A management plan designed to protect and restore the Crabapple Creek drainage could serve as a model for other Whistler watersheds.
The plan, prepared by Simon Fraser University graduate Christina Symko, was released in draft form last month and is available at municipal hall for review. The next step will to be get council’s seal of approval.
The Crabapple plan is the first to come under Whistler’s new environmental strategy, yet to be adopted by council, which calls for management plans to be developed for each of Whistler’s major watersheds. Symko said starting with the smaller Crabapple drainage was more manageable than tackling something like the Fitzsimmons or Whistler Creek watersheds.
Municipal staff, Whistler-Blackcomb, Whistler Golf Course management and the B.C. Ministry of Environment all still have to review the document. If all goes according to schedule, the Crabapple Creek Watershed Management Plan will go before council in the spring with a public unveiling slated for Arbour Day 2000, on May 6.
Once approved, implementation of the plan could lead to the development of further regulations for the municipality as a whole — like new stream and riparian protection bylaws.
The Crabapple watershed drains a 483 hectare area from headwaters high on Whistler Mountain and — although development has taken its toll — it still provides some of the best spawning and rearing habitat for rainbow trout in the Whistler Valley.
The Crabapple plan recommendations include:
o Develop a means of communicating watershed issues to relevant employees of the primary watershed stakeholder groups, such as Whistler-Blackcomb, the golf course and the RMOW;
o Identify and classify habitat areas to be included in riparian protection and restoration initiatives;
o Establish protective riparian setback zones for the creek and its tributaries;
o Replant riparian areas with indigenous vegetation. Priority areas include the headwater tributaries on Whistler Mountain, the east side of the main stem adjacent to Arbutus Drive in Brio, the main stem through the golf course and from the north end of the golf course to the confluence with the River of Golden Dreams;
o Amend the RMOW tree protection bylaw to prevent tree cutting and other vegetation removal in protective riparian zones;
o Assess and minimize the impact of summer recreation on Whistler Mountain, like mountain biking in riparian areas;
o Consider naturalization of the creek’s lower section, which would mean moderate redesign of the golf course to encourage better sediment control;
o Develop a municipal master drainage plan;
o Investigate alternatives to current winter snow removal debris placement to reduce sedimentation in stream channels;
o Investigate using road salt that does not contain arsenic or other harmful chemicals;
o Require mitigative measures for stream protection during all development and construction activities within the watershed;
o Require oil/water and oil/grit separators for all high risk developments and high risk locations like Highway 99 intersections and parking lots within the watershed.
The management plan also recommends non-chemical pest management and turf maintenance practices be encouraged on the golf course and that alternative non-chemical based fertilizers be encouraged on Whistler Mountain. Education and interpretive signs are also a cornerstone of the document.
Symko states that the Crabapple plan, the result of a collaborative effort by local government and residents, is a step in the right direction "but the challenge has only begun."