Have your say on Garibaldi Park plans 

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The province is in the middle of a process to update the management plan for Garibaldi Provincial Park, the first major update in over two decades, and they're looking for feedback from the public at a series of open houses.

Whistler's chance to speak on the draft plan — which could result in reopening some trails to mountain bikers, a hut-to-hut hiking system around the Spearhead Traverse, and long-term licensing of heli-ski operations within park boundaries — is on Tuesday, Nov. 20 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Whistler Conference Centre.

The Ministry of the Environment, which oversees B.C.'s park system, started to collect feedback earlier this year, and posted an online survey for the general public. Over 1,000 people responded.

Many of the issues surround access, including revisiting the 1990 decision to ban mountain bikes from the Singing Pass trail system — a decision that sparked the creation of the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association to lobby for access. While the club's mandate has expanded to include everything from races to youth camps, opening the park has remained a core focus for every volunteer board.

As well, the volunteer-driven Spearhead Huts Project is currently lobbying for its proposal to build a series of three backcountry mountain huts on the Spearhead Traverse for summer hikers and people ski touring during the winter months. It would require building new trails and replacing the cabin at Russet Lake. Each hut will have a capacity of 35 to 40 people, and user rates would be in the range of $20 to $30 per night.

Neal Faulkner, a proponent of the hut project, is encouraging everyone to come out, voice their opinions on the draft plan and see what the future will look like.

"It would be great to see lots of people come out and see what the draft management plan looks like, because this plan will help to determine to some extent the future of the park," he said, "and the uses and kinds of uses that we're going to see in a critical place in a critical area of the park. It could be motorized, commercialized, etcetera."

As well as bikes and huts, the survey and management plan will re-evaluate the heli-ski tenures in the park. Whistler Heli Skiing, owned by Whistler Blackcomb since 2006, has held tenure for the Spearhead Range since the last management plan was updated in 1990 and last year had their tenure extended to 2016. For more, visit www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/planning/mgmtplns/garibaldi/garibaldi_mp.html.

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