Letters to the Editor for the week of September 22nd 

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An expensive ambulance ride

I came to Whistler for a ski holiday and unfortunately dislocated my shoulder on the first day.

The care on the hill was top notch, having the shoulder put back into place right on the hill by the on-call doctor.

I was shocked to receive a bill from the BC Emergency Health Services for the eight-minute ride from the base of the hill to the local hospital for $530.

They took my vitals in the ambulance but that was it.

I do not have a problem paying, but $530 is too much for basically an eight-minute ride.

Just a heads up to all the locals who might have visitors from out-of-province — get a ride if you can. I could have walked to the hospital had some one told me the ride would be $530.

Michael Cornell
Thunder Bay, Ont.

RMOW missed important opportunity

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) missed an opportunity to gain legal access for the residences of Emerald Estates to a vast network of hiking and biking trails and the always-popular One Duck Lake.

The residents up until last year used three accesses through private lands to the Crown land containing the aforementioned amenities.

One of the three accesses is very steep, narrow and treacherous. As such it is not safe and should not be considered a viable alternative.

The other two accesses form part of a 10-acre (four-hectare) parcel, which was purchased last year by a developer. He then closed off the most popular access to the public, the municipal right-of-way used by the RMOW to maintain the water works and started construction of a new house and carriage house on the 4-ha parcel.

This access, a road built by the RMOW with public money, has been used by the public for years. The second access is a piece of land located between two houses one of which is owned by the developer. The other house is owned by the principal of the excavation company hired to update the road, do the excavation and put in the services for the new house and carriage house on the 4-ha parcel. The second access has a well-established trail, but is somewhat concealed at the entrance by trees and brush. It has the potential to be an excellent access, but would require some work by the RMOW after obtaining permission from the developer.

Unknown to the public at large, there has been an agreement in place since 2001 that secured the RMOW right-of-access to the water storage facility in exchange for its commitment to not authorize public access to the municipal right-of-way and to maintain a gate, fencing and signage to prevent the public from using the right-of-way as access to the Crown land.

Even though the RMOW did not maintain the signage and build the necessary fencing to discourage public access, and the previous owner appeared to condone public access, the agreement has a provision that appears to preclude such past actions as a basis for now obtaining public access.

During the building-permit application process, the RMOW was in a position to negotiate legal, public access to the Crown land through the second access. I would think that it was in the interest of both the excavation company and the developer to use the first access.

As noted above, each owned a house on either side of the second access. Had the developer used the second access to build the road (a driveway) into the 4-ha parcel, the green belt between the two houses would have been lost.

Furthermore, the first access, the municipal right-of-way, had already been built by the RMOW with taxpayers' money and would have been a cheaper access for the developer to update.

Knowing this, the RMOW could have insisted that the second access be used to build the driveway unless the developer agreed to allow a legal, public access trial to be built through the second access.

Under such an agreement, the developer could have used the municipal right-of-way for his driveway and a much narrower trail could have been built through the second access. This would have preserved the green belt.

The RMOW, for whatever reason, must not have taken this bargaining position and allowed the developer to use the first access without gaining any apparent concessions from the developer. 

I am not criticizing the developer or excavation company for using the first access. From their point of view, it was the logical choice, one that any reasonable person would have pursued.

However, by not insisting that an alternative legal, public trail be granted by the developer through the second access, the RMOW ignored the interests of a majority of the property owners of Emerald.

The Muni needs to explain their actions and take whatever steps necessary to gain a legal, public access trail from Emerald Estates to the Crown land.

Bill Armatage
Whistler

A life well lived

On Aug. 23, after his mid-day dram of scotch, George Huxtable boarded the big gondola in the sky.

His is a life to be celebrated. Pops left nothing in the tank. He did it all and he did it well, and with a smile. Ninety-seven years of being happy, active and always seeing the best in everyone and everything in life.

Through his love of sharing sports, he patiently and with a genuine heart, introduced hundreds of lucky folks to sailing, skiing and soaring. And at 92, after 85 ski seasons, when his legs had done their last turn, George continued to ride the Whistler lifts and chat with anyone that was lucky enough to share the ride, and hear his unique version of Whistler history.

The Whistler community embraced George, voting him along with his son and grandson, onto the first Peak 2 Peak gondola that ran from Blackcomb to Whistler.

Maybe consistently winning "Living the Dream" contest of who skied the most days (in his mid-80s) helped.

On the mountain or in the village, Grampa George was a familiar and welcomed figure. The energy of this special town and amazing people added a spring to his step and years to life. An amazing man. A father to emulate. Miss you Pops.

Diane Maskell
Whistler

Parks need our help

Accessibility cannot stand in isolation without sustainability and stewardship.

I am sending this letter to Mary Polak, minister of the environment, because as a taxpayer and avid participant in the outdoors and backcountry hiking, I am concerned with the deteriorating infrastructure and lack of policy enforcement occurring within our provincial park system.

The last few years I have witnessed a rapid deterioration of our B.C. Parks due to lack of enforcement of policies.

Here's a personal experience:

The tipping point compelling me to speak up occurred last month, when I backpacked into Joffre Lakes near Pemberton. Arriving on Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. the parking lot and overflow were completely full; people were already parking on the highway shoulders. Because we were backpacking and staying for three nights, we needed to ensure safe parking. It took 30 minutes of waiting to finally have a spot available in the main parking lot.

What used to be a four-hour backcountry experience has now been shortened to two hours due to the filling in of the trail with packed-down gravel to make it accessible.

We passed hundreds of people, garbage thrown on the side of the trail, and upon arriving at the backcountry campsite we found there was only one pit toilet for the hundreds of day users and campers. You can well imagine the disgusting state of the toilet.

Backcountry camping became a nightmare, as day users poured in by the hundreds to look around and go up the scree to the glacier, or swim in the lake near where we were camped. There was no privacy, no garbage facilities, the one pit toilet, and dogs everywhere.

This adds up to everything that the backcountry experience is not meant to be.

Backpacking out on the Saturday, I was astonished at the unrelenting crowds of day users coming in — I guesstimated close to 600 people. The desire to get out of the crowds and the city, and enjoy peace and quiet and nature in our BC Parks, was shattered.

I met a ranger who informed me there are two BC Parks rangers to patrol the entire corridor from Callaghan to Pemberton — this is truly unsustainable!

Solutions:

• I urge the Minister of Environment, to make a commitment to rebuilding our provincial parks system by substantially increasing BC Parks' budget to a suggested amount of $60 million per year, starting in 2017, to allow for policies to be developed and then enforced through more rangers.

• As well, here are some ideas that I hope the ministry will consider that will balance accessibility with sustainability and stewardship, and go towards revenue for BC Parks.

• For Joffre Lakes — mark off a minimum 20 spots in the parking lot for overnight camper use only — permit required to be shown on dashboard.

• For campers, go to a 100-per-cent reservation booking system.

• Eliminate the ability for people to camp with dogs — dog feces and barking were a constant problem.

• Double the cost of backcountry use from $5 per person per night to $10 per person per night.

• Add pit toilets to the second lake and beginning of third lake.

• Make the beginning of third lake the end point for day hikers. Add signs that restrict day hikers from continuing onto the campground. If any day hikers want to go into the backcountry, they have to get a permit and pay the same fee as campers — this money could go towards sustainability and stewardship of the land.

• For BC Parks sustainability overall — introduce the backcountry reservation booking system for all parks within a three-hour driving range of Vancouver and other major urban centres.

• For key day-use parks such as Squamish Chief, Garibaldi, Joffre Lakes, Cypress etc. — introduce free day-use permits that designate a starting time on the trail per hour, so as to limit numbers of people on the trail at any given time.

• Add and upkeep garbage containers and bathrooms.

The current level of annual funding allocated to BC Parks is inadequate to ensure proper maintenance and upgrading of infrastructure as well as enforcement of policies that were put in place to protect the natural environments within our parks.

Through this letter, I am expressing my support for a funding increase to BC Parks' annual budget. An increase in funding will have a significant and positive impact on user enjoyment and overall protection of our parks.

I urge the Minister of Environment to make a commitment to rebuilding our provincial parks system by substantially increasing BC Parks budget to a suggested amount of $60M per year starting in 2017.

Ariela Friedmann
Vancouver

Squamish ICBC office not closing  

We very much understand Ric MacDonald's frustration that the cost of basic vehicle insurance is increasing again this year (Pique, Sept. 8, 2016.)

There is absolutely nothing we like about having to ask our customers to pay more but auto insurance rates in B.C. are facing some very real, and escalating, pressures — a rapid increase in the number of crashes, more vehicle damage and injury claims being reported, compounded by higher vehicle repair and injury claims costs.

Importantly, we did also want to correct Mr. McDonald's assertion that our Squamish claims office has closed — this is completely incorrect. ICBC's Squamish claims centre remains very much open, still located at 38919 Progress Way, where our talented and hardworking staff is there to serve our customers.

In addition to retaining our physical presence in Squamish, ICBC now stores all claims files electronically, which allows customers to be helped by an adjuster anywhere in the province, no matter where they live. Today, customers can do more with ICBC over the phone or online, often eliminating the need to come to a claim centre.

These are just some of the ways we're improving the service we provide to our customers.

Kathy Parslow
CBC Vice President, Claims Operations

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