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Friday, October 11, 2002

Tourism Zonation System - Mapping the Province

Access in the Midcountry may be provided by helicopter, float plane, boat, or unpaved resource roads. Heli-skiing, multi-day heli-hiking, motor launch cruises, mountain biking, and some guest ranches are examples of adventure activities associated with this zone. The Midcountry zone and its experiences are found surrounding, and outside of, protected areas. As a result the Midcountry tourism zone serves to buffer (and link) areas in a fashion consistent with the principles of Conservation Biology. Examples of such Midcountry zones occur in lands surrounding parks such as the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, Glacier National Park, and Wells Gray Provincial Park.

As well Midcountry operations (such as heli-skiing) in parks could lead to key conflicts with conservation priorities. As a result, future expansion of Midcountry-style tourism is not recommended for lands protected in parks. Rather, these operations should be located on the perimeters of parks. Containing the level of access and infrastructure and keeping the zone from becoming too developed is a key issue in the management of the Midcountry/Natural Zone.

The Frontcountry/Intensive Tourism Zone services large volumes of tourists in a naturally scenic though substantially human altered environment. Often, the more natural Mid and Backcountry zones provide the scenic backdrop for Frontcountry/Intensive zones (e.g. the Banff National Park Frontcountry looks into extensive Backcountry vistas). Tourism in the Frontcountry/Intensive Zone will often be closely linked to motorized, high volume transportation on major highway or rail corridors, or through nearby airports. Tourism in this zone often involves the use and development of substantial infrastructure: destination resorts, motels, restaurants, shopping areas, entertainment services, ski areas, and so on. Adventure tourism activities associated with the Frontcountry/Intensive zone include daytrip rafting, daytrip ski touring and nordic track skiing, daytrip heli-hiking, highway based nature viewing tours and paved road bicycle tours.

Frontcountry tourism activities appeal to tourists seeking a short-duration, outdoor oriented activity. Tourists enjoying the Frontcountry often do not have the time to explore further into the Midcountry, or prefer to limit their natural experience in order to enjoy the full comfort and convenience of hotels and restaurants. Protection of viewscapes and scenic corridors is an important element of Frontcountry tourism management.

Frontcountry zones have developed adjacent to some BC parks. The best examples occurs at the world class Frontcountry resort of Whistler, which benefits from its viewscape of the adjacent Backcountry Garibaldi Provincial Park. Within parks, the intensity of Frontcountry use and development leads to severe conflicts with conservation priorities. The example of the Banff townsite development, where an entire tourism supported town has sprung up at a significant cost to wildlife and wilderness, exemplifies this. Controversies of the type that have long plagued Frontcountry tourism at locations like Cypress Bowl Park, where a full scale ski hill operates, indicate that future expansion of Frontcountry tourism within parks should not be allowed. Rather, such intensive tourism should be located outside of protected areas.

The Urban Tourism Zone is an integral part of the Tourism Zonation System, although as far as wilderness tourism and parks management is concerned in BC, it is of minimal significance. This zone corresponds with urban areas with populations over 20,000 people where a wide variety of services are provided. Culturally-based tourism is the strongest feature of this zone.

Ethos Environmental Inc.

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