A Banff historical site that marks the birthplace of Canada's parks system is getting a $13.8-million renovation.
Conservative MP Blake Richards announced the federal cash for the Cave and Basin National Historic Site — home to hot springs — on Tuesday morning.
Plans included new multimedia and interpretive displays, an open plaza with a water feature, and a community gathering place that could host citizenship ceremonies. The money will also be spent on conserving the historic buildings and restoring habitat for the endangered Banff Springs snail.
Construction could begin as soon as spring of next year, although the design hasn't been settled, pending an environmental assessment. The site was last renovated in 1985.
Stavros Karlos, the Deputy Mayor of Banff, said the town is also upgrading the road to the site.
"It is our hope that the re-invigorization of Cave Avenue will create a warmer welcome to the site and show people the way down this way more often. So they don't just hit that 'T' intersection and go to the left to the Fairmont Banff Springs, but rather they visit the actual birthplace of the Canadian parks system."
Three railway workers discovered the Cave and Basin hot springs in 1883 with the dream of starting a bathing resort. Their public fight over ownership led to the federal government declaring the site Canada's first national park.
The pools on the site are now closed to the public.
Banff Spring snails, each about the size of a lemon seed, are found only in pools at the historic site on Sulphur Mountain. In 2005, there were only 34,000 left, but the population fluctuates.
Hot springs contain minerals, little oxygen, high concentrations of dissolved hydrogen sulphide gas, and even some radioactivity. Most Banff Springs snails live in the part of the springs where the water gurgles up from the ground.