By Loreth Beswetherick
For anyone with an interest in or concern about commercial recreation policy in Sea to Sky country, there hasn’t been a better time to get some answers.
The B.C. Assets and Lands Corporation has scheduled a public information meeting for Thursday, March 2 in the Horstman Room at the Myrtle Philip community centre.
The new commercial backcountry recreation strategy for the area will be presented at the session and the rationale behind the plan will be explained. The strategy, which was prepared by land planning consultant Doug Leavers, will drive all future backcountry recreation decisions in this area, including the approval of tenures. All tenure applications have been on hold while the policy was put together last year.
The key players involved in the preparation of the strategy will all be present to answer any questions on the plan, including B.C. Assets and Lands commercial recreation co-ordinator Elisabeth Eldridge, Leavers, Jack Evans from the Ministry of Environment, a Ministry of Forests representative, Rob Gowan from the Ministry of Tourism, Peter Jones from the provincial Land Use Co-ordiantion office and representatives from the Whistler municipality and potentially a local conservation officer.
"The agencies that have been involved in the planning initiative will be there to talk about who was involved and what the strategy is for," said BCAL media co-ordinator Sandy Poggemiller. "Basically it’s a corporate initiative to help make decisions on how to proceed with things involved with commercial recreation. It’s a kind of explanatory session."
The commercial recreation strategy itself will form a component of a larger land-use plan in the works for the entire Squamish Forest District along the lines of the Lillooet Land Resource Management Plan which is currently entering its final stages.
BCAL will also be hosting a public information session in Squamish on Wednesday, March 1 in council chambers. The time for both meetings will be 7-9 p.m.
BCAL in the meantime has asked the municipality to review and comment on eight tenure applications but the Whistler has asked if it can look at all the applications for the Sea to Sky area rather than a few in isolation because many overlap.
The applications will also be forwarded to other stakeholders, including the Ministry of Forests, the Ministry of Environment and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. Whistler will not have veto power over any application. The ultimate decision lies with BCAL.
Municipal director of parks and recreation, Bill Barratt, said the Crown corporation has provided the municipality with mapping to help staff assess the tenure applications. The mapping, which is part of the new strategy, identifies units of land with very high to high, moderate and low potential for commercial recreation, public use and tourism value. The maps, for example, tag the Callaghan Valley as having a very high potential for commercial use while the Cougar Mountain area is rated high. The Soo is rated medium and Brandywine high in the northern area and more moderate to the south.
Although some zones are identified as having a high potential for commercial recreation, social and environmental factors may constrain full development.