As per a report, the rebuilding continues as those near and in Waterton Lakes National Park (Alberta, Cabada) honor the fifth anniversary of the Kenow wildfire.
“Life is wonderful, but it’s been a challenge over the past five years,” said Jim Garner, owner of the Rocking Heart Ranch. “We’ve been busy rebuilding our two homes, our barn, and a new arena for our horses.”
The ranch, situated about five minutes away from the entrance of the national park, was completely destroyed by the 2017 fire.
In the Waterton townsite, local businesses are delighted to see the return of visitors.
“The last five years have been a struggle at times, excitement at times, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions,” said Shameer Suleman, president of the Waterton Lakes Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s been a transitional year for us as the last two years have been only local traffic,” he said. “It’s felt like a rebirth of the park.”
Suleman stated that the locals are happy to see the rebuilding and construction nearly completed.
“It’s been almost like shining up an old penny to just look beautiful,” Suleman added.
On September 9, 2017, an evacuation notice was handed out to Waterton, with residents and the general public permitted to return on September 20.
Nearly all visitor sites and trails within the park have reopened, with the exception of Crandell Mountain Campground, which is still closed.
“I’ve watched it go from black to brown to greening right up, and really, if you haven’t been to the park before, sometimes you don’t even notice there was a fire here unless you’re in a certain area of the park,” Suleman said.
“We’re in a position now where you can come to Waterton, and you can enjoy all of its glory exactly the way it was meant to be seen,” he said.
With 2022 marking the fifth anniversary, Parks Canada said, along with the return of tourists, the vegetation has also returned.
“The fire was very intense, it actually affected 44% of the vegetated area of the park and about 39% of the entire park,” said Locke Marshall, Waterton Lakes National Park superintendent. “We’ve seen some regrowth in lots of areas,”
The extensive trail construction has been completed in the park, including the Crandell Lake trail and Bears Hump. Two backcountry campgrounds have also been rebuilt together with the Alpine Stables.
“The wildlife population in these mountain areas have really adapted to the fire,” Marshall said. “In many cases, they were able to survive the fire, or at least the populations have been able to rebound.”
Marshall said following the Kenow wildfire, Parks Canada has been able to study the damage and learn how current climate change is playing a role in the intensity of fires.
“We have a very good opportunity to study what wildfire actual does and how the ecology of the area rebounds after a fire,” he said.
This story originally appeared on CTV News. Featured image from Waterton Lakes National Park.