Glacier Skywalk

The “Glacier Skywalk” opened today along the Icefields Parkway.  It’s a viewpoint built along the highway overhanging the Sunwapta Canyon. (see brief below)glacier skywalk

Critics of the Skywalk got plenty of airtime on CBC.  While they are entitled to their opposition, I suggest they understand very little of this area.  The biggest degradation of this area is not the viewpoint but the road itself.  The road alters predator prey relationships, animal movement, hydrology and introduces people and noise into an area that would otherwise see none but a few dedicated climbers.    People who oppose the skywalk don’t seem to mind using the road to look at these landscapes.  And therein lies my beef.  They overlook the biggest sin because they use it, but are up in arms over the smallest of sins they have no intention of using.  If you are going to oppose the skywalk, then logically if you really cared about the natural environment, the road itself ought to be your highest priority to eliminate!

That 230 km road could disappear tomorrow for all I care.   It would be a wonderful luxury to stand on Mt Wilcox in August without hearing the distant roar of motorcycles plying up the highway stressing out animals and destroying the solitude.  On the other hand, the Skywalk’s additional presence will be completely unnoticed.  

The people who oppose the skywalk along with 99 percent of the population lacks the knowledge, skill or fitness to travel even 100m away from the road and into the vast protected landscapes on either side.  That isn’t going to change anytime soon.  If the point of the parks is to have preserved land free of human influence, the vast majority of the parks already enjoy this by virtue of the fact that so few can actually venture beyond the highway.  If the purpose is for people to get the opportunity to enjoy in a low impact way the landscape in the park, then this viewpoint does that in spades.   

It reminds me of local Canmore residents who recently opposed a residential development project on the grounds that it would be harmful to the environment.  It never seemed to occur to them that they themselves and their own houses could fall under similar objections! 

No, the Icefields Parkway is yet another example of environmental exceptionalism.  It’s okay to pave a swath and usher in millions of cars and people through a pristine area, but heaven forbid you build a highway overlook!  Sorry, but the real damage was already done.  I have no interest in the Skywalk myself.  My interest in this area is to climb and explore, but there are many ways to enjoy these spaces.  If something comes along that is worse than the road itself, then I will oppose it.

Below:  The world just a kilometer beyond and a 1000m vertical up from the new glacier skywalk.  Pristine as ever!  Perhaps if the environmentalists weren’t such city-folk, they would see how little the skywalk changes anything in these parts.




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