Nunavut's newest park
Sirmilik National Park has it all

Pond Inlet ( May 15/00) - Get out your Gortex and your fleece, there's a new National Park to discover.

And if you thought Quttinirpaaq (Ellesmere Island) and Auyuittuq national parks were impressive, hang onto your Tilley hats because the North Baffin's Sirmilik National Park is going to blow you away.

Located on the outskirts of Pond Inlet, Sirmilik (meaning place of glaciers) measures an impressive 22,200 square kilometres and includes portions of Bylot Island, Oliver Sound and the Borden Peninsula.

Set aside by the federal government as parkland in 1992, Sirmilik's landscape runs the gamut from ice fields and glaciers to fiords, fertile bird colonies and polar bears.

Given the terrain and the sheer expanse of Sirmilik, however, it's going to take some time for Parks Canada to get the operation up and running.

The first step, according to Sirmilik's chief park warden, is to get office space and housing.

"Our first priority is establishing ourselves," said Carey Elverum.

"It's going to take a lot of work just to get offices and housing and equipment and necessities to run the park," he said.

Hoping to be in Pond Inlet, by June 1, Elverum said he and the six other staff members would go through an orientation phase, familiarize themselves with the park itself and eventually begin to develop Parks Canada maps.

"We'll get familiar with the park, get to know the interested parties, find out what research has been done, find out traditional-use activities, travel routes, public safety concerns, resource management concerns and issues, what kind of visitor information we'll provide to the public," said Elverum.

He explained that developing the area into a fully functional National Park would take a number of years and would involve public consultation, a process that was guaranteed last summer when the Inuit Impact Benefits Agreement (IIBA) was signed in Pond Inlet.

Taking the federal government and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association four years to successfully negotiate, the IIBA brought Sirmilik, Quttinirpaaq and Auyuittuq into formal existence and ensured that Inuit will have a strong voice in the planning and operations of the three parks.

The IIBA -- in conjunction with the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement -- also protects the Inuit right to harvest in the area and continue to use the land in traditional ways while protecting and preserving the cultural sites and resources.

Elverum also said several economic benefits would be realized.

"It's going to provide employment opportunities. There are six Inuit employees (working in the park) and we're doing contract work and hiring different people as guides or outfitters," said Elverum.