Banff council and Parks Canada are at odds over future patios on the town’s main road
This is an idea born during the pandemic to promote social travel and help businesses. Four years ago, the seasonal closure of Banff’s most popular road became such a summer experience that the town council voted to make it permanent from late May until Thanksgiving.
Parks Canada supports the pedestrian zone and public seating and tables on Banff Avenue, but not on the commercial patio.
“As we return to regular business, the proposed permanent and continuous expansion of commercial activities in the public space is no longer supported and is against the laws that ensure that this special area is protected,” said the officials of Parks Canada in a statement.
The mayor of the town said that they received a letter from the superintendent at the “11th hour.” While they are talking to Parks Canada, Mayor Corrie DiManno is confident they will continue this summer with patios.
“The Town of Banff feels we’re in a strong position and we’re out of our commercial cap as it relates to the commercial use of public land, but we’re going to continue the talks (with Parks Canada) and are optimistic I hope we can find a resolution,” said Mayor DiManno.
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The closure allowed bars and restaurants to expand their outdoor seating with patios lining Banff Avenue under sweeping views of Cascade Mountain. Pedestrians easily walk crisscrossing the main artery in the heart of the mountain town.
But the closing came with no shortage of controversy among the people who call Banff home. Some locals have raised concerns about the congestion it causes and the traffic it diverts to neighboring streets. Others are concerned about the safety hazard in cases of an emergency. The issue has even sparked protests.
The mayor said that Banff is not crowded, the issue is that there are too many cars. The city is considering a project that would see the expansion of a parking lot on the edge of the city, to help relieve congestion. Banff resident Harvey Locke said he was surprised it was even being considered.
“We’re building a new attraction on Banff Avenue. We’re jamming it with a lot of people, making it difficult to get south of the river and we want to bulldoze a parking lot into a forest that (a) critical wildlife corridor,” Locke said
“We see these decisions being pushed or made in opposition to these larger goals for the national park and that’s not OK.”
Longtime Banff resident Leslie Taylor, who previously served as the town’s mayor and acting superintendent of parks, was among those opposed to the closure. He is also concerned about the friction that has been created between the two governing bodies.
“I’m sad to see the park and the town at odds,” Taylor said. “We all care about the same area and the rules are very clear and the purpose of the rules is very clear.”
DiManno insists that the town has respected the laws that made Banff a special community.
Public consultation will begin in March on the development of the parking lot.
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