Teahouse helipad slung off Mount Lady Macdonald
January 3, 2023 By Jessica Lee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Rocky Mountain Outlook
A helipad which never fulfilled its purpose as a landing site for visitors to what was an unfinished teahouse on Mount Lady Macdonald in the Bow River valley near Canmore, Alberta, is no more.
On Nov. 22, work began to remove the dilapidated wooden helipad, constructed to support a teahouse that was to be accessed by helicopter flight. The land was leased in the mid-1980s, but by 2002 the project had folded and the province cancelled the lease.
“The department cancelled the lease because the lessee failed to fulfill the requirements of their lease and did not complete construction within the stated timelines,” a spokesperson for the province told the Outlook in 2013. “That lessee could also not be located, and the site remained abandoned with a wooden helipad, incomplete wooden structure for the teahouse, with a wooden platform and railings and gazebo.”
In 2013, the teahouse was demolished in the interest of public safety after hikers reported a fire at the site in July 2012. It was also reported at the time that the helipad and all other structures would be removed simultaneously, with an estimated 14,000 kg of wood and steel to be removed from the mountain.
Ministry of Forestry, Parks and Tourism communications advisor Bridget Burgess-Ferrari confirmed in an email to the Outlook in November that the “dilapidated helipad, adjacent to the site of the former Mt. Lady Macdonald teahouse” was in the final stages of reclamation.
Canmore-based Alpine Helicopters, which slung out structure materials by helicopter, was contracted by the disposition holder to complete the project.
The name of the disposition holder could not be confirmed in time for publication, but Stone Creek Resorts owns portions of Mount Lady Macdonald and has expressed interest in building a gondola connecting a station near the summit with stations in the Silvertip Resort Village and Palliser Trail area.
The Outlook reached out to Stone Creek Resorts for comment but did not receive response in time for publication.
The gondola project would span lands administered by three jurisdictions: Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park, public land, and land within the Town of Canmore.
Public engagement on the proposed gondola project began in April and continued until June 13 with comments going to the former Ministry of Alberta Environment and Parks.
An environmental impact assessment will come back with a focus on potential impacts on wildlife, vegetation, land use management and a socio-economic assessment.
Rescue pilot Todd Cooper said the helipad had previously been used by Alpine Helicopters for rescues, but rarely.
Only one helicopter was used in the removal of materials, which took a few days to complete, he added.
Cooper said he played a small part in the project and described it as relatively routine, without any issues.
It was previously reported by the Outlook that once land reclamation was complete, the land would transfer to become part of the surrounding Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park.
According to Forestry, Parks and Tourism, however, the site falls under the Public Lands Act and remains designated as public land.
“The current disposition holder has been working to remove the wooden helipad connected with a previous authorization,” said Burgess-Ferrari in an email. “It was not included in the Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park at the time of its designation.”