||April 2011 issue||
Resizing Canada’s national parks by numbers of visitors
By Chris Brackley, Steven Fick and Kelly Greig
|Click map to enlarge|
If we were to list the biggest national parks in the country,
which ones would make the cut? Well, it would depend on
what “big” means.
The map above, for example, sizes Canada’s 42 national parks
relative to the number of visitors they attract. By that measure,
parks located in the mountainous region of Western Canada are
major magnets. Banff National Park alone boasts more than three
million visits annually. The inset map, however, shows national
parks by actual land mass, and a different picture emerges.
Compare, for example, Canada’s southernmost and northernmost
parks. In 2010, southern Ontario’s Point Pelee National
Park attracted 240,081 visitors to its cozy 15-square-kilometre
Carolinian paradise. By contrast, in Quttinirpaaq National Park,
located on Ellesmere Island in the High Arctic, a hardy two
visitors (and an untold number of polar bears) had 37,775 square
kilometres all to themselves.
According to its mandate, Parks Canada’s first priority is to
protect Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, which explains why
key representative habitats are part of the park system. More than
just attracting visitors, it’s ensuring that these places remain wild.
But to be economically viable and relevant to Canadians, the
park system must attract visitors. On that measure, Parks Canada
is holding its own. Overall, the system has seen a three-percent
rise in visits, due partly to the growing popularity of parks such
as Wood Buffalo in Alberta and the Northwest Territories,
Grasslands in Saskatchewan and Gros Morne in Newfoundland.
So, who is the biggest on the block? We’ll call it a draw.