Jasper glacier walk targeted by online petition
U.S-based group making misleading claims, says Parks Canada
A campaign opposing a suspended walkway over the Columbia Icefields in Alberta's Jasper National Park has grown into an international cause after an online petition gathered more than 130,000 signatures.
"People are recognizing that the place we love is under immediate attack," said Jasper resident Kim Wallace.
Brewster Travel Canada, whose parent company is based in the United States, wants to build a 400-metre skywalk and glass-floored observation deck suspended from a cliff face at the Tangle Ridge Viewpoint at the Columbia Icefields.
It would charge tourists wanting to use the walkway.
Wallace and other Jasper residents began fighting the proposed mountain walkway earlier this year by writing letters and speaking out at public meetings.
"I'd like to think it was effective," she said. "But I'd sort of resigned myself to accepting that maybe the small voice doesn't count."
Last week, New York-based Avaaz.org rejuvenated the campaign, initiating an online petition that's attracting virtual signatures from across the continent.
But the way the site frames the issue has irked Parks Canada, which will make a decision on the project by the end of the month.
The site portrays the walkway as a first step to privatizing Jasper National Park and posing a dangerous precedent for other world heritage sites.
Parks Canada calls the portrayal misleading, maintaining the National Parks Act outlaws private ownership of land in the park and businesses have operated in the park since its inception.
Nonetheless, the group behind the petition expects to collect 150,000 signatures.
"In a lot of ways, it's a marketing issue," said Kyle Murray business professor at the University of Alberta. "Big American company coming to Canada invading the national park and charging us for access."
"Would you like to sign a petition against that?"
One of the strengths of online campaigns is that they are fast and easy ways for people to express their will, said Murray.
"One of the downsides is it doesn't require much thought."