Gauging the future of Whistler recreation 

Rec and Leisure Master Plan tries to balance interests

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF WORCA. - TAKING STOCK The RMOW's new Recreation and Leisure Master Plan will provide guidance for all of Whistler's recreation amenities.
  • File photo courtesy of WORCA.
  • TAKING STOCK The RMOW's new Recreation and Leisure Master Plan will provide guidance for all of Whistler's recreation amenities.

When the Whistler Youth Soccer Club (WYSC) first came to fruition, it boasted just 10 members.

"Now it's 500," said Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) councillor Andrée Janyk, one of the club's founders. "So the needs have changed."

And it's not just the needs of the WYSC that have changed — recreation in Whistler has grown by leaps and bounds in recent decades.

These days, Janyk heads the RMOW's Recreation and Leisure Advisory Committee (RLAC), which has spent much of the last two years working on a new Recreation and Leisure Master Plan (RLMP) for the resort.

The plan was revealed at Whistler council's Oct. 20 meeting. It takes stock of Whistler's many recreation amenities — from parks and trails to lakes and rivers and all of the facilities in between — and provides direction for the future.

"I think what it did was really updated us on what the current reality is," Janyk said, noting that the new plan replaces 1996's Parks Vision Plan.

In conjunction with the RMOW's other comprehensive reports, such as the Economic Partnership Initiative or Learning and Education Report, the RLMP serves as a guiding vision for RMOW council.

"It gives us a very good basis on which to make decisions, at all levels," Janyk said.

"Having those reports will be really important in how we make our decisions as we move forward in the next three years."

In putting together the RLMP, extensive community consultation took place with dozens of different recreation groups.

"I think the biggest surprise was the variety of recreational things that are going on in this town, big, small or medium," Janyk said.

For PJ O'Heany, president of the WYSC, seeing progress on the RLMP is encouraging.

"With our club growing to 500 members, we have outgrown our fields," O'Heany said. "I think our municipality has done a good job to have fields, but we have such a limited season to play in because the Vancouver season runs from September through to March."

To extend its season, O'Heany said the WYSC would love to see some Astroturf installed on Whistler's soccer pitches.

"We'd love it built yesterday," he laughed. "There's no time like now for us... I think the municipality has done their best to get this thing moving forward, I think the RLAC members are trying their best to assess all the needs for all the user groups."

According to the RMOW, balancing the needs of the multitude of recreational user groups in Whistler was one of the biggest priorities throughout the process.

The RLMP is meant to be a "living document," which means it has room to adapt and grow as situations change.

"This plan is really about better managing what we currently have, and being selective and strategic," Janyk said.

"What we tried to do was just be representative and fair to everyone."

One of Whistler's most popular amenities is its trail network, of which the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association (WORCA) is likely the biggest stakeholder.

In an email, WORCA's director of public relations Huw Jones said the association would need more time to digest the report, but the fact that there is a RLMP at all is welcomed news.

"Any forum that brings together stakeholders is welcomed and encouraged," Jones wrote, adding that municipality funding for WORCA is critical.

"In this respect, WORCA looks forward to how the economic impact study results will help inform increased WORCA funding," Jones wrote.

"As a community-focused, not-for-profit with high community participation, WORCA funds are extremely efficiently allocated, meaning funding investments in WORCA represent the biggest bang for your buck."

Whistler Blackcomb's VP of business development Rob McSkimming said he too has not yet had a chance to read the final report, but was involved in the drafting of the original plan.

"I generally believe that the RMOW has an excellent rec and leisure plan that is well-connected to the needs of our community and its guests," McSkimming said in an email.

"It is good to know our municipal government's priorities are well-connected to community and many of the businesses within it from a rec and leisure standpoint."

To read the RLMP and all of its detailed recommendations, head to www.whistler.ca/business/current-projects/rec-master-plan.

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