Attendance was so strong at the 2024 Jasper Annual Forum that organizers had to put out extra seats to accommodate the crowd for Supt. Alan Fehr’s address. | Scott Hayes / Jasper FitzhughScott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Visitation continues to be strong for Jasper National Park, which received 2.48 million visitors last year.

This was among several topics discussed during the 2024 Annual Public Forum, which had a booming crowd of around 100 attendees, at the Jasper Activity Centre on Tuesday evening.

The event offers the chance for Jasper National Park administration to report back to the public on highlights of its operations from the previous calendar year.

It also gives the public a prime opportunity to offer its own feedback on key areas such as wildfire risk reduction efforts, the issue of bears in the Jasper townsite and usage and management of the Park Canada’s extensive trail system.

“The annual forum is our opportunity to highlight certain topics, and often they’re topics where we want input,” said Supt. Alan Fehr.

The guidebook to the forum is the 2023 Jasper National Park Annual Report. It reveals that there were more than 2.48 million visitors last year, an increase of 60,000 from the previous year and a more than 20 per cent jump from 2012/13 when visitation had only just broken the two-million milestone.

Seeing such numbers is great, Fehr said, but that volume of people definitely has an impact.

“We want people to come to national parks. We want people to be out on trails, enjoying things, going to the lakes, going birdwatching, skiing, what have you. In peak periods, that also creates difficulties with congestion, public safety issues, that kind of thing.”

He directed people to the booth for Visitor Use Management Planning.

“For Lake Edith and Lake Annette, what do they recommend that we do there? There’s all sorts of different solutions or options. Each has its pros and cons. That’s one of the reasons why – aside from just reporting back on 2023 – we’re also interested in what’s happening in the future.”

He mused about what the public might contribute in terms of its thoughts on public shuttles, bike trails and more. It’s one thing for people to have enough interest in such initiatives, but Fehr just hopes that they don’t keep it to themselves.

“We want to hear about it because that might influence where we spend our money, how we spend our time just in general and in our capital plan.”

His presentation, which he shared with External Relations Manager Neil McInnis and Resource Conservation Manager Dave Argument, also revealed some other highlights that can be found in the annual report:

· the park trail crew put in more than 20,000 hours maintaining, constructing and grooming trails;

· there were more than 19 Indigenous community events held at the Cultural Use Area;

· Jasper National Park saw 520,700 frontcountry campers and 15,100 backcountry campers;

· the Wildlife Patrol had 19,800 contacts with visitors;

· staff removed 80 bear-attractant fruit trees;

· Human-wildlife coexistence staff responded to more than 400 bear incidents in the townsite;

· and ecologists planted 5,300 whitebark pine to help bolster the population of the endangered species.

Parks Canada also held a virtual public forum on Wednesday. Attendance numbers were not available by press time.

By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 13, 2024 at 12:00

This item reprinted with permission from    The Fitzhugh    Jasper, Alberta

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