Making It Easy

Parks CanadaA large office supply company pioneered the idea of an easy button – one push and all your challenges fade away. What if you could make your trip to Canada’s national parks easier? Banff National Park staff has been trying to simplify outdoor adventures.

Last year Parks Canada launched Equipped Camping sites – a tent with sleeping pads is set up and waiting, removing the need to buy camping gear or stressing over how to assemble tent poles. At Two Jack Lakeside campground in 2013 Parks Canada constructed oTENTiks – sturdy tent/cabin hybrids to keep the rain out and your bones off the ground.

Both initiatives have been popular – the oTENTiks are fully booked most of the summer – and now the Red Chairs are coming to Banff National Park. The idea for the chairs came from Gros Morne National Park where pairs of red Adirondack-style chairs were installed hoping visitors would sit and ponder great views. The chairs were so popular, “there were line-ups to sit in some the chairs,” recalled Greg Danchuk, Visitor Experience Manager at Banff National Park.

Now visitors can relax in the red chairs at several locations in Banff National Park such as the Hoodoos interpretive trail or at the Valleyview picnic area. “We placed them in places that are very easy to get to,” said Danchuk. There are nine pairs of chairs in the park with the possibility of adding more.

Although some people raised concerns initially that the chairs would encourage environmental overuse, Danchuk stresses, “They are not placed in the backcountry or hard-to-find areas. We would also never place them on rehabilitated ground. We will monitor them to see if there are any negative impacts but so far there has been no significant problems.”

From 2006 to 2011 attendance at national parks dropped. Concerned about the decrease, Parks Canada saw attracting new Canadians as a way to rebuild visitation. But with more Canadians living in cities, outdoor skills can be rusty or non-existent. Making it easier for people to experience the outdoors is a strategy being tried by park planners across North America and it seems to be attracting new customers to Banff National Park. “We project a 7% increase in Banff park visitation for the year ending March 31, 2015 and we think some of that increase is from initiatives like oTENTiks, Equipped Campsites and the Red Chairs that make it easier to enjoy nature.”

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