Kootenay National Park about to turn 100

Ninety-nine years of publicly-accessible wilderness

Ninety-nine years ago – before the pipeline disagreement, the wine stalemate and the occasional bout of sibling rivalry – British Columbia wanted to be more-closely connected to Alberta. British Columbia wanted to be so close to its BFF that the provincial government asked the federal government for a highway to run between them. In exchange, British Columbia offered the Government of Canada a grand swath of land.

That deal, struck on April 21st, 1920, resulted in Highway 93 and Kootenay National Park.

But why run a highway through a national park?

“Highways in national parks create opportunities for people to access them, and they come with some challenges that we are managing to this day and have always managed,” said Rick Kubian, a superintendent with Parks Canada.

He is looking forward to marking the 100-year anniversary of the deal that offered Canadians a direct route to wilderness, camping, grand adventures and wildlife encounters.

“We’re really trying to organize up sort of a year’s worth of activities and projects to highlight the park’s natural and cultural history and celebrate its many features. We’re going to be looking to program a whole bunch of fun and interesting ways visitors can interact with the park’s history,” he said.

The celebrations are still in the works, and the Parks Canada team is looking for your ideas and favourite memories to make the festivities extra great and to help encourage everyone – from locals to visitors, youth, newcomers and more – to head into the park to experience the wilderness.

“We’re still in the planning mode on a lot of this stuff, so we’re very interested in folks getting involved. If anybody’s got any pictures or ways that they might think we could help celebrate the centennial, we’d be happy to hear from them. We’d love to get Kootenay photos, mementos or stories from any of your readers,” he said. “I think the park kind of holds a special place for a lot of locals.”

From Stanley Glacier to the Kindersley – Sinclair Loop to the 55-kilometre Rockwall Trail to loads of day hikes, backpacking opportunities and more, Kootenay National Park has tons to offer everyone who pauses to smell the wildflowers, explore the trails and check out the fossils. Plus, Mr. Kubian said the park comes with the added benefit of being quieter than the neighbouring national parks of Banff and Jasper.

“I hope folks next year might really just take a moment and plan to spend a little bit of time in Kootenay National Park and enjoy this little treasure that we have in our backyard,” Mr. Kubian said, adding that he is “really excited to see the park sort of highlighted nationally and to see it sort of celebrated across the system (of national parks).”

Those with photos of the park, memories to share and ideas for the celebrations are welcome to contact Tony Berryman, the Kootenay centennial coordinator, at 250-347-6622.

“We’re celebrating a hundred years of history in the park, but we’re also looking forward to the future with what we hope Kootenay National Park can be going forward,” Mr. Kubian said.

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