Tag Archives: Alberta roads

Access Road Parking – Avalanche Path Public Safety Decision by Federal Court

In December 2012, Sunshine Village Corporation filed an application for an injunction against Parks Canada.  The application sought to overturn Parks Canada’s public safety prohibition regarding Sunshine’s parking operations in the vicinity of the large avalanche paths along the access road, including the avalanche path that hit the road in March 2012.

Sunshine’s application was denied by the Federal Court for reasons of public safety and the public interest.

The December 21, 2012 decision of the Federal Court may be found here.

This video (below) shows the disputed area of road hit by the March 2012 avalanche and the location of Sunshine’s previous parking operations in the avalanche path.

Post-avalanche clean up of road(below). The area of avalanche debris in front of the loader is an area where parking had been permitted prior to the Parks Canada prohibition.

This video (below) shows the congestion and public safety issues caused by Sunshine’s parking operations elsewhere on the access road.

Sunshine Access Road Parking Threatens Public Safety

The ongoing parking congestion and heavy shuttle bus traffic on the Sunshine access road threatens the safety of visitors to Banff National Park and makes a mockery of climate change issues as well. Mixing heavy traffic, parked cars and pedestrians on a narrow mountain road in the middle of winter is a recipe for tragedy. For some reason, Parks Canada continues to allow this foolishness in breach of basic common sense and its own policies and guidelines.

What is Parks Canada thinking?  Is this really what passes for public safety, road safety, environmental leadership and a world-class” “visitor experience” in Canada’s Banff National Park?  If so, the wheels have truly fallen off the bus for the Canadian national park system.

Sunshine Village Snowmaking Damages Important Fish Habitat

The degradation of the Healy Creek area in Banff National Park continues due this time to negligent Sunshine Village snowmaking operations, which resulted in a large landslip into Healy Creek in December 2012.

Healy Creek and Bourgeau Base Area at Sunshine Village
Healy Creek and Bourgeau Base Area at Sunshine Village

The snowmaking system is used to increase capacity on the lower ski-out near the Bourgeau base area.  The increased capacity is needed because Sunshine Village has increased ski-lift capacity elsewhere on the leasehold as well as expanding parking capacity along the Sunshine access road. The ski-out is used by the thousands of additional visitors as a means of egress from the ski area to the parking lot. So Sunshine has cast aside its former “100% Natural Snow” promise and has implemented snowmaking systems to accommodate the increased traffic.  It’s not just the snow that is no longer natural at Sunshine Village.

As Sunshine just gets bigger and bigger, Parks Canada has repeatedly failed to properly manage the Sunshine Village Lease Agreement and has also failed to restrict Sunshine Village operations within the lease boundary as promised in the 2006 Ski Area Management Guidelines.  As a result, Sunshine Village parking operations now extend almost all the way to the Trans-Canada highway 8 km away and well beyond the lease boundary.  This expansion already causes environmental damage due to garbage left along the roadside for which Sunshine denies any responsibility to clean up.

The Healy Creek valley was already significantly impacted even before the landslip, which caused further environmental damage to an important bull and cutthroat trout habitat.  Sunshine Village also removes water from Healy Creek for snowmaking.  The creek flows right through the base area adjacent to the Bourgeau parking lot which has capacity for up to 1700 vehicles.  Hundreds more vehicles are parked along the public road for an additional 8km along the waterway towards the main Bow Valley.

Parks Canada chose not to fine Sunshine Village for the environmental damage and instead made excuses for excusing the company’s negligence.  Parks Canada has lost sight of its primary mandate and role to protect Banff National Park for future generations.    Violations under the federal Fisheries Act can result in substantial fines and the risk of imprisonment.   For some reason though, Sunshine Village rarely faces proper and adequate enforcement actions by Parks Canada.

This latest incident highlights the multi-faceted environmental pressures and damage being done by Sunshine Village operations but the company wants to increase parking capacity even further and to expand the ski area terrain near Wawa Ridge.  Those plans will add further unsustainable and increasingly intensive impacts in the Healy Creek valley.

Healy Creek is an important watershed and tributary of the Bow River in Banff National Park.  The area is also part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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