National parks in Canada are having Wi-Fi installed to see whether access to the internet will encourage more people to enjoy the great outdoors.
To some, wilderness breaks appeal precisely because they offer an escape from modern life, but there is a concern that a growing attachment to technology is preventing a generation from exploring the country’s remote but beautiful landscapes.
Parks Canada, a national agency that looks after sites including the Rocky Mountains and the Bay of Fundy on the Atlantic, is setting up around 15 to 20 wireless hotspots as a trial run, which it hopes to increase to 75 within the next three years.
“Canada is a very big country, and it has become very urban. And for young people from cities, things are different,” Francois Duclos from Parks Canada said to the AFP news agency.
He suggested that the decision to install Wi-Fi was also taken to assist people who are required to stay in constant contact with their workplaces, even while whale-watching or hiking. Currently there is only partial or no mobile phone coverage in most of the country’s parks. The Wi-Fi is expected to be offered for free in some locations but for a fee in others.
While younger Canadians may be delighted that they can now tweet about their progress on a trek, or scooch down for a selfie with a grizzly, the news was not welcomed by everyone.
“Great,” was the reaction of Sophie Campbell, our heritage expert. “No sooner have you seen your first Canadian black bear or mountain peaks reflected in the perfect stillness of Lake Louise, then someone’s phone will go off.
“Or maybe Wi-Fi will only be accessible in the campsites, where happy children’s faces will be lit not by the glow of a campfire but by the glow of Grand Theft Auto 5. Here’s to modern wilderness: tweet, tweet!”
Provincial parks across the country already have Wi-Fi in many cases. Manitoba started installing hotspots at its parks last year, according to the Toronto Star.