British Columbia

Radium ready for privatized hot springs

People living in Radium Hot Springs are on board with a plan to privitize the springs for which the village was named.

People living in Radium Hot Springs appear willing to take a dip into privatization,  but don't want to plunge in head first.

On Tuesday, Parks Canada announced its plans to private hot springs in three of its National Parks, including the iconic Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park.

The Radium hot springs are a source of pride in the region and are part of what first drew people to the valley over a century ago.

"Radium Hot Springs is our namesake and one of the largest draws for visitors from around the world," said longtime resident Doug McIntosh.

The Banff Upper Hot Springs, Radium Hot Springs and Miette Hot Springs in Jasper, Alta., will all be operated by a private company within a year. (CBC)

His family ran a resort next to the spring for decades. He says he has seen many changes come and go, but this could be the biggest of them all.

McIntosh says like most people in Radium, philosophically, he's okay with the plan but wants to know more.

"I think they want particulars of the proposal. Folks are saying to me If the facility can operated by a private operator under the overview of Parks Canada it may be beneficial to the operation," said McIntosh.

Private operator to take control within year

Within the year, Parks Canada will relinquish control of the hot springs and contract them out to a private operator. The private operator will control admission fees and hours.

The Radium Hot Springs get 270,000 visits a year, but that number has stayed stagnant in recent years, said Tracy Thiessen, executive director of mountain parks for Parks Canada.

She says that's one reason why the crown agency is getting out of the business.

"They are absolutely iconic and one of the most beautiful parts of the province. We think there's way more potential, and it will be the private sector that will be able to tap into that," said Thiessen

Parks Canada says most of the 42 staff working at the pools across the tree parks will be given the opportunity to take other jobs at Parks Canada or apply for jobs with the new business operators.

With files from the CBC's Bob Keating