Price hike for Radium Hot Springs in southeast B.C. has residents steaming

A soak in the sun at Radium Hot Springs in B.C.’s Kootenay region has become much pricier since the year began.

The pools, part of the Canadian Rockies Hot Springs that include Banff and Miette, are a popular attraction run by Parks Canada. 

It’s not just for B.C. visitors, over 140,000 of whom were recorded from April 2022 to Jan. 19: it’s also a community pool for locals of the east Kootenays, in the province’s southeast.

Since Jan. 1, however, entry fees to the federally-run park went up, prompting complaints from residents. The cost of a single adult-entry ticket has doubled from $8 to $16.50, with an annual adult pass going up 47 per cent to $220.50.

Natasha Schorb says she’s worried about having a safe, affordable place for her young children to learn how to swim.

“I understand that Parks Canada is not in the business of providing municipal pools,” said Schorb, who lives in Invermere near Radium Hot Springs, during a protest with other locals against the fee hike on Saturday.

“But we don’t have an alternative.”

It’s led some residents to pitch a cost-sharing arrangement between the local community and Parks Canada, so tax dollars can be used to subsidize the cost of entry at the Kootenay National Park, where the hot springs are located.

“Prices have doubled and people who live in remote areas like Invermere and Radium, we don’t have rec centres,” said Rob Morrison, the Conservative MP for Kootenay-Columbia.

“That’s just putting it over the top for them to be able to take their families and be able to go and have some fun.”

A swimming pool, surrounded by a balconies with a restaurant and green hills.
The cold pool area at Radium Hot Springs in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia. Admission to the popular park in southeast B.C. has become more expensive after a price hike on Jan. 1. (Greg Eymundson/

Julian England, chief operating officer for the Canadian Rockies Hot Springs, says prices at the park have been frozen since 2004.

“[They] have not substantially increased over the past 18 years and during this time, operational costs have obviously increased significantly,” he told CBC News.

“The fees are used to cover operating, maintenance and capital repair costs that are required to ensure the long-term operation of the Hot Springs for current and future generations to enjoy.”

Fee hike unrelated to infrastructure upgrades: COO

Mike Gray, mayor of the Village of Radium Hot Springs, says community members love having the national park nearby to enjoy.

“We think we still offer a great package and the pools, even with the change in price, is still part of that incredible value package,” he said.

“That impact is significant when you’re looking to take your family out and keep them active. That’s why we make sure we’re trying to keep our other activities low in cost.”

Parks Canada recently announced a $13-million investment to restore facilities at the park, include erosion protection “to safeguard nearby fish habitats,” foundation improvements and hand rail improvements.

England says the fee hikes were not related to the infrastructure investments, adding the last time there were significant upgrades was in the 1990s.

Cost-sharing proposals

England adds the multi-entry passes offer the best value.

“The annual pass … is comparable in price to other community facilities, and that price did not increase as much as the overall entry fee,” he said.

The official says operating pools was expensive, with community pools only recovering around 30 per cent of their costs through fees — the rest made up for through taxes. 

He adds he would be “very happy” to have a conversation with local officials about a cost-sharing arrangement to subsidize fees for local users.

A blue pool cut into the side of a mountain is pictured in shadow.
The hot pool at Radium Hot Springs is a natural hot spring that features mineral water, which is said to have medicinal qualities. (Olivia Robinson/Parks Canada)

The local MP says doing so would help locals access the springs for a lower price.

“Maybe we can work with the regional districts and some of the smaller rural communities to lower the prices,” Morrison said.

“Everybody can chip in [within] that area for locals to be able to have a lower price.”

Meanwhile, the mayor says there is currently no mechanism to operate a cost-sharing system under the regional district model of park and facility governance.

“We’re open to hearing anything they have to say and want to make sure it’s something that’s feasible for our community,” Gray said.

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