A trading post in the valley that served for many years as a supply depot for fur traders was run by a clerk named Jasper Hawes. In time, the settlement became known as Jasper ’s House. In 1907 the federal government officially declared the boundaries of Jasper Forest Park and bought all the land within it, except for one homestead owned by Lewis Swift. (This parcel remained privately owned until 1962, long after the stubborn Mr. Swift had passed away.)
When the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was completed in 1911, visitors flocked into the remote mountain park settlement, and its future was ensured. The first accommodation for tourists was 10 tents on the shore of Lac Beauvert, which became known as Jasper Park Camp. In 1921, the tents were replaced by the original Jasper Park Lodge. By the summer of 1928, a road was completed from Edmonton , and a golf course was built.
Although the infrastructure of the town began developing in the 1960s, it was run from Ottawa by Parks Canada until 2002. In that year, Jasper was incorporated as a “town,” with locally elected residents serving as mayor and council members. Decisions made by the council must still balance the needs of living in a national park, but also represent locals who call the park home.
On the surface, obvious visible changes of this autonomy are a new emergency services building, a new wastewater treatment plant, and improvements to an ever-increasing downtown parking problem. One thing hasn’t changed, and that’s the basic premise of the town’s existence: More than 50 percent of Jasper’s 5,200 residents work in the hospitality industry, serving the needs of two million visitors annually.