The Whistler Nordics are concerned by the lack of public input into a recent municipal decision to stop grooming trails on Nicklaus North Golf Course as a cost-cutting measure.
The decision will reduce the Lost Lake trail network from 30km to around 25km, and will change the way a lot of people access the trails. The Whistler Nordics also say the flat golf course trails are crucial for beginners, kids, families, adaptive skiers and others who have a difficult time with hills.
"We're incredibly disappointed," said Craig Mackenzie, speaking on behalf of the Whistler Nordics. "We recognize that there are some grooming issues and some access issues - and people poaching those parts of the trails - but at the end of the day they are completely flat, they're extensive and they're a very easy way for people to get an introduction to the sport."
They are also lower-impact, he said, which is attractive to aging residents and visitors who are no longer alpine skiing.
"It's an easy activity that people can do while the rest of their family is skiing, and that's important for the all-roundness of the resort," said Mackenzie.
The club has already petitioned council to speak at the next council meeting and will be working to reverse the decision.
According to the municipality, the decision to cut grooming to that area will save roughly $35,000 in operating costs. It will allow the RMOW to eliminate one of three full time grooming positions, as well as the cost of fuel, equipment maintenance, patrol and trail maintenance.
Mayor Ken Melamed said it was a tough decision.
"Most recreation services operate at a subsidy and in the current economic climate... the mandate is to reduce municipal costs. And that's what we did," he said. "$35,000 may not seem like a lot but when you add up the savings, it's part of the $1.2 million we found in the budget this year. We didn't take the approach that little amounts don't count, they count and they add up."
The municipality subsidizes Lost Lake cross-country skiing operations by roughly $80,000 per year. This season they are trying to reduce the total subsidy to roughly $30,000 through efficiencies like shutting down the Nicklaus North trails and through increases to user fees.
Melamed said the municipality took a similar approach as they did to the transit network, looking at user numbers and where the municipality could get the highest return on its investment. From that perspective, he said the Nicklaus North trails were less used than other trails in the network, there was a low rate of compliance (people purchasing tickets and passes) and higher than normal maintenance costs because of people walking and taking their dogs along the trails.
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