Saturday, October 14, 2017

Weird Canada 150 projects: Honderich on parks

Haven't been here? Good for you,
I rather admire John Honderich, longtime publisher/CEO/imagemaker of the Toronto Star.  But his Canada 150 project -- to visit every national park in Canada and write about it in the Star -- gets odder and odder, as the latest (and last) demonstrates.

A lot of parks are remote, as they should be, and Honderich is a busy guy.  So many of his reports describe how he chartered a small plane and had his pilot fly over several adjacent parks, so he could return speedily to Toronto to write about how great they are.

But you know, surely the vital thing about Canadian wilderness is the experience. If you go, the point is being there. Honderich must spend most of his time just getting there, and he seems to get less out of most of the parks he "visits" than someone on a "if this is Tuesday, it must be Belgium."

Sometimes, in fact, the point about Canadian wilderness is not being there. Some of the most important parks in the system are wildlife preserves. They are intentionally devoid of road access, campsites, hotels, restaurants "visitor centres," and the like.  They exist for the animals; they need for you not to go.  So when Honderich buzzes Vuntut National Park, a prime caribou herding zone in northern Yukon, he reports:
It is described as one of the least visited parks, which is a shame for its rolling hills and nearby mountainous terrain were stunning, if daunting.
This is not a shame.  Obviously Honderich was not there long enough to learn why a park like Vuntut exists -- and it ain't for drop-in tourism (which is good for the park and the animals.) But why does he write about it as if he actually had visited, and tell his readers precisely the wrong thing about why these parks exist.

Update, October 16:  Should have noted that Star travel editor Jennifer Bain's parallel reports of her visits to various National Parks this year are better -- simply because she actually goes, and stays -- though she too privileges natural parks over historic parks, even in this Canada150 series.  Oh well.
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