The art of compromise 

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They say compromise is the art of pleasing no one and pissing everyone off. A good example of compromise may be found in the recent presidential election south of the border.

The red state supporters of Mitt Romney wanted to take the U.S. back to some time around the turn of the 20th century, a gilded time when robber barons wielded enough wealth and economic power to sway the course of history, a time when women and minorities knew their place, a time when workers had no power at all, a good time to be a wealthy white guy.

The blue state supporters of Barack Obama wanted to fast forward towards the future, a future with single-payer health care, not unlike most other first-world Western countries, a future cognizant of the overall minority status of white guys, a future that embraced a world vision that went beyond fast cars and fossil fuels.

And so they compromised — nothing changed. No one's really happy. And there's this fiscal cliff thing that threatens to finish the job the U.S. banking system started, which is to say bankrupting the entire world.


Which kind of brings to mind the recently released Draft Garibaldi Park Management Plan Amendment, or DGPMPA, pronounced however best you can.

The DGPMPA, like all worthy government draft amendment plans, traversed a painstaking course of consultation. There was the initial planning and terms of reference period, the initial stakeholder and public input period, the development of the DGPMPA, drawing as it did on all that earlier input, and this current phase, floating the draft and seeing who takes potshots at it, something we can all do until January 10, 2013.

As an exercise in compromising, the DGPMPA apes the U.S. presidential election perfectly — nothing changes. Well, at least nothing noteworthy. The proposal calls for the same uses of the park, the same restrictions of use and the same prohibitions against use.

So what's different?

The plan embraces the proposal to build more huts in the Spearhead. It embraces development of an alpine hiking trail linking Blackcomb to Whistler. It envisions a new, vehicle-accessible trailhead on the north side of Fitz Creek to provide summer access to Singing Pass Trail, perhaps with a footbridge over Fitz Creek. And some lesser-important window dressing.

The people who are most pleased with the draft are Whistler Heli Skiing Limited, owned by Whistler Blackcomb. WHS has had some of the park within their tenure since the initial master plan in 1990. It was most recently renewed in 2011 for five years. WHS is most pleased because the draft recommends they be allowed to continue using the park. They are also most pleased because 68 per cent of the 945 people who responded to the online survey wanted them out of the park. Those supporting WHS said it was important to Whistler's economy; a tourist attraction and WHS had a good track record of managing conflicts with other users.

The people most pissed off about this are backcountry skiers and tourers. They believe heliskiing is inconsistent with the park's non-motorized vision, noisy, stinky, gas guzzling and scary to wildlife. They don't mention how really, really pissed off they are when heliskiers poach the lines they've spent hours hiking up to.

But the group most p-oed of all with the draft plan are mountain bikers. Mountain bikers aren't allowed in the park past the bridge on the Helm Creek Trail. Back in 1990 when the master plan was put in place, mountain bikers weren't really on the radar. Since then, of course, mountain biking as exploded, much to the satisfaction of Whistler Blackcomb shareholders.

Perhaps only mildly surprising, 50 per cent of survey respondents favoured mountain biking in the park. Surprising because there is a massive, reasonably well-organized, activist mountain bike community in the lower mainland and all along the Sea to Sky corridor.

Another 35 per cent favoured mountain biking provided there were conditions place on how it was managed. I'm not certain what those conditions were but I suspect they embraced staying out of the 35 per cent's way or wearing their bikes around their necks or something like that.

The others didn't want bikes in the park under any conditions. They said it was because of user conflicts, damage to alpine ecosystems and the expense of maintaining multi-use trails.

Mountain bikers are upset because they believe majority rules. But such is not the art of compromise. And as dangerous as it might be to say, I don't think they should be allowed in the park.

I'm not sure what the accurate statistic might be to measure the ratio of thoughtful mountain bikers, ones who wouldn't ride trails when they were too wet, ones who wouldn't create exciting new trails or "features," ones who would travel at speeds acknowledging there may be hikers just around the next blind curve, but it doesn't really matter. Whatever the percentage of mountain bikers who would do all those things and more is, it's too high to inflict on Garibaldi Park. Don't believe me? Hike any local trail in the spring.

Before the flaming spokes come flying through my windows, I would like to say I feel much the same way about backcountry skiers, tourers and hikers. Too many of them leave too much garbage behind, don't know how to shit in the woods — or worse, on snow — and generally lack anything approximating a wilderness ethic.

But it's really not BC Parks' mandate to turn the province's parks into amusement parks. Their more important job is striking a balance between public lands that can tolerate extensive and varied uses and those lands that need to be protected from the ravages of overuse. Garibaldi Park clearly falls further along the spectrum towards land that needs to be protected.

Skiing, hiking and, yes, even heliskiing are pretty low-impact uses, notwithstanding the noise of helicopters. Mountain biking, snowmobiling, ATV riding aren't. Ironically, neither is horseback riding but the survey didn't ask about that permitted activity. Anyone who's hiked the park's trails know how much horses chew them up and then try to fill the divots with their poop. But some uses clearly fall into the historical anomaly category.

So mountain bikers are pissed off. Ski tourers are kind of pissed off. Dog owners are still pissed off. WHS is happy but thinkin' it better make peace with the tourers. Unless you're one of those rugged, if misguided, individualists who mistakenly believe Ayn Rand really espoused a reasonable philosophy — "There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil" — it's a compromise we can live with. After all, the majority doesn't always rule.


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