guidelines were developed with extensive public input and based on the best-available science and research.

“It is Parks Canada’s position that its policies on limits to development are fundamental to protecting the ecological integrity of Banff National Park and to ensure that this treasured place is preserved now and for future generations.

“Parks Canada is not willing to alter its policies to accommodate this proposal.”

READ MORE: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Liricon also wanted to develop land to allow passenger rail to Banff from Calgary as part of the proposal.

In the statement, Parks Canada said the potential for train service would be subject to a separate review.

The Canadian Press

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