What we heard

Kootenay National Park

Summary of Comments on the Draft Kootenay National Park Management Plan-Phase II Public and Indigenous Engagement Program


According to the Canada National Parks Act, each national park must have a park management plan. These plans reflect Parks Canada’s national direction and provide park-specific strategic direction for delivering on the core elements of Parks Canada’s mandate — visitor experience, public understanding and awareness, and heritage resource protection.

Park management plans are reviewed regularly so that they:

  • reflect new Government of Canada applicable priorities and legislation, as well as new Parks Canada direction;
  • incorporate new knowledge, best practices and approaches; 
  • include consideration of new challenges and opportunities relevant to the management of the park; 
  • strengthen the integrated delivery of Parks Canada’s mandate within and between contiguous parks to ensure that resource protection, visitor experience, and learning opportunities are mutually supportive; and
  • incorporate decisions and achievements made or advice developed through public participation processes since the previous plan.

Each new or amended national park management plan must be approved by the federal minister responsible for national parks and tabled in Parliament before it takes effect.

The Engagement Process

The first phase of engagement focused on assessing the current state of the park, and identifying important opportunities and challenges that should be addressed in the park management plan. The first phase of engagement ran from January 30 to May 10, 2019, and included a range of opportunities designed to gather input from Indigenous communities, youth, local stakeholders and other Canadians. Stakeholder workshops, community information events, and the Let’s Talk Mountain Parks online platform were used to gather input. The outcome of this process was used to craft a draft management plan for Kootenay National Park, completed in early 2021.

The second phase of public engagement was conducted between April 8, 2021 and July 8, 2021 in conjunction with the six other mountain national parks in southern British Columbia and Alberta. Engagement with interested Indigenous communities was completed in January 2022. Draft management plans were posted on the Let’s Talk Mountain Parks website along with various tools to support public input, including a survey, ideas board, and “Have Your Say” response pages. Public and stakeholder workshops were held by videoconference with interested parties in Field, Golden, and Radium Hot Springs, with Parks Canada staff, and with representatives of the Canadian Rockies Youth Forum, and the Young Canadian Professionals for Conservation Network. All of the input received during both phases of engagement was carefully considered by the planning team in the development of the Kootenay National Park Management Plan.

What We Heard

Overall there was widespread support for the protection of the park and the objectives contained within the park management plan. Many expressed a desire to see broader issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples addressed as top priorities at the park level and beyond. 

There appeared to be a general sentiment that the draft plan was going in the right direction, with broad support expressed for protecting park resources and wilderness character, maintaining limits to development, taking a landscape-level approach, and improving the relationships and roles for Indigenous peoples in park management.

Topics where respondents indicated a high degree of support include maintaining functional wildlife corridors, maintaining wilderness character, employing visitor use management strategies to address increasing visitation, restoring local populations of species at risk, maintaining sustainable visitor facilities, and working to monitor and mitigate threats from climate change.

The comments on frequently mentioned topics are summarized below. This summary is not intended to be a detailed representation of every view; rather, it is a high-level overview of the most commonly expressed ideas.

What We Heard
... About Ecological Integrity, Conservation and Wildlife

Key ideas expressed on this topic include:

  • Widespread support for protecting the park’s ecological integrity, with Parks Canada encouraged to prioritize the needs of nature over the interests or desires of humans in order to achieve a net improvement in ecological integrity, recovery of species at risk and conservation of native biodiversity.
  • Overwhelming support for maintaining the wilderness character of the park and strictly limiting development in order to protect wildlife habitat and biodiversity.
  • Kootenay National Park is relatively undeveloped compared to neighbouring mountain parks, and this is a valued characteristic that should be maintained.
  • Concern about the impacts of increasing visitation, with recommendations to curtail promotional activity to ease this pressure.
  • The desire for Parks Canada to reduce human-caused noise and light pollution in order to maintain ecological integrity and nature-based experiences.
  • There is strong support for the protection of wildlife corridors and landscape connectivity within and beyond park boundaries, and for maintaining limits to growth, with some respondents wishing to see a reduction of commercial activities and development in the park.
  • There is support for the use of prescribed fires to restore forest ecosystems, although there is some concern related to large-scale burns and the financial resources required to support them. Incorporating Indigenous burning practices into fire management is seen as an important evolution of fire policy, especially as this relates to addressing forest fuel buildup.
  • Parks Canada needs to do more to address perceived negative visitor behaviours through visitor use management strategies, stewardship education and enforcement.
  • Vehicle-related wildlife mortality on Highway 93S is a big concern. There is a perceived lack of speed enforcement on this highway.
  • Increasing use of the Kootenay River by paddlers has raised concerns about potential wildlife disturbance within this corridor and local effects of improper human waste management.
What We Heard
... About Visitor Experience and Visitor Use Management

Key ideas expressed on this topic include:

  • Maintaining access to backcountry opportunities, and repairing backcountry facilities that are in poor condition is a primary concern for many. The Rockwall was noted as the most popular area, where backcountry infrastructure is below standard.  
  • Some respondents asked Parks Canada to recognise and promote the long-distance Great Divide Trail (GDT) concept, and consider the creation of a new camping opportunity for these users below the existing Floe Lake campground. 
  • Some respondents requested a lottery system for booking backcountry campsites on the Rockwall. Conversely others suggested that some sites should be available for short-term, first-come, first-served camping as not everyone can plan months ahead due to work or family responsibilities. Some suggested that day-use on the Rockwall should also be limited by a mandatory reservation system.
  • A comprehensive visitor use management strategy and a cap on the number of visits were identified as important tools that can be used to maintain the park’s unique, undeveloped character and support both visitor experience and ecological objectives.   
  • Implementing new methods of accessing the popular areas of Radium Hot Pools and the trailheads and day use areas in the north of the park were suggested to address visitation pressures. These included transit, shuttles, walking, and improved bicycle access
  • The trend toward large recreational vehicles (RVs) was a concern for some, with suggestions that Parks Canada should stop facilitating use by large RVs to reduce demands on park space and infrastructure, and contribute to a reduction in carbon emissions. 
  • Numerous respondents asked that Parks Canada re-focus on providing nature-based camping experiences by addressing issues of noise (loud music, generators), outdoor lighting and the disruptive behaviour of some park visitors. Some requested more un-serviced campsites to support traditional camping experiences, and were supportive of improvements to both Marble Canyon and McLeod Meadows campgrounds. 
  • The Paint Pots interpretive trail was identified as a priority for renewal, as the existing interpretation is out-dated and is in very poor condition. This was seen as an opportunity for Parks Canada to work together with Indigenous partners to present the important Indigenous cultural significance of this site.
  • The increasing popularity of E-bikes could lead to a significant increase in road cycling. Parks Canada should support this by providing wider, paved road shoulders on Highway 93S.
  • The lack of infrastructure to support paddling on the Vermilion and Kootenay rivers was identified as a gap given the increasing popularity of river recreation. It was suggested that Parks Canada provide some basic riverside camping opportunities and facilities to manage human waste both within the park, and through partnering with others at take out points downstream.
What We Heard
... About Indigenous Relationships

Key ideas expressed on this topic include:

  • There was strong support expressed for Parks Canada’s objectives related to enhancing relationships with Indigenous partners, and incorporating Indigenous knowledge into park management. Some felt that this theme should be given a higher priority in the plan, while others supported the concept but wished to see more details about what this would look like on the ground. Others were concerned that this strategy would lead to hunting, fishing and gathering in the park, which they did not support.
  • Many people expressed interest in learning more about Indigenous history and culture, and encouraged Parks Canada to create opportunities for Indigenous people to tell their own stories. Applying Indigenous place names to features in the park was a topic of interest, as was the importance of incorporating Indigenous burning practices into forest restoration and fire management programs. 
  • Indigenous people should be present in the park and feel welcome to use park lands and waters according to their traditional and modern practices.
  • Parks Canada and Indigenous partners should work together to identify collaborative projects and to develop indicators to measure the success of Indigenous reconciliation.
  • Indigenous people should benefit from economic opportunities in the park as long as this does not involve expanding development into wilderness or beyond existing growth limits. 
What We Heard
... About Climate Change

Key ideas expressed on this topic include:

  • A strategy to address climate change is essential and should be given greater emphasis in the plan. Some commenters wished to see a more aggressive approach to combatting climate change, and urged Parks Canada to provide greater leadership and a commitment to becoming carbon-neutral by 2035. 
  • Parks Canada should develop a comprehensive climate change plan aligned with federal government commitments that provides a clear transition to clean energy and an electric vehicle fleet for the park. 
  • Parks Canada should focus on the ecological effects of climate change and conduct research to identify areas of the park that could become important climate refugia for biodiversity as conditions change and species ranges shift. 
  • Specific suggestions on how Parks Canada could respond to climate change in the park included: improving bike infrastructure; prohibiting gas-powered generators and large RVs in park campgrounds; and developing an escalating fee structure where drivers of large, less fuel efficient vehicles like RVs pay higher park entrance and camping fees, compared to people arriving in smaller vehicles, electric vehicles, or on transit or bicycles.
What We Heard
... About the Planning Process and Plan Content

Key ideas expressed on this topic include:

  • The management plan is well-organised, comprehensive and broadly endorsed. The high-level, strategic nature of the plans was supported, although some felt that more details would enable the public to more easily hold Parks Canada accountable over the life of the plan. approval
  • Some wished to see Parks Canada return to a 5-year management plan review cycle.  
  • More measurable targets would allow for better assessment of progress throughout the implementation of the plan. 
  • Parks Canada should take a leadership role in working collaboratively with partners on initiatives of mutual interest. Working with adjacent land managers to improve wildlife connectivity and maintain biodiversity values in the landscape around the park is seen as particularly important.
What We Heard
... About Cultural Resource Management

Key ideas expressed on this topic include:

  • Parks Canada was encouraged to recognise and share more information on the cultural heritage of the park, with particular emphasis on increasing awareness of Indigenous cultural heritage and resources. 
  • Interest was expressed in revitalising the interpretation of the Paint Pots area, and in having more opportunities to learn about the history of Highway 93S. 
What We Heard
... About Park Assets and Infrastructure

Key ideas expressed on this topic include:

  • There is a broad level of support for limits on development and infrastructure, especially as it relates to commercial enterprises. It was noted that more facilities would likely bring more visitors resulting in greater environmental impacts.
  • There is support for maintaining and improving backcountry camping infrastructure, while avoiding expansion of facilities to protect wilderness. 
  • Parks Canada was encouraged to repair assets that are in poor condition such as picnic tables, crumbling stone walls, signs and privies. The addition of composting toilets was suggested.
  • Parks Canada was encouraged to expand wildlife fencing along Highway 93S in the Vermilion Valley. The lack of wildlife overpasses along this highway was identified as a gap.
What We Heard
... About Education and Communication

Key ideas expressed on this topic include:

  • More effort is required to address undesirable visitor behaviours and promote the concept of shared park stewardship. Sharing space with wildlife, littering, and Leave No Trace principles were topics of interest. 
  • Providing education to Canadians who do not visit the park through outreach and various media is supported by many, while others suggested that building connection only comes from direct experience with the place and in-park interpretation programs. 
  • Parks Canada was encouraged to provide more interpretive learning opportunities on various topics including conservation science, Indigenous heritage, the Burgess Shale, and the history of the park.
  • Some are concerned about the lack of park staff to provide information and educational messages in the northern part of the park. The development of a small information and interpretation facility near the north boundary was suggested to remedy this shortcoming.
  • The Kootenay Explora app was commended as a very useful tool, but the lack of recent updates to the content was identified as a weakness.
  • Input from young Canadians revealed a strong interest in learning about the natural and cultural heritage of the park, and in being involved in research programs that lead to a better understanding of important issues such as climate change. The value of in-park education facilities such as the Palisades Centre in Jasper National Park was highlighted, and Parks Canada was encouraged to consider similar facilities in other parks. 

How the Plan Changed ... 

Numerous revisions were made to the draft Park Management Plan as a result of the feedback received from Phase 2 of the Indigenous and Public Engagement Program. These include:

  • Acknowledgement of the historical and current significance of the area to Indigenous peoples, and affirmation of the ongoing and central role for them in the park’s future;
  • Revision of some targets and addition of a number of new targets to address input related to working with Indigenous partners, addressing light pollution, addressing climate change, improving cycling opportunities, protecting and interpreting the park’s cultural heritage, and providing stewardship education;
  • Addition of a commitment to provide a riverside camping opportunity for paddlers on the Kootenay River;
  • Recognition of the potential role of the mountain national parks as climate refugia that can support ecosystem adaptation to climate change;
  • Clarification of Parks Canada’s 10-year management planning cycle, and the role of annual implementation reporting and stakeholder engagement;
  • Addition of context to explain and situate the Climate Change Key Strategy within the broader Parks Canada Departmental Sustainable Development Strategy;
  • Recognition that achieving many of the targets and objectives in the plan will depend on the interests and capacity of Indigenous partners and other collaborators.

The approved Kootenay National Park of Canada Management Plan can be viewed and downloaded at:

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