Another milestone has been reached in the process of securing the Banff and Jasper airstrips. I expected everything to be completed and in place by now, but progress in government agencies is often painfully slow.
Technically we succeeded in our 30- year old struggle two years ago with the positive decision by the Minister of the Environment to maintain the airstrips for emergency and diversionary use, plus limited recreational use at the Jasper airstrip. However, we are still waiting for Parks Canada to fully implement the decision.
They have been slowly moving forward. The mountain parks operate under an approved Management Plan which is updated every five years or so and the previous plan stated that the airstrips were to be decommissioned. When the minister’s decision was announces in March of 2008, Parks was just beginning a scheduled update of their management plans. They decided to roll this amendment into this regular update process.
The updated management plans were finally approved and published on June 15. Both the Banff and the Jasper management plans now state that these mountain airstrips will be retained for emergency and diversionary use. The 2010 Management Plans can be found on their respective websites under the “Park Management” link.
The next step in the process is for Parks to amend the National Parks Aircraft Access Regulations to include these two airstrips. This is a piece of legislation that specifies which national parks contain airstrips and what are the conditions for their use. When this legislation was passed by the government in 1995 the Banff and Jasper airstrips were not included because of the decision by then Minister of the Environment Sheila Copps to decommission the airstrips. As you know we have been working since then to get this reversed.
Once re-listed in the National Parks Aircraft Access Regulations, Parks Canada can proceed to have the CFS and VNCs updated and publish the rules for recreational access to Jasper.Until then recreational use of the Jasper airstrip is not permitted.
I do not know when this will be completed but the publishing of the management plans is a significant step forward. COPA will continue to monitor progress and work with the park Superintendents to insure we keep moving in the right direction.
Just remember, if you are flying through these Rocky Mountain passes the two airstrips are still there and are available for emergency and diversionary use. They are on the VNCs and in the CFS. If you are faced with an emergency or unsafe weather conditions do not hesitate to use them.
Meanwhile, keep your prop spinning.