Wifi in National Parks? Why not?

1 May, 2014


Wifi in Canada’s National Parks… Might not be such an awful thing.


Outrageous right? Earlier this week when I learned that Parks Canada will soon install Wi-Fi at up to twenty remote wilderness park locations. I was miffed.


“How dare they ruin the one place we go to get away from it all?! Why can’t people go one weekend without checking e-mail?!”


Growing up near the parks, I fondly remember vacations there with my parents as retreats: no friends, no homework, and none of the distractions that came along with living in the city. Just nature walks, picnics, and campfire songs.


But I got to thinking… I also remember spending nights in the trailer striking fear into the hearts of my siblings with my insane N64 skills. When the going got tough we would spend hours parked indoors waiting for the rain to pass. It made the trips more enjoyable for us. We camped in a trailer: a trailer with electricity hookups, a shower, and a stovetop. Some days, we wouldn’t even head off into the woods, we’d spend the day in the Banff town site shopping and relaxing in the hot springs. Not really roughing it hey?


Of course, others would come to the parks in a car with a backpack full of cooking supplies, tents, and food to go spend days out in the middle of nowhere. We thought they were nutty (however, I would eventually become one of those nutjobs). I wonder how they felt about campgrounds evolving to the ones we see now with power outlets? I wonder how the generation before them felt about installing running water in the parks?


Fact is: Wi-Fi has become a commodity almost par with indoor plumbing. With the increasing occurrence of wireless connections pretty much everywhere, a hotspot in the woods only seemed like it would come in a matter of time.


Will I use the parks wireless? Probably not. If I ever have kids (heaven forbid) I’ll want to teach them the importance of unplugging, assuming nature isn’t strictly a virtual experience by then. But people like me, those who don’t see the need to connect to parks Wi-Fi, do not count for the entire population.


As much as I’d love to hog Mother Nature for myself, I’ve come to terms with the fact that it costs a boatload to run a national park. And how are parks funded? Tourism.


If Jimmy-Big-RV with the plasma screen, hot tub, and rooftop bar being towed behind his truck wants to post an Instagram selfie after hiking to a remote view- who am I to stop him? People like him are probably dumping a whole lot more cash into the park than me. If Wi-Fi is going to sustain tourism and keep Canada’s parks projects well funded, why fight it?


Bottom line: I won’t be using the Wi-Fi, and I already avoid hiking overcrowded trails (like Johnston’s Canyon). I’m sure if other trails start to get too crowded because of the Wi-Fi (doubtful) I’ll avoid those too, there are hundreds of other places to go. Sharing Canada’s parks with those who have a different outdoors experience than us is the reality of the world we live in. If you want to check-in on Facebook using Parks’ wireless, go for it bud – just make sure your litter makes it to the bin.


This post is a part of a hidden collection about a charity centred business I launched in 2013/14. The home post is here.