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Clean digs in Whistler

In last week’s Pique, Squamish Nation Chief Gibby Jacob stated that: “For us, getting the opportunity to reinstate ourselves back in the Whistler valley is a pretty important thing for us.” I spent 25 years digging holes in Whistler.

In last week’s Pique, Squamish Nation Chief Gibby Jacob stated that: “For us, getting the opportunity to reinstate ourselves back in the Whistler valley is a pretty important thing for us.”

I spent 25 years digging holes in Whistler. And some of these were big holes… when underground parking lots are mandated, you have an awful lot of dirt to move. We dug them in the valley bottom, we dug them on the lakeshores, on the benches and all the way up to both peaks. I think it is fair to say that no other small valley in Canada has been subjected to such intense excavation over a 35-year period.

Yet in all that time the only culturally significant artifact that has ever been found is a 1947 Ford by noted “archeologist” Gene Therrien at the Fairways Hotel site. If First Nations did roam the Whistler valley in the distant past, they must have been the very first users of “no trace” camping techniques.

Francois Lepine

Courtenay, B.C.

Lot 1/9 plans rash

Some thoughts I have on the proposed clearing of Lots 1/9 in the village.

There are serious questions regarding the funding of this project. At the moment, $5,000,000 of the $11,204,000 total Phase I budget, or approximately 45 per cent, is dependent on a grant from the Federal Live Sites Program. While the grant application was “well received”, there is still no firm commitment for this funding. The construction of the “Iconic Pavilion” is not included in the $11,204,000 Phase I budget, and the RMOW has not secured any independent funding for it.

The RMOW’s share of the Phase I budget, $3,204,000, will come from the hotel tax. I find this personally alarming, as Whistler’s major market, the United States, is currently in an economic recession that seems to be just gaining speed. Spending this kind of money at this time seems economically irresponsible.

The other thing that is unclear is who is going to be responsible for any cost overruns on this project. Since the other two proposed partners, the federal Live Sites Program and VANOC, are providing fixed amounts, I would assume that onus to fall on the RMOW. Two recent RMOW projects, the library and the roof over the Nesters compactor site, both suffered more than 50 per cent cost increases from their initial budgets.

The plans for the project are not expected to be completed before the summer. How a final budget for a project can be made before the plans for the same project are complete is beyond me. Cost overruns for both the library and Millennium Place came in part from design changes during the construction of those projects.

In short, at the moment the RMOW is planning to clear Lots 1/9, a forest that took over 50 years to grow, for a project that doesn’t have adequate funding in place for even its most basic components, and with the centre piece, the “Iconic Pavilion”, completely unfunded. It’s not clear who will bear the cost of any cost overruns, or what the final cost of the project will be because the plans for it haven’t been finalized.

I strongly feel that the plans for clearing Lots 1/9 in the spring of 2008 are, at best, poorly thought out and rash. Construction could be carried out in the spring and summer of 2009, and still be ready for the 2010 Games. With the current plan, if the funding falls through, or the final budgets are out of reach of the existing funding, we will be left with nothing but an iconic clear cut.

David Buzzard


The Game’s Afoot!

(with apologies…)

The Scene: Council Chambers, MY Place

The Players: Council, Mayor, Staff & Villagers with burning torches

Enter the Parade!

Lightening flashes and smoke drifts the stage as the curtain rises…

In this reviewer’s opinion, Monday’s council performance had it all. From Greek tragedy to Shakespearian farce and back again, a virtuoso performance. The circuitous storyline, including a not so subtle political declaration, was played out before the appreciative and well-healed audience.

Never has the “Whistler Dinner Theatre Seven” been in fuller voice or angrier countenance, worth the price of admission or a 5.7 per cent increase in taxes.

Councilors were pilloried from the stalls while the players cleverly interchanged roles from hero (heroine) to villain and back again in seamless and inspiring fashion. From scene to scene and act to act the stage was awash in deceit, deception, skullduggery, intrigue, betrayal and conspiracy.

The thrust and parry of debate (unscripted?) was barely contained within the Marquise of Queensbury Rules.

From the overture, “Variations on a Public Question,” through to the final curtain, “ full fiscal tallying of RMOW Olympic spending,” the show was alternately interrupted by cat calls or cries of “bravo” from the balconies.

The raw emotion and knife’s edge of contained rage left the audience bewildered and gob-smacked, the so called “new theatre” one was left to imagine.

Microphone abuse aside, the night was a triumph!

The Play’s the Thing!

B. Keith Buchholz


A dream comes true

RE: Soo and Elaho

A long time ago, the AWARE executive dared to dream the ultimate dream. Perhaps the wine helped fuel heady dreams to save the Upper Soo and Elaho Valleys. They were very big dreams, giant dreams that would take more effort than any unpaid group of volunteers dared to dream, much less put forth frivolously because of the environmental importance and necessity we felt it presented.

Today I read that this dream has been realized because of the mammoth efforts of Eckhard Zeidler, Johnny Mikes and Brad Kasselman who diligently continued the pursuit of protecting these magnificent ancient forests and working as AWARE members, they found a way to realize its grandiose dreams through the arduous five-year commitment to land use negotiations via the Land Resource Management Planning table (LRMP) for Sea to Sky.

I would like to extend praise and gratitude for your undying and tangible efforts. Thank you so much for making our dreams come true, but more importantly, for having the courage, foresight and tenacity to hold onto such an important dream and work to make it a reality.

When we speak of “environmental sustainability” there are few people that grasp that biodiversity and connective corridors are integral to meeting these goals. These wildlife oases of ancient forests, carpeted in thick mosses, moulds and vegetation, are the basis of a complex food chain. This under-explored diversity helps cleanse our air, our water, removes CO2 and may potentially hold cures for what ails humanity. The longer our fellow creatures are able to survive on this earth, the greater the chance that humanity will be comfortable here.

Thank you Eckhard, Johnny & Brad!

Inge Flanagan


Resident of Planet Earth

The dream lives on

On behalf of the entire team at Whistler-Blackcomb I would like to say congratulations and thank you to Sue Eckersley and the team at Watermark Communications Inc. for another incredible job organizing this year’s TELUS World Ski & Snowboard Festival. Sleepless nights, an energy drink diet, and countless hours at the office were no doubt typical over the past several weeks. We sincerely thank each of you for the passion, dedication and talents that you brought to the event.

Founded by Doug Perry and now in its 13 th year, the festival’s relevance is undeniable. Year after year it lives up to the hype and transforms Whistler into a 10-day celebration of mountain culture. Sold out events, huge crowds and celebrity appearances are the norm. It’s absolutely the biggest gathering of the year in snow country, and it’s legendary!

An unfathomable amount of planning and vision goes into the staging of the event, and countless members of the community lend their business support or volunteer their time as well. Thanks to everyone in the community, as well as to many of our own employees who work extensively in support of the festival.

Congratulations to all... now get some rest.

Dave Brownlie


The end came too soon

What a great ski season. To top it off, on Monday at Blackcomb we enjoyed wonderful grooming and quality cruising. I had a day skiing I would have been happy with mid-season. I spoke with guests from Korea, the UK and the eastern seaboard all having a good experience in our resort. How sad that we deprived these guests of the chance to go home raving about skiing to the village in late April. What a missed and awesome marketing opportunity!

Sharon Audley


Dangers of spring

Spring skiing used to be fun. I have skied these mountains for 40 years but after today, I am staying away for the rest of the season. It is bad enough that the runs on Blackcomb are limited to about 10 per cent of the usual number and that Jersey Cream has been turned into a terrain park, but the worst of it is that some skiers and boarders are out of control. And there appeared to be no control on the mountain. I wonder how many injuries there were. We saw two bodies packed off by patrol and with some near misses today, I am not going to risk my life again this spring.

This limited skiing and dangerous situation seems to be in the name of the Intrawest/Fortress Peak to Peak construction. With one of the greatest snow seasons ever, why do they have to plow a road through anywhere from three to 10 feet of snow to the top of the mountain?

After ripping off the muni (us taxpayers) for a five year tax holiday, are they that greedy that they can't leave Blackcomb intact and wait until the end of the season in June? And they have the gall to advertise "unlimited skiing" for the spring rate of "under $400".

Lower Mainland skiers should take note and maybe start wondering whether Intrawest/Fortress is really interested in their support. After all, those are the people who built these mountains in the first place and have supported them all these years. Some locals have already concluded that Intrawest/Fortress do not have the best interests of locals at heart.

Clive V. Nylander

Give kids healthy choices

We are writing to express our concern at the poor choices of food offered in Whistler Kids programs, especially those who eat at the Rendezvous.

We both had children in the Club program this year so experienced many weeks of the food offerings this year. We were appalled with the choices.

We are concerned about all children, and do not think any of them should be offered high fat, non-whole grain, highly processed, sugar-, and preservative-filled food.

We feel that healthy food choices, as outlined in the Canada Food Guide, should be offered at all times, if not exclusively.

We would like to see Whistler-Blackcomb offer only low fat, whole grain, healthy food, with an emphasis on variety of fruits and vegetables. This kind of food is offered daily in your restaurants for adults, such as the rice bowl with vegetables, pasta and vegetable salad, fresh fruit salad and vegetables with a low fat dip. We would like to see water offered as a first choice of drink, followed by milk or pure fruit/veggie juice.

We have seen the awareness of healthy eating come to the forefront in the past few years. Schools can no longer offer high fat, high refined-sugar foods and the government is offering schools a fresh fruit and veggie program to promote healthy children.

We believe that it would be easy to change the menu to one that would continue to offer foods attractive to children, but which is healthy as well.

We would like to commend some of the Whistler-Blackcomb instructors who refuse to serve hot chocolate, fries or other deep fried food. We would also like to acknowledge the Children’s Learning Centre for offering more healthy choices of fruit and vegetables.

Offering to parents that they may send a bag lunch with their instructor is not the solution we are looking for. We would like to see Whistler-Blackcomb take the initiative to offer only healthy food in the Whistler Kids programs, as a statement of caring for the children it serves.

Marie-France Dubois and Jane Millen


A happy ending

Un grand bravo to the acting troupe that organized the Chairlift Review! This is really nice to see some theatre in Whistler, and I still can't believe that some seats at the Rainbow Theatre were empty. The performances were really great!

P.S: Congratulations to the love birds. What a happy end! You got me crying for real!

Pearl Winchester


Playing well with others! wishes to thank Sue Eckersley and the Watermark Communications Team, The Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, The GLC team, The Freezing Level Band, Nesters, Whistler Glass all our playful volunteers. A special thanks to our special supporter, Michael Franti, who played a private show to raise awareness to a great cause.

Way to go Whistler, we raised enough funds to build more playgrounds in war torn regions of the world. We live in this land of play, its time to export play!

Keith Reynolds

Concerns for bear management

After reading the April 10 Whistler Question article regarding garbage/bear issues, collection of an underweight cub to Critter Care, and proposing birth control drugs to a resident female bear, I need to respond with concerns for black bear management in Whistler. I have been studying black bears within the RMOW for 15 years.

First, local government does not seem to acknowledge the seriousness of unchecked garbage issues in Whistler. Each year there seems to be some reason for not exploring bear proof containment in residential areas. Yes, recycling and waste reduction is important, but I think that a bear population feeding for over 40 years on edible human garbage at various dumps and now residential/commercial sites is a significant issue. And as a result of garbage feeding, dangerous behaviour is evolving (breaking into houses/vehicles and one person injured), not to mention multi-generations of bears exposed to this degrading behaviour. Bears are extremely visible landscape indicators that need proper management, which means containing garbage to the best of our ability and providing outreach to people. The latter is progressing each year but, I’m sorry to say RMOW, effective bear proof garbage containment is non-existent and the bears have proved it.

Second, the destruction of the young mother bear Juniper and cub in 2007 has sparked some kind of misled emotional urge to save bears in poor condition that would otherwise perish naturally. Yes, death is not nice to see, especially with a cute little cub, but it is a part of nature — a healthy nature. Taking an underweight cub to a facility where it is cared for by people and fed supplemental food only to be released into a population where human-habituated and human food-conditioned behaviors are currently running amuck is not healthy. Bear numbers in Whistler are healthy. I would like to see the science that states they are not.

A growing bear population such as Whistler’s needs natural mortality, not interference. Mean annual survival rate for cubs in 2006-07 was 86 per cent and has never dropped below 70 per cent since 1996. The highest cub production recorded in the last 14 years was 50 cubs in 2006-07. Even at 70 per cent annual survival rate, that is a significant number of subsequent juvenile bears released into the population.

Comparatively, across North America annual cub survival rates have frequently ranged from 30 to 70 per cent. And thus, our current problem in Whistler — generation after generation of juvenile bears lured to the unchecked availability of garbage.

And third, we are now bypassing the garbage issue again and proposing to change bear biology by giving the mother bear Jeanie (resident to Whistler Mountain) birth control drugs just because we haven’t had the know-how to do something about the very core of this conflict — garbage. Short-term or long-term birth control restrictions are rash approaches to wildlife management when other options are better applied.

Manipulating female bear biology is a “cop out” which says to me that we are trying to keep this bear alive at any cost (to her of course, not to people) which has nothing to do with understanding and proactively dealing with seasonal bear behaviour. We need to deal with Jeanie as best we can, which includes what we did last fall — bear proofing her route and successfully pushing her from the village.

And Conservation Officers need to appreciate the knowledge we have on this bear (as they have done in the past) and allow adaptive management to safely guide her through the seasons. It takes work to coexist with our bears and I believe Jeanie and other bears deserve that.

Michael Allen

Black Bear Researcher

Paradise Valley, B.C.