Parks Canada is trying to boost attendance by tapping into a growing trend. A housing pilot project in Waterton Lakes National Park will offer visitors a downsized version of home, right in the middle of Mother Nature.

“I love tiny houses anyway. So I think it’s awesome,” said Mark Kirk, co-owner of Serenity Acres Tiny Homes. Based southeast of Calgary, he and his partner, Ashley Baptiste, were asked by Parks Canada to build a rustic tiny house for the park.

Mark Kirk, co-owner of Serenity Acres Tiny Homes, sits in the loft of the Tiny Home the company is building for Waterton Lakes National Park. The house measures 165 square feet. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

The house on wheels measures a snug 165 square feet. But when construction is complete, this diminutive abode will be equipped with all the amenities of home — a full kitchen, bathroom, loft, and space to sleep four.

“If you could stay in a cozy tiny house, you could stay for a week or two and just explore the whole park,” said Baptiste.

Their project is one of two tiny homes that wll be installed for visitors to the campground as part of a pilot project this summer.

‘A step above’

“This gives them an option — a step above … and allows them to stay for a longer duration of time rather than just camping in a tent,” said Baptiste. He believes the project capitalizes on growing interest in the trendy TV series Tiny Houses that documents the tiny-house lifestyle.

Parks Canada are “no fools,” he said. “They see that this is gaining popularity and of course would attract some people who may not be interested in going to the parks otherwise.”

Ashley Baptiste and his partner are about halfway through building Parks Canada’s first tiny house. It is expected to be available for bookings at the Waterton Lakes National Park campground by the end of June. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

Parks Canada is experimenting with different types of accommodation around the country this summer.

From the tiny homes in Waterton Lakes to canopy-like tree houses in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, the idea is to get more Canadians inside the gates and more closely tied to nature.

Attracting the less outdoorsy types

“Canada is becoming more and more urban,” said Ed Jager, director of visitor experience with Parks Canada.

“There’s fewer and fewer people who sort of have a personal experience with the outdoors. And so these kind of accommodation products open the door for people who maybe don’t have the same experience or the same interest in camping.”

Parks Canada hopes to have its first tiny homes open for booking by the end of June. If they’re a success, officials will consider placing them in parks around the country. 

Originally published:
May 30, 2016
Jennifer Lee – CBC News