A nearly 90-year-old lodge that was built to coincide with the opening of the original Banff-Windermere Highway will soon be torn down and removed from Kootenay National Park in the name of ecological improvements.
Built into the rocky hillside overlooking the Radium Hot Springs Pools, the Radium Hot Springs Lodge was constructed in 1925 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, and has since housed hundreds of thousands of visitors during its 86 years of operation, including the late Sir Winston Churchill in 1929.
Because the lodge is located within Kootenay Park boundaries on Crown land, it is classified as an Outlying Commercial Accommodation Operator (OCAO), and until recently, the land on which the lodge sits was under a lease agreement. In January 2001, Parks Canada gave notice to all OCAOs in the Sinclair Canyon area that their leases would not be replaced.
Later that year, Parks Canada purchased and removed three bungalow operations in the Sinclair Canyon area on a willing-buyer/willing-seller basis, said Pam Veinotte, Superintendent of Lake Louise, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks. “At that time, Parks Canada confirmed its intentions to purchase Radium Hot Springs Lodge should funds become available,” she added.
That time has now come.
“Parks Canada has accepted the transfer of title for Radium Hot Springs Lodge back to the Crown on mutually agreeable terms,” Ms. Veinotte said, adding that the terms of the agreement are confidential.
Until recently, the lodge was owned by Hans Brouwer of Sherwood Properties, based out of Wetaskawin, Alberta. He could not be reached for comment by press time.
In addition to the lodge and already-removed bungalows, Parks plans to remove the former Kootenay National Park superintendent’s residence. Since 2001, Parks Canada has spent $750,000 on restoration activities in the area. The cost of the lodge’s removal is yet unknown.
“This initiative is not new,” Ms. Veinotte said. “Parks Canada began removing facilities in Sinclair Canyon 30 years ago, in recognition of the area’s importance as a rare open forest and grasslands ecosystem, and as a low elevation wildlife corridor.
“As the stewards of Canada’s national parks, our first priority is to make sure the natural and cultural treasures we have been entrusted with are protected . . . we feel that the investments made in restoring Kootenay National park to date are valuable to all Canadians and will help us realize long-term ecological goals for Kootenay National Park and its contribution to the Columbia Valley.”
When questioned about the pools and pool parking lots across the highway from the lodge, Ms. Veinotte said she doesn’t expect visitor numbers to the pool to decrease, and that the pool facilities don’t need to be removed because the south side of the highway isn’t comprised of important wildlife habitat or connectivity.
Kent Kebe of the Radium Chamber of Commerce said that while he understands Parks’ reasons for doing so, it’s a sad day to see the 66-room lodge shut down.
“It was a wonderful place for people to come,” he said, “Now we will do what we can to host the visitors who would have gone to the lodge in Radium and other parts of the valley.”
Patricia Kilback, who has managed the lodge for the past 15 years, said, “I will truly miss meeting people from all over the world. I have great memories of working here.”
Patricia hopes to stay in the Radium area, but now faces an uncertain employment future as the lodge she loves closes its doors for the last time.