By Amy Fendley
The final details in the long awaited Riverside Campground will soon make their way onto council’s agenda for approval.
Fourth reading and a development permit are the final items required before the project can go ahead. If council adopts the rezoning construction will begin once the snow melts. Some campsites should be open this summer.
"We’ve gone through a couple of councils with the proposal and this council had to re-learn it, which is one of the main reasons the approval process has been slow in coming," said proponent Nigel Woods.
"The bylaws are drafted now, and the plan is to start building this summer. We’re looking forward to this with bated breath."
Since the initial proposal for the Riverside Campground more than years three ago there have been numerous ideas, suggestions and arguments leading to changes and scale-backs in the final project plans.
The campground is proposed for a site where Layton Bryson Stables used to be. The area encompasses 40 acres of wooded land to the east of Highway 99. The pretty parcel sits between Spruce Grove Park, the Nicklaus North driving range, and backs onto Lost Lake Park. Fitzsimmons Creek runs through it.
There are concerns from the Ministry of Environment over a proposed 35 metre wide, single lane bridge that would cross the river and be used by RV and car traffic as well as pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
Woods, who is the owner of the lands, says he is still dealing with the Ministry of Environment over the bridge, and anticipates it will not be built until 2000.
"The ministry has concerns about the potential back water effect, the obstruction of flood waters," says Woods. "We may do some preliminary site work this summer, but we have to comply with their standards and won’t go across the river until 2000."
Woods says they have also had to make minor adjustments to the proposed administration building and to landscaping details, which have been re-submitted to the municipality’s planning department.
The Valley Trail also runs through the campground, as do two high-voltage transmission lines. One line runs over the middle of the land, the second along the north property line.
The campground plans include 65 fully-serviced RV pads, 25 partially-serviced sites, 80 individual tenting sites, one group tenting site and 14 small camping cabins.
The proposed administration and recreation building is one of the major components of the campground. It will be equipped with shower and washroom facilities, a laundry facility with 10 washers and dryers, a convenience store, delicatessen and indoor recreation facilities for campers. On the second floor there is to be 10 employee housing units.
Although there had been some concern by the municipality over the effect of the hydro lines’ electro-magnetic field on resident employees, Woods says there has been no proof EMF has any effect on people.
"We have basically settled that, there is no evidence that hydro lines have any negative effects on human habitation," said Woods.
Brigitte Loranger, a planning consultant for the RMOW, has been working closely with the campground’s developers since last fall to have all the necessary permits in place to begin construction this spring.
"The landowners have just recently re-submitted some revised drawings and documentation addressing some of the previous concerns," said Loranger. "They are currently being reviewed by municipal staff and we hope they will be brought forward to council soon, for consideration of adoption for zoning bylaw and development permit."
Woods has also been busy, as he is in the process of acquiring adjacent property owned by A.H and W.G. Holley for use as a picnic and play area.
What’s called the upper bench of Woods’ lands — the far side of the creek from the highway — is forested with "heavy second growth." The upper bench has been set aside for the walk-in campsites and 26 full-service RV sites. Six and a half hectares will be set aside for tree preservation, but all the scrub is to be taken out to accommodate a road and foot paths. A six metre wide strip of land bordering the site will remain undeveloped.
The lower bench is flood plain, with some large trees and dense underbrush. Any tree at a height of more than 12 inches has been surveyed and is to be protected. All of the property’s mature spruce trees are to stay. Woods also says that the landscaping plan calls for additional planting in and around the RV pads with coniferous tress as well as some larger deciduous trees.
"Our landscaper and municipal planners have worked together to decide what’s most practical and aesthetically pleasing," said Woods. "There must be vegetation that will stand up to the rigor of winter snow removal."
The hydro right of way over this area will be used for parking and an 18-hole putting course, which will be open to the public.
Woods plans to market Riverside Campground as a high quality, fully serviced year-round RV campground with the opportunity for recreation — a destination campground within a destination resort, although he says they are still wrestling with the name.
He says he wants the campground to be something that Whistler will be proud of and that people will want to visit again and again.
"Whistler is in bad need of this thing, and it’s about time it got done," says Woods. "We’re targeting for April to begin site servicing on the lower bench of the property where the RV pads will be."