November 3, 2020 • Mountain Living
Living at Large: What’s it really like to live in Banff National Park
By Kate Barker
Banff National Park is one of the most beautiful places on earth. People from all around the world flock to Banff for its towering mountains, turquoise lakes and outdoor adventure. But what’s it really like to live in Banff? It may be more complicated than you think…
Banff National Park became Canada’s first national park in 1885. The Town of Banff officially incorporated in 1990, and it was the first incorporated municipality inside a national park in Canada. The population of Banff is around 8,000 people, but the town itself sees around 4 million visitors throughout the year, with as many as 50,000 in a single summer day. As such, 90% of Banff’s economy is tourism related, and the residents who call this town home generally work in a tourism-related positions.
The unique designation of a municipality within a national park creates an overlap of responsibility between the local, provincial and federal governments. Since the national park is federal land, the highest level of government has quite a bit of control in the small mountain town. The federal government owns the land, meaning the municipality and homeowners must lease it. The town’s boundaries are set at 3.93 km and the federal government has the final say on the land use planning, development and environmental regulations.
Because of the set parameters of the town, Banff cannot expand to accommodate new residents. In order to combat the housing crunch created by the town’s set size, Parks Canada implemented Need-to-Reside criteria. In order to purchase a home in Banff, potential buyers and/or their spouses must either:
- Work in the park as primary employment
- Operate a business in the park, and actively participate in the day-to-day operations of the business
- Have retired, but worked for 5 consecutive years in the park immediately before retiring, owned a business in the park and handled the day-to-day operations, or resided in the park during the time of retirement as well as resided in the park on July 30, 1981
- Be a full-time student at an institution in the park and registered under the Income Tax Act
- Be a descendant from a land lessee who leased the public lands prior to May 19, 1911
It may seem like there’s a lot of rules and regulations to live in Banff, but it’s all in place to protect and preserve the natural wild spaces of Banff National Park. Living in Banff means having a constant connection to nature that envelops not only the townsite itself, but the lifestyles of the residents within. From hiking to mountain biking to climbing and skiing, Banff is the place to experience outdoor adventure. It’s also a place with a strong heart for conservation and living alongside wildlife in a peaceful, understanding manner. If there’s one thing all Banffites have in common, it’s a passion for wild and natural spaces.
Are you looking to buy in Banff? Talk to your real estate agent to see what’s available!