Whistler and Pemberton are
both promoting active lifestyles through non-motorized trail networks linking
residents to essential services and recreational facilities. Accomplishing that
requires different approaches from the two communities.
The Valley Trail
If you build it, they will
walk. Or cycle. Or cross-country ski. That is the adage that has guided
Whistler’s municipal planners since the early 1980s, when Tom Barrett, Whistler
parks planner and landscape architect, aggressively sought the right-of-way
after sewer lines were laid throughout Whistler’s new subdivisions. The result
of his efforts is the impressive and popular Valley Trail system, considered by
many Whistler residents to be the community’s best amenity.
“It took great foresight,”
said Whistler Municipal Councillor Gordon McKeever of Barrett’s vision and
accomplishment. “The Valley Trail is immensely valuable to the community; it’s
good for public safety, and great for public health.”
At the time the Valley Trail
was established, Whistler had the benefit of being a relatively new community,
with few or no private property issues. “It’s much harder to retrofit this kind
of thing into an existing community,” said McKeever, who is also the project
manager of the Sea to Sky Trail — an ambitious off-road project that will
eventually serve as an arterial route linking communities from Porteau Cove to
D’Arcy by a gravel trail.
McKeever refers to the Valley
Trail as essentially a “pearl necklace” which links all the residential
subdivisions of the Whistler Valley together – the “pearls” being the various
parks throughout the municipality. “Rainbow Park, Meadow Park, Lakeside Park,
Lost Lake, Spruce Grove – they are all accessible by the Valley Trail,” he
The trail, like the park
network, gets its heaviest use during the summer months. “It is our single most
appreciated summer amenity,” McKeever confirmed.
But the importance of the
Valley Trail to Whistlerites is not confined to the summer. “Residents also use
the Valley Trail as a commuter route,” said Keith Bennett, General Manager of
Resort Experience for the Whistler Municipality, which oversees parks
operations. Through Whistler’s “linear parks system”, every residential
subdivision has access to the route, effectively making the entire length of
the valley safe and accessible for “active transportation” (to adopt a
Such an extensive paved trail
system does not come cheaply. Living and working in the most expensive
municipality in Canada has its benefits, as large property tax revenues allow
for top-notch recreational facilities. The trail network in Whistler receives
all the maintenance required to keep residents more than satisfied with the
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