Government of Canada celebrates re-opening of Wahkotowin Visitor Information Centre in Elk Island National Park

News release














Federal infrastructure investments support connecting Canadians to nature


May 4, 2019                          Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta               Parks Canada Agency

Parks Canada’s places represent the very best that Canada has to offer, and tell the stories of who we are, including the history, cultures, and contributions of Indigenous peoples.

Today, the Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Natural Resources and Member of Parliament for Edmonton Mill Woods, on behalf of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, celebrated the re-opening of the Wahkotowin Visitor Information Centre in Elk Island National Park. The recently upgraded visitor centre, along with numerous other park projects, are a result of the federal infrastructure investment program of approximately $24 million in Elk Island National Park.

Located at the south entrance of the park, the newly upgraded visitor centre will provide a unique sense of arrival. For thousands of years, the land now known as Elk Island National Park has been a meeting place for people to gather and the park continues this important tradition today. Parks Canada is committed to a system of national heritage places that honours the contributions of Indigenous peoples, their histories and cultures, as well as the special relationship Indigenous peoples have with traditional lands and waters.

Elk Island National Park is the centre of bison conservation in Canada. Upgraded perimeter park fencing ensure the ongoing protection of bison within the park limits. Other completed infrastructure projects include: extensive road improvements, improvements to the Astotin theatre and Astotin Campground registration and information kiosk, among other projects. Where possible, designs focused on accessibility and green building principles.

The Government of Canada is pleased to continue to offer free admission to all Parks Canada’s places for youth aged 17 and under. By encouraging young people to discover nature and connect with history, we can help to inspire the next generation of stewards for these protected places. In celebration of diversity, Parks Canada continues to offer free admission to new Canadian citizens for one year through the Institute for Canadian Citizenship’s Cultural Access Pass Program.

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Quotes

“Through investments in our national parks, our government is improving park conservation efforts, while ensuring that Canadians have the opportunity to experience the beautiful outdoors and learn about our environment and heritage. The Wahkotowin Visitor Information Centre is an exciting addition to Elk Island National Park. This centre will be an excellent connection point for the rich Indigenous history of the area. Plus, in keeping with the important role of Elk Island in bison conservation, upgrades to boundary fencing will ensure the long-term protection of this important species. With these and many other infrastructure improvements throughout the park, we look forward to providing an incredible experience and welcoming visitors this year at Elk Island National Park.”

The Honourable Amarjeet Sohi,
Minister of Natural Resources and Member of Parliament for Edmonton Mill Woods

Quick facts

  • As part of the celebrations, the Visitor Information Centre was renamed Wahkotowin by a local Indigenous Cree Elder, Melanie Campiou. Wahkotowin is a Cree term meaning the sacred relationship with the land and all that dwells on it. It is incorporated into Indigenous kinship ties and shapes

  • The Wahkotowin Visitor Information Centre now boasts informative exhibits and beautiful imagery that will guide visitors in all the park has to offer. This fully accessible building has floor to ceiling windows, a life-size bison, a kids’ zone, and Indigenous and local art work. Indigenous heritage is showcased through a traditional bison-hide Star Blanket, created by the women at Edmonton Institution for Women, and local Indigenous crafts and wares in the gift shop area.

  • Parks Canada and Corrections Canada worked collaboratively in the development of visitor centre exhibits through a pilot program spearheaded with CORCAN – a key rehabilitation program of the Correctional Service of Canada. This program helps federally-sentenced Indigenous women offenders gain employability skills that prepare them for success when they are released.

  • Other completed infrastructure projects include: extensive road improvements, new washroom facilities in the Astotin Recreation Area, south gate kiosk replacements, and improvements to the Astotin theatre and Astotin Campground registration and information kiosk.

  • Visitation to Elk Island National Park has nearly doubled in the last decade from 198,000 visitors in 2008 to 360,000 in 2018. Just 45 kilometres east of Edmonton, this natural wonderland is an important refuge for bison, elk and more than 250 bird species.

  • Parks Canada is investing an unprecedented $3 billion over five years to support infrastructure work to heritage, tourism, waterway, and highway assets located within national historic sites, national parks, and national marine conservation areas across Canada. This investment will ensure these cherished places are protected and secured for the future.

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Contacts

Sabrina Kim      
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
819-743-7138
sabrina.kim2@canada.ca

Media Relations
Parks Canada Agency
855-862-1812
pc.media@pc.gc.ca

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