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Dear Parks Canada: I Don’t Get It

A photo from this past summer at Bonnechere Provincial Park

A photo from this past summer at Bonnechere Provincial Park

Dear Parks Canada,

Yesterday, I saw a news article circulating on social media that caught my attention. It claimed that to help celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, a free annual Parks Canada admission pass would be made available.

I thought this sounded rather nice. It would certainly help spur our family on to see a few more of them. (We regularly visit Provincial Parks, as my camping/roadtrip posts can attest to, but rarely make the distance to national parks.)

So I decided to look into it and find out the details. Naturally, I went to the Parks Canada site. I expected to see this announcement and the details splashed on your homepage. Nothing. So I went to the media room and looked for a news release. Nothing. Then I searched for the Canada’s 150th anniversary page. I found it; but again, nothing. Um, looks like you might need a little communications help.

But I digress. I eventually found out in a CTV news article that individuals who purchase a 2016 pass will receive one for 2017 at no additional cost.

Let me get this straight: People who already visit the parks regularly enough to purchase an annual pass will get to visit for free in 2017.

Isn’t the idea to encourage more visitors? New visitors? You know, expand your customer base. Increase revenue for future years. After all, this revenue is critical since these fees cover the park’s maintenance.

It seems likely to me that the only people who will end up taking advantage of the 2017 free pass are those who already planned to buy a 2016 pass, and likely already bought one in 2015 too. And if I had to guess, I suspect these same folks are people who live in easy driving distance to the parks (i.e. locals). This means that there is no additional tourism revenue sparked from this initiative and a loss of approximately $60 million (total revenue from park fees in 2014) in revenue for Parks Canada.

I don’t get it. Can you please share the rationale with us once you’ve got it figured out?



P.S. For readers who want to check out some of Canada’s spectacular parks, I’ve shared tales and photos from Algonquin Park (Achray), Misery Bay Park, Killbear Park, Lake Superior Park, Gatineau Park, and Mount Robson Park (Berg Lake), among others.


  1. Margo Purcell says:

    Hi Julie,

    Truly understand your point here.

    Found other articles though that said when you buy a 2016 pass you get the 2017 pass at the same time “or you can just wait until 2017 and get the pass for free.” All entry to the parks will be free for 2017 it said – in the Edmonton Journal.

    Hopefully that is correct. As a park pass purchaser (yes, I’m lucky to live in Calgary with ready access to many parks and feel good when buying my pass that I’m supporting the parks) that is a great perk. Hopefully having the gates open and free of charge (it’s $20 for a day pass for a family to visit Banff National Park) will encourage people to go and explore.

    If it really is free entry for all to the parks for 2017 I fully agree it needs to be communicated much better than it has been and the news stories have to be much more clear than just saying “buy 2016 and get 2017 free” as most of them read right now.

    Fingers crossed it’s the free entry for all!!!

    • I’ll have my fingers crossed for you too, Margo. If it’s free entry for anyone, that could really encourage locals (and those in day trip distances, since I haven’t heard anything about camp fees) to visit — many for their first time ever. Once they visit, I’m sure they’ll be hooked on the beauty of the Parks, which in turn, creates more support for the Parks in the future.

      It really is a bit of a treat for locals though and not for visitors. Visitors, like me, to Banff as example, will have already forked out for airfare and accommodations, so a $20 fee is not a barrier.

  2. Well said and I could not agree more!!

  3. Well said :) Let’s hope they get things communicated and straighten out before 2017.

  4. Totally!

  5. Northern Beattie says:

    I was sucked into buying a pass strictly because I thought I would be getting a year for free. However it appears that the parks are free for everyone, not just pass purchasers. I feel a little slighted as I may not have purchased a pass knowing this before hand. But it does give me a reason to explore the parks, so I am not too upset.

  6. I visited last month and heard about this but like you, couldn’t find any further information. We didn’t get a pass in the end but still visited the parks!

    Anyway, we’ll definitely be going back – Canada is truly breath taking. We didn’t want to leave.

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