By Breanne Massey

Pioneer Staff

The Government of Canada announced infrastructure investments totalling more than $44 million for several Parks Canada sites located within Kootenay National Park on Parks Day 2015.

David Wilks, MP of Kootenay-Columbia, declared on the July 18th celebration, that visitors from all over Canada and the world would be better connected to the heart of the Rockies through improvements on Highway 93 South, repair and rehabilitation at the Radium Hot Springs, and emergency flood response work to bridges, campgrounds and day-use areas within the park. Canadas Parks Day is an annual celebration to promote national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas through family-oriented events that protect the habitat.

On behalf of the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and the Minister responsible for Parks Canada, Im honoured to be here today to announce $44 million in infrastructure investments for a number of key projects for Parks Canada all across Kootenay National Park and Radium Hot Springs, said Mr. Wilks, noting that paving is already underway on a 13-kilometre section of Highway 93 between McLeod Meadows and Settlers Road. Of this total, our government is investing $30.4 million toward extensive paving and rock slope stabilization to work on Highway 93 South.

Canadian Rockies Hot Springs chief operating officer Julian England remarked the investment being put toward the Radium Hot Springs would be aimed at improving the entire facility.

A lot of it is (happening) in areas that the public doesnt necessarily see, which is the mechanicals of the building, the fact that water comes through the roof spaces and things at the moment, explained Mr. England. We need to redo all of the membranes and things, so there will be improvements that the public sees when we get to doing that, but were starting from the bottom were not just putting lipstick on.

Plans to upgrade the Radium Hot Springs destination have been in Mr. Englands mind and that of his teams for several years.

The first thing that (people) will start to see is in the restaurant space, which is currently closed, said Mr. England. We have the plans all designed for that, and over this winter, the space will be refurbished into a new cafe area. Its really important that this building owns its heritage.

The 1950s building will be renovated to reflect the Golden Age of Canada.

Were going to have a 50s diner style cafe in (there) with neon, said Mr. England. The building needs to own what it was. Its a (heritage) building (in category 2, which is the same as the Parliament building) The reason its architecturally important is that this was the first building put in the parks that moved away from traditional architectural style that was really brought through in the 20s and 30s and thats why this is seen as such an important heritage.

But Wayne Stetski, NDP Candidate for Kootenay Columbia, is disillusioned by the Harper Governments announcement after spending a career working as a regional manager in B.C. for Parks Canada.

Basically, the Conservatives are claiming that they are boosting funding, but the money is just fixing infrastructure that theyve allowed to crumble, said Mr. Stetski. Theyre not improving the parks or access.

Mr. Stetski added the cuts to the Parks budget and staffing have increased at a rapid speed while the Conservatives have been in power, including when $27 million was cut from Parks Canada in 2012. He hinted that the upcoming election could be the cause behind the monetary contribution announced last weekend.

Interesting timing around the announcement after years of cuts, concluded Mr. Stetski.

According to Parks Canada, the Kootenay National Park welcomes roughly 400,000 visitors every year. During 2014, there were 21 million visits made to Canadas national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas.

Kootenay National Park represents the southwestern region of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Our government is committed to renewing visitor facilities, said Mr. Wilks. These projects will enhance the world class offer available in Kootenay National Park, and continue to draw visitors from around the world.