To commemorate Canada’s sesquicentennial anniversary of its birth as a nation, the Government of Canada is making the Free 2017 Discovery Pass offer, which will allow free access to all national parks in the country for the entire year.
Demand for the free Canada Parks pass has been so heavy that the Canadian government posted a statement on the site with regard to “issues,” as reported by Global News.
“Due to the exceptionally high volume of Discovery Pass online orders, you may experience delays in accessing the site,” the Parks Canada Discovery pass statement was quoted.
Issues were reported to begin as soon as the offer first became available on Thursday, December 1, and to have continued into the weekend.
The government encourages those who have tried and failed to obtain their free pass to “try again later” and notes that the Discovery Pass 2017 offer is not for a limited time, Canadians may access the passes for free on the Parks Canada website through all of 2017.
The Discovery Pass is said to include free admission to national parks, national marine conservation areas, and national historic sites. Fees are still charged for other services, such as park tours, camping, rentals, and Parks Canada merchandise.
In anticipation of an increased number of park visitors through 2017, Parks Canada is reported to be increasing the number of available camping sites, as well as committing advertising dollars to promoting less-popular destinations.
Just one Discovery Pass is required for each vehicle arriving at a Canadian national park. Families and friends traveling together do not need to worry about downloading individual passes, which would seem to make a certain amount of sense for a free offer.
The agency, administered by the Minister of the Environment, has advised Canadians that the website with the free pass offer will be unavailable between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. tomorrow, Sunday, December 4, 2017, for maintenance, perhaps in order to upgrade capacity with the increased traffic it has received.
Business owners in Banff, Alberta, located within Banff National Park, are reported to be pleased with expectations that the free Discovery Pass will bring increased tourist business, particularly among Canadians, to the park, helping boost revenues. Local business owners cite a large proportion of visitors to Banff coming from the United States.
Other Banff locals, however, are said to be less enthusiastic with the free Parks Canada pass initiative. Global News reports that the mayor of Banff, Karen Sorensen, has concerns with regard to parking and traffic congestion. Conversationalists are said to have concerns about area’s “fragile ecosystems.”
Mary-Eve Marchaud, a conversationalist, stated that increased numbers of visitors would bring more garbage, people camping in places that they otherwise would not, and the creation of trails that did not exist before, potentially resulting in a fragmentation of currently relatively pristine environments.
“Since 2013, visitation to Banff National Park has increased by 24 percent,” Jayme Doll with Global News stated.
Greg Danchuk, with Parks Canada, spoke about meetings between the Town of Banff and Parks Canada officials that have been planned over coming months to address the issues raised by the mayor and other concerned parties.
Michael Mendelman, the CEO of the Banff Hospitality Collective, stated that he wished that Parks Canada had decided to charge fees through 2017 and used the proceeds to make a significant investment in the town, instead of offering admission for free.
“If it makes one person in, let’s call it, Calgary,” the collective CEO was quoted, “to come and experience the park, and everything that is alluring about it, then maybe it is a good thing.”
[Featured Image by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images]