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Fate of Banff summer pedestrian zone up in the air as Parks Canada disputes town’s decision

A decision about whether Banff’s main street will continue to restrict vehicle traffic during the summer is on hold.

Since the summer of 2020, a section of Banff Avenue has closed and turned into a pedestrian zone.

In December, the town council voted in favour of the pedestrian zone being implemented between May Long Weekend and Thanksgiving weekend.

Council was set to finalize funding this week, as part of approving the town’s capital and operating budget for the year.

However, the Banff superintendent of Parks Canada sent a letter to council stating that the proposed commercial use of public spaces that go along with the pedestrian zone goes against park laws.

“Now that the unprecedented times are behind us, the proposed ongoing commercial use (e.g., restaurant patios, outdoor merchandise displays) of public space, is contrary to the laws which ensure this special place is protected and that both the Town of Banff and Parks Canada remain committed to,” Salman Rasheed, superintendent of the Banff Field Unit for Parks Canada, said in the letter.

The letter continued on to say that the park’s management plan prevails over the town’s bylaws when conflicts arise.

Rasheed requested a meeting with council before any further decisions were made.

“Before you proceed with deciding on approval of the budget related to the annual implementation of the Banff Avenue Pedestrian Zone, I would kindly request that we – together in managing this special place on behalf of Canadians – have a discussion to ensure we remain aligned on our mutual goals,” the letter read.

If approved, the pedestrian zone will continue on a temporary basis in 2024, according to the town’s website.

Then later in the year, Banff would look at options for interim infrastructure changes to improve the zone for the future, such as adding ramps to curbs and modifying the median to improve accessibility.

The town previously announced in November that it had “no plans” to continue with the pedestrian zone, but opened the issue up for input through a survey and public workshop.

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