When visitors come calling, a trip up to the top of Mount Revelstoke to see the pristine scenery is a must, especially at this time of year when the alpine meadows are at their best and in full bloom. The people of Revelstoke have had a long love affair with this Park since they were instrumental in having this area designated as a National Park in 1914 and they enjoy sharing this special place with their visitors.
I was surprised and concerned, on my visit this year, to see several man-made additions to the natural scenery along the Meadows in the Sky Trail. I shared my concerns with the local Parks administration and it seems they are “public art pieces by artists from the Secwepemc, K’tunanxa and Sylix First Nations.“ I understand that part of the mandate of the Parks is to be “partners in building on the rich traditions of Aboriginal peoples.” My concern is not with the nature of the art or the right of Aboriginal peoples to want to maintain a presence in the area of the Park, which is regarded as part of their area of traditional use, by these peoples. My concern is with the location of the art pieces in an otherwise pristine setting.
The role of Parks Canada is being “a guardian of our National Parks” and involves a “ commitment to protecting our natural and cultural heritage.” (I quote from the Parks Mandate statement). Does the placement of these pieces of public art fit this mandate or can they be seen as intrusions into an otherwise natural setting? Installation and off-trail paths to these items must do further damage to the natural vegetation and (they can be regarded as) interruptions to the mountain vistas. Also the placement of the art pieces seems to be at odds with the 30-year goal of the Park to reestablish the natural environment in areas formerly damaged by human development.
Informal chats with visitors I met on the trail seemed to echo my concerns. How do others feel about this? Maybe alongside the buildings at Balsam Lake would be a less intrusive location for this art?
Parks Canada was contacted regarding the length of time these art works have been exhibited in the park. Here’s what they had to say:
“The public art pieces along the First Footsteps Trail at the summit of Mount Revelstoke were created in 2006 by artists from the neighbouring Secwepemc and Sylix First Nations and children from the K’tunanxa First Nation.The art and interpretive exhibits along the First Footsteps Trail are a permanent part of that self-guiding trail, although some elements are removed every autumn to prevent snow damage.
“Parks Canada encourages First Nations to present their stories at all of Canada’s national parks, and the installations on the trail are artistic expressions of the first people of the Columbia Mountains. Interpretive panels accompany the art installations, explaining the intent of the piece and explaining more about First Nations life in the mountains. Note that the First Footsteps Trail is the only interpretive experience in Mount Revelstoke and Glacier national parks that currently presents First Nations stories.”