Parks Canada
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A History of Canada's National Parks
Volume I


The compilation of a history of Canada's National Parks was conceived and initiated by J.R.B. Coleman while Chief of the National Parks Service. The continued growth of the park system, an accelerated development of the parks in the years following World War 2; a drastic reduction in the space devoted to national parks in the annual report of the Department; and the loss of many early files under the departmental records retention and disposal plan, all indicated the need of a permanent record. Consequently, the Park Superintendents were requested in 1956 to co-operate in the preparation of material that would assist in the completion of a concise history of outstanding events and developments in each park.

By 1961, brief histories or historical sketches of all fully-developed parks had been prepared. A review of this material disclosed that in many parks, much valuable and interesting information had been assembled from available records. In other parks, a dearth of pertinent historical information seemed evident. Desirable and necessary particulars of departmental administration, park legislation, and park policy appeared to be available only from records and files in Ottawa. Coordination of the historical data on hand with that still to be assembled, presented a problem. Available staff, faced with consuming day-to-day assignments, could not be spared for an additional project. As a result, the compilation of the proposed history had to be deferred.

Eventually, the task was assigned. Following his retirement in 1968 from the Public Service of Canada, W.F. Lothian was engaged under contract in 1969 to undertake the preparation of a history of national park development in Canada. The original plan providing for a detailed history of each park was discarded. Instead, a proposal that successive phases of national park establishment, administration and development be outlined in a series of chapters was adopted. Consequently, Chapter 1 outlines events leading to the establishment of the first national park and the early park reserves. Chapters 2 and 3 contain brief histories of the development of the parks established prior to 1969. Chapter 4 provides details of national park administration, legislation, and some of the attendant problems. Subsequent chapters when completed, will describe park land use, townsite and highway development, visitor services centres, wild life conservation, facilities for recreation, interpretation services, and extensions to the national park system.

The preparation of this history has been complicated by the march of time. Since 1967, when title to the lands comprising Kejimkujik National Park was accepted by Canada, 10 additional areas have been set aside for the purposes of national parks. Appropriations for the development of new parks and for improvements to older ones have been substantially increased, and an extensive reorganization of the Conservation Program involving national park administration has been announced. In view of the continuing character of park programs, it is impractical to record indefinitely the changes involved. Consequently, the events chronicled, unless otherwise indicated, will conclude with those of 1972, and refer to parks established prior to 1969.

The author wishes to acknowledge the value of the historical information and supporting data provided by the park superintendents. Appreciation also is expressed for assistance received from the Departmental Librarian, Mrs. M.R. Watson, and her staff; from Dr. J.R. Bonar, retired archivist of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company; from the Librarian, Canadian National Railways; from the Director, Archives of the Canadian Rockies at Banff, Mrs. M.H. Stewart; from T.R. McCloy of the Glenbow Alberta Institute, Calgary; and from many others. The encouragement and support of J.R.B. Coleman, formerly Director, National and Historic Parks Branch, and of J.I. Nicol, Director-General, Parks Canada, also are greatly appreciated.

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