Creating Canada’s National Parks was a significant moment in our collective history. It has become a point of pride and is renowned around the world. But, there was a time early in our countries history where wild spaces weren’t protected or promoted. But one man pushed forward the concept of national parks and aided in creating the legacy they are today. His name was James Harkin.
Creating Canada’s Nationals Parks was a pivotal moment but was far from perfect in the beginning. James Harkin, a journalist turned political conservationist, saw an opportunity to promote parks so that people would be able to experience something that they didn’t even know existed in Canada in the late 1800’s. He knew that education and awe-inspiring experiences were available to tourists and would lead to an intimate connection with nature. Harkin was not foolish, he just wanted to show everyone what he held dear to his own heart.
Harkin knew that parks were valuable for their beauty and their economic presence in an ever-developing country. By advertising and promoting, he enticed people to come visit an area that was closer than they would have expected. It changed people’s view on their world because it got them into the wilderness. Park attendance increased due to the savvy promotion and a more convenient infrastructure. Trains allowed easy access, roads were greatly improved and even the trails were built allowing people to get away from it all.
Harkin knew that if the parks weren’t protected more diligently than they would deteriorate by other means. The extraction of minerals, logging, and other heavy industries could cause much more damage than the passage of people. Harkin never wanted to see harm come to the parks but rather protect them for all to enjoy for decades to come. How could anyone want to damage or destroy an environment that brought forth feelings of amazement and true insignificance? Resource extraction was prohibited in 1930 with the passing of the National Parks Act. I believe that this was one of the most important changes to parks in the last 100 years. Mineral extraction goes against everything that parks aims to protect and has no part in the system.
Tourists were greatly affected when they visited the parks across Canada. They acknowledged that these areas were worth saving from devastation. Yes, the influx of people did cause deterioration but on quite a finite scale compared to what would happen with heavy industry. Imagine what would have happened if Maligne Lake in Jasper was turned into a mine? Protection is not just about saving an area but opening it up for others to experience it. Research and interpretation has lead to education as well.
To this day we still see the impacts that James Harkin had on National Parks. If not for him you might see clear cuts on whole hillsides or canyons that were mined for its resources. He set the precedent that parks needed to be cherished and available to all who wanted to experience its wonder.