It’s several minutes to sunrise when I realized that I’m standing in the most beautiful place in this world. My lungs breathe in the alpine air and the light of the sun slowly wash over the rugged mountain peaks.
Steps away are crystal clear lakes, flowing rivers, thundering waterfalls, and deep canyons. This is my backyard – where I live and work here in Jasper, Alberta, Canada. Jasper is a peaceful and intimate former railway town situated in some of the world’s most breathtaking wilderness.
Here the community extends beyond its people to the abundance of wildlife. This town is home to its original habitants of elk, bison, bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goats. The pawed and hoofed animals created their trails over 11,000 years ago.
Here in Jasper, the community is deeply connected to Aboriginal people, who discovered and lived off the land before non-native explores, fur traders and railway company employees settled among the mountains and created this town.
Jasper National Park is Canada’s largest Rocky Mountain Park spanning over 10,000 square kilometers and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. People from across Canada and the world are drawn to the brilliance of the natural environment.
Tourism is the primary industry drawing over two million visitors annually to Jasper.
The national parks of Canada are a source of pride for Canadians and an integral part of our identify. Tourism is the primary industry drawing over two million visitors annually to Jasper. I had the opportunity to work in Jasper National Park and live in this community of fewer than 5,000 people. Jasper is a special place – a mountain town that welcomes visitors and was not purposely built as a tourist resort.
Community of Stewards
I volunteered for Parks Canada as a Caribou Ambassador and Park Steward. The purpose was to learn about Caribou, share knowledge, build awareness and protect a species at risk. Woodland Caribou populations are in serious decline in Alberta with crucial habitat areas experiencing extreme development pressure.
Many of the residents in town are involved in volunteer work – a wide range of cultural and educational activities. Their collective efforts to educate the community and build knowledge enables visitors to take positive environmental action to conserve.
Celebrating and connecting Aboriginal culture was important to the community of Jasper. Indigenous people, whose ancestors lived in the area, were asked to share their deep understanding of nature and spirit at community gatherings, festivals and celebrations including National Aboriginal Day.
I learned from the community – understanding the natural and cultural forces that created and shaped Canada. The breathtaking scenery here evokes a desire to explore, a yearning to learn more about it, and a desire to respect and protect it. To evoke such feelings in myself and visitors demonstrates the power a community has on its local tourism.
My time in Jasper National Park was a deeply moving experience that will continue to stay with me for a long time. Aside from the natural wonders and beauty of the Canadian Rockies, I came to love and be a part of the kind people of Jasper and learn their rich culture and way of life.
This blog post is an entry for the UNWTO 2014 World Tourism Day Blogger Competition
Municipality of Jasper, Culture and Recreation
Parks Canada, Jasper National Park of Canada
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society
Parks Canada Jasper National Park of Canada: Annual Report 2013
With World Tourism Day just around the corner, always remember to be an informed traveler!
- Buy local
- Respect the culture you are visiting
- Protect heritage
- Save energy
- Protect the surroundings
- Respect the environment
Have a look at the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism to make sure your trip is as sustainable and responsible as possible!