The future of land-use planning and development is up for public discussion until April 3. | L.Wijk/Parks Canada photo Luuk Wijk

Parks Canada is inviting residents and business owners to have their say on the future of how land-use planning and development is administered in the Municipality of Jasper.  

On the table are a handful of issues including determining how to ensure that Parks fulfills its mandate to limit development in the national park and that ecological integrity remains a priority.

The Municipality of Jasper requested to expand its services to include the responsibility for land-use planning and development, which is currently under Parks Canada’s purview. This consultation process opens up the potential to explore employing a new model for these services.

For Mayor Richard Ireland, this is something that Jasper’s elected governments have taken the position of even prior to the municipality’s incorporation in 2001.

“We had presented the position to Parks Canada that we should have a greater say in land-use planning and development at the local level. That didn’t come to fruition when we signed the agreement for the establishment of local government in Jasper 20 some years ago, but it’s always been an issue that we wanted to readdress. Now is the opportunity,” he said.

“The reason that we welcome this is that we think there is a real opportunity for improvements, for local accountability, for an increased sense of transparency and legitimacy in the process with an increase in clarity and certainty and consistency of application for residents and others who have to interact with the system. There’s lots of potential, we think, for improvement.”

Residents will be able to put in their two cents on how community planning can protect or enhance Jasper’s unique character as well as how planning and development approvals should look for different zones in the municipality.

This process is mirrored in the consultations that Parks Canada is conducting with the other municipalities that exist in the national parks. Banff, however, has had its own planning and development autonomy since its incorporation in 1989.

“The reason why we’re doing public consultation is that we’re looking for feedback on the local, regional, and national scales. That’s set up in Canada’s National Parks Act as a requirement on land-use planning and development issues. Now we’re asking the public right across the country their input,” said Daniel Mercer, Parks Canada’s national office manager in charge of the process.

“Obviously, this is a very Jasper-specific issue, but it can have reverberations across the country, I guess, in terms of our governance,” Mercer said.

Jasper National Park’s Superintendent Alan Fehr said that the authority for land-use planning and development exists at the municipal level for most jurisdictions. Jasper is in a very special position, namely that it is situated within a national park that is also a World Heritage Site.

With that come some expectations of how development should be managed.  

“In most jurisdictions, that authority rests at a municipal level. I think it’s fairly safe to say that often people would like to have the authority at the lowest level that’s possible within the hierarchy of government: federal, provincial, territorial and local,” Fehr said.  

“In this case, Parks Canada is the regulator. In the event that we do have some changes, if that’s what the outcome of this initiative is, Parks Canada can still continue to be a regulator. We would still have some form of oversight, because some people are concerned about things like ecological integrity of the park and the expansion of the town and so on. Some of those aspects of managing a town in a national park will not change. But what potentially could happen is that some of the decisions are being done at a more local level.”

Everyone is invited to participate in one of two two-hour in-person Information Sessions to be held at 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on March 16 at the Forest Park Hotel. Registration will open 30 minutes before each session.

People can visit www.letstalkmountainparks.ca to complete a survey and share ideas on its Ideas Board. You can also send your comments directly (or requesting a video conference with the project team) by emailing Daniel.Mercer@pc.gc.ca.

All comments submitted to Parks Canada will be considered anonymous.

Mayor Ireland said that he hopes that as many people as possible take this opportunity to speak their minds during this process.

“We encourage residents to engage and take part and let their views be known,” he said.

By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 08, 2023 at 06:00

This item reprinted with permission from    The Fitzhugh    Jasper, Alberta
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