On Friday resort consultant Myles Rademan talked about civic dialogue being the key, or one of the keys, to mountain resort towns resolving their problems, in particular issue of growth.
Growth may be less controlled in many American resort towns than it is in Whistler, but many Whistlerites share with the people of Park City, Telluride and similar places feelings that their town is growing too fast, that a sense of community is being lost, and just who are all these "outsiders" moving here.
Rademan feels the way to deal with this is to give everyone an opportunity to sit down and participate in discussions that help shape the future of the town.
On Saturday one such opportunity presented itself, the Whistler Creek open house. Participation was not a problem; the room at Myrtle Philip Community School was jammed. Getting people to voice their thoughts on what should be done for the area was not difficult either. The rhetoric flowed, ahh... freely.
"Let developers build a hotel, that includes a train station, straddling the railway tracks."
"Keep the character and quality of life in the area."
"Commercial development will mean dumpsters in everyone’s back yard."
"My wife is afraid to walk home after dark because of bears — put in street lights."
"You, sir, have refused us one bed unit."
"We’re treated like orphans. Give us something."
Amidst the self interest and self promotion there were some good questions, suggestions and dialogue. But it also became clear that not everyone understands, or perhaps wants to understand, the ceiling on development in Whistler.
Civic dialogue, as Rademan is suggesting, goes beyond just voicing an opinion, although everyone should have that right and that opportunity.
Ideally, civic dialogue begins with people making themselves aware of some of the decisions and courses of action that have been taken by municipal hall. It should also involve some consideration of the community as a whole, not just one's own self interests. And civic dialogue includes listening, as well as talking.
The municipality has undertaken an ambitious monitoring program, the results of which should be available in the next couple of weeks. The monitoring program is intended to provide accurate, current information on many of the facets of Whistler.
In October the second annual town hall meeting will be held to review the results of the monitoring program — another forum for civic dialogue. This should be used as an opportunity to discuss where Whistler is headed, not just promote self interests.