Banff National Park is the jewel of the Canadian Rockies — and its most sparkly facet is Lake Louise, famous for emerald waters, dense forests, and glittering reflections of Victoria Glacier. But the peaceful-looking spot is actually a battleground between a large Canadian hotel chain and environmentalists who want to put a stop to a proposed $45 million, six-story addition to the already-giant Chateau Lake Louise hotel. The battle has raged for nearly a decade, with developers arguing that parks must provide the kind of services that will keep tourism a vital part of the national economy, and environmentalists countering that such development threatens the natural wonders the parks were designed to protect. With 5 million visitors every year — and as many as 20,000 per day around Lake Louise — Banff is already North America’s most developed park. Enviros say the hotel expansion will place undue stress on the fragile lake region and its grizzly bears, lynx, wolverines, and other wildlife; they also see it as a symbolic battle for the soul of Canada’s national parks.
Get Grist in your inbox