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Letters to the Editor for the week of May 3rd, 2012

Whistler wetlands impacted by development proposal
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As the community starts to consider proposals for a "learning campus based around a university" (WhistlerU) the proponent is focusing heavily on the partnerships being developed and estimated benefits on the local economy.

However, relatively little has been mentioned about the controversial site being suggested for the campus, AWARE would like to redress that balance. To be clear, AWARE is not against a university, should the community decide this is appropriate for Whistler, we simply believe the site proposed for WhistlerU is of huge environmental importance to Whistler and should remain undeveloped.

In Whistler, over 70 per cent of our original wetlands have been lost to development or draining. The Millar Creek and Alpha Creek wetlands (found south of Creekside and in an area often referred to locally as the Zen Lands) represent the largest remaining wetland within Whistler's developed boundaries. As with all environmental systems, these areas cannot be considered in isolation, and wetlands in particular, are extremely sensitive to changes in the areas that surround them or have impacts upon them. 

Since the early '90s various development proposals have been brought to successive councils, to up-zone the upland areas adjacent to the Millar Creek and Alpha Creek Wetlands. Throughout this time AWARE's stance has been that the site should be protected, and it is perhaps indicative that consecutive councils have refused large-scale developments on the site. The landowners have been granted zoning for four single-family homes, and while AWARE believes development on the site should be entirely avoided, we understand the challenges in downzoning lands.

While the learning campus proposals include design techniques and new technologies to reduce the development's environmental impacts, it is still clear that four single-family homes would have far less impact than sufficient one-bedroom/studio accommodations to house up to 1,500 students. Additional to the substantial accommodations, the site would also be supporting lecture facilities, cafeterias, study areas and parking. In fact, during a recent presentation to council it was revealed that the development proposed for this upland area is nearly a million square feet, which equates in size to the original Whistler Village proposals.

This scale of development would have unavoidable impacts on the wetlands areas, such as increased human access to the wetlands and a complete change in the nutrient (or pollutant) run-off entering the ecosystem, as well as impacts on flora, fauna and wildlife using the area.

Despite the proponent's claim that impacts can be mitigated through buffer zones and other measures it is our community, not the developers, who define what can be considered an acceptable sacrifice in the name of development. The reason many Whistlerites invest time and energy into public consultation and feedback is to clearly establish our community's values and objectives.

Whistler 2020 and our Official Community Plans (OCP) are prime examples of this community commitment. Interestingly, the OCP formally entrenched the Protected Areas Network policy, indicating the community's desire to protect as much of the remaining valley bottom wildlife habitat as possible. The upland development proposed for WhistlerU would impact both the Alpha and Millar Creek wetlands, which represent one of only two areas zoned as PAN1 in Whistler, recognizing the ecological importance of this site.

AWARE's hope is that the community interest and high level policy objectives, most recently encapsulated in the Draft OCP, will continue to allow for informed decision-making, through an open and transparent process. This should provide the best forum for community discussions regarding the major changes to our existing bed cap, OCP and habitat protection objectives, which we hope would be required before a development of this scope can be considered.

We look forward to being a part of the community debate.

Claire Ruddy

AWARE President

Trails connect communities

The Trails B.C. AGM, held in Pemberton this past weekend, was an inspiring day of trail talk both locally and across the province, and indeed, across Canada.

"Trails connect communities" was a phrase heard over and over. The Sea to Sky Trail, an offshoot of the TransCanada trail, was highlighted at the AGM this year and we saw some great before-and-after pictures of that locally significant trail. The North Van, Lions Bay, Squamish and Whistler speakers were all great representatives for their communities and we all have common issues to deal with.

It's a given (that) trails benefit their communities significantly. Our great mountain bike trails, hiking trails, and equestrian trails were all noted as significant, and yes, while the TCT is generally for non-motorized use, snowmobile and other motorized trails were recognized for their significance for our communities too.

Pemberton's great welcome was extremely well received and many thanks go to Susie Gimse, our Director on the SLRD and Pemberton mayor Jordan Sturdy and the Village for supporting Trails B.C. so wonderfully on its 20th Anniversary — 25 per cent of the TCT (TransCanada Trail) needs to be completed yet across B.C. and indeed Canada, and 2017, Canada's 150th Anniversary, is now the goal.

We are looking forward to the completion of the Sea to Sky Trail too. Check out the websites for all the trail organizations in our communities, Trails B.C., the Sea to Sky Trail, and oh yes, the Spirit Trail in North and West Van too, all very impressive!

Jan Naylor, member of the Pemberton Valley Trails Association  

Volunteer fees?

I was on the website for the Whistler Wanderlust Festival and noticed that (it is) charging a $12 "volunteer application fee," as well as taking a credit card imprint to charge $250 for missed volunteer shifts.

I can't imagine that a yoga-based event would want to be taking advantage of people's good intention to volunteer and help out in their community so I would love to know to which local charity that Wanderlust will be donating the thousands of dollars in "volunteer application fees?"

Namaste.

Lizz Kelly

Pemberton

(Editor's note: according to the Wanderlust website the $250 fee is the approximate cost of the music and yoga tickets provided to each volunteer.)

There is no poop fairy

This rant goes out to the dog walkers who haven't learned all three steps of Poop Scooping. Yes, there really are three steps. These walkers actually make the effort to: No.1, get the poop bag, No.2, bend down, pick it up AND tie up the bag ... but then completely miss out on step No.3.... take the bag and PUT IT IN THE TRASH CAN (and nowhere else are there more trash cans available than in Whistler) because, maybe it's wrong, but there is no Poop Fairy to whisk it away. That bag may read 100 per cent biodegradable but leaving it on or along the trails doesn't remove it. Or take it home and watch it degrade.

Judi Spence

Whistler

Rule refresher for dog owners

As I was walking home from Meadow Park Sports Centre, I witnessed a fellow coworker's daily jog being interrupted by a large dog that was jumping and barking at her on the Valley Trail.

She told it to go away and was clearly becoming distraught. Instead of the owner calling the dog back into command, he proceeded to use colourful language to explain that the park behind the sports centre was a dog park and she, in a more nicely put way, should deal with it.

This fellow coworker of mine and I are municipal workers, and I felt it was necessary to kindly explain to the man that in actual fact the park he was using is not a designated dog park and the hours of off-leash play with his dog run before 10 a.m. or after 8 p.m.

I also added that one of the park's regulations, as stated clearly in Bylaw 1526, notes that "persons having custody of a dog off-leash must exercise direct control and prevent the dog from running up to, and jumping on, other people and their dogs" (cited: http://www.whistler.ca/sites/default/files/bylaws/1526_2002.pdf).

I felt very insulted that a fellow dog owner would ignorantly claim that he had a right to let his dog act in a disturbing manner to the public. Not only that, but he continued to boldly state that my coworker and I were full of bull.

Bricks to you sir. I would be very ashamed to be in your position at the moment.

Jessica Buchholz

Whistler

A BIG thank-you from Big Brothers Big Sisters!!

On April 21 we had our second annual Wii Bowl Classic for Big Brothers Big Sisters at Brennan Park. We successfully raised enough funds to support 150 children in the Sea to Sky corridor. It was a fun-filled day of games and activities for children and adults.

We would like to thank our sponsors from Whistler which include: Canadian 01, Celebrate, Columbia, Cows, Earls, Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Jono, Lululemon, La Scandinave, Rocky Mountain Soap Company, Scotia Bank, Skis & Bikes, The Great Glass Elevator Candy Shop, The Mix, and Ziptrek. Our programs are not possible without volunteers and funding from the community. The generosity from our community is greatly appreciated!

We do have a waitlist of little buddies who are looking for a role model. These are kids who need one-on-one time to build self-confidence, friendship skills and to have fun. We are recruiting new Mentors for Fall 2012 throughout the summer. The In School Mentoring Program requires that matches meet one hour per week during school hours on school property. This program truly makes a valuable difference in a child's life. If you are interested in applying please go to www.beamentorseatosky.com or email seatoskyinfo@bigbrothersbigsisters.ca.

Lindsay Debou, Mentoring Coordinator

Big Brothers Big Sisters

Enbridge opposition not in Action Plan

There was a recent report in Pique that Council recorded an opposition to the proposed northern pipeline (Pique April 5, 2012).

This is none of (council's) business and nowhere to be found in (council's) Action Plan. (Council was) not elected to "save the world."

So far, your budget process is encouraging. As Sandy Black observed, next year should be even better and many taxpayers, having suffered exorbitant increases in the past five years, are hoping for a significant rollback in taxes, never mind zero increase.

Clive V. Nylander

Whistler

BC Hydro appreciates Customers' patience

I'd like to thank BC Hydro customers for their patience as we transition to a more modern electricity system. We're replacing our old analog meters with new digital smart meters, which will have many benefits for customers such as faster power restoration when there's an outage and new tools to help you manage your energy use to save energy and money.

So far more than 1.1 million meters have been exchanged with very few problems. We know deployment of new equipment on this scale will not be perfect, but we're doing our best to ensure our customers are not inconvenienced by any issues that may occur.

Over the past weeks some customers have asked whether a higher bill might have been caused by a new smart meter. We take every customer concern very seriously and investigate each one thoroughly.  In the overwhelming number of inquiries we've determined that bills are consistent with past use; or there has been a manual meter misread which we immediately correct. If that doesn't explain it, we look at every other possible source, including the meter.

As is the case with any mass-produced electronic device, there will be a small number of meters that have components that don't work properly. Out of more than 1.1 million meters installed to date there have been very few meters that have had problems. The vast majority of these errors were caught by system checks and did not affect customer bills. In future, when our smart grid is operational, we will be able to detect many problems on our grid automatically and fix them much faster.

We appreciate our customers' continued patience as we work to complete the installation of the new meters this year. To learn more about the new meters, visit bchydro.com/smartmeters. To find out more about your bill, sign up for an online account at bchydro.com or call our customer service team at 1.800.224.9376.

Donna McGeachie BC Hydro Community Relations Manager

Lower Mainland and South Coast

Not everything should be easy

I am not in favor of the proposed Sea to Sky Gondola. Urban sprawl is the enemy of biodiversity. By introducing mass tourism into the Shannon basin, east of Stawamus Chief Park, the biodiversity of the area will be significantly degraded.

Both the integrity of the BC Parks system (and planning processes) and the usefulness of restrictive covenants as a tool to protect social and environmental values are being undermined by the proposed Sea to Sky Gondola. It is sad to think that the restrictive covenant on the North Vancouver Outdoor School (NVOS) could be next in line to be circumvented by a sufficiently determined developer.

Squamish currently has a wealth of cultural, natural, and built attractions: Quest U., Capilano U., NVOS, the Railway Heritage Park, Britannia Mining Museum, Chances Squamish, windsurfing, climbing, kayaking, the estuary, the Cheekeye fan forest, Eagle Watch, Squamish Days Loggers Sports, etc. Adding a risky, capital intensive, seasonal gondola will not improve Squamish's ability to effectively market this amazingly diverse year-round community.

I take my hat off to Trevor Dean and company who have romanced Squamish effectively. Sadly, so much promised during courtship doesn't pan out when the rubber hits the road and reality, financial and otherwise, sets in.

What is there at the top that makes people want to get there except the romance of climbing there? Won't a gondola kill the romance? Imagine if you will, a gondola being built to the Olympic gold medal podium! Not everything should be made easy.

Meg Fellowes

Squamish

Walk the walk

I have to write and say how much I agreed with Nigel Mathews (recent) letter (Pique April 19).

I am also an immigrant who chose the Whistler area not for the skiing, mountain bike riding ... but with an offer of work, which happened to be based in Whistler.

The Whistler council wants to stand up to big business and be against the pipeline project, which doesn't come near Whistler. This from the same council, and I include ex-mayors, which says they are "green" and for the environment, but (which) at the same time cut down swathes of old trees and locally known wetlands within the village, and large areas of the Callaghan Valley for Olympic venues and not-so-friendly buses. These trees that had stood for decades, were cut down against public outrage at the time, for a Games that only last three weeks then moves on, leaving a promised legacy for the future?!

I first visited Whistler in the late 70s when Lost Lake was still lost, you could "skinny dip" in the lake and have an open beer without being treated as a criminal, and the closest thing to a designer store was the jeans and cowboy store in Squamish. I then came back again in the early 2000s and found Whistler had grown and become a "Disneyland" of the north, with houses too expensive and oversized for most working class people, and the only ones available were 300-square-foot boxes well away from the mountainside homes, most of which are not even lived in all year round.

Today we have a new council coming out with the "same old crap" — they want the skiers/bikers to come and spend their "Yankee Dollar" or is it "Chinese Yuan," but at the same time, they search for ways to screw locals and businesses for paid parking. And if we don't agree they say, "use the bus, it's greener anyway" (try using the Pemberton/Whistler bus service to get to work and back within a reasonable time frame and see how long that lasts. It was one of the few things from the Olympics that actually worked for Pemberton).

So for those "Not In My Back Yard" councillors, please take a look at yourselves and what you did and continue to do in Whistler, and remember those new skis you got with the go-faster polyethylene synthetic base are made from a compound of petroleum, before you stand up and speak for me on issues away from home.

Jim Clark

Pemberton

Mac's convenience store

I was discouraged to read in the paper that Mac's convenience store will be going into the (old) Roger's Video space in the Marketplace.

What need could they fill that 7-Eleven, IGA, Rexall and the Great Glass Elevator cannot? And all located within minutes of each other. As a small business owner I am concerned that there is no process to ensure that we have a thriving, and more importantly a diverse marketplace.

It is time for a planning committee to come together to oversee the granting of business licenses to ensure that Whistler is not flooded with like stores and becoming a strip mall that could be found in anywhere, Canada or U.S.

Cathy McGeough

Whistler

NDP MLA says tourism matters

I'd like to thank Bob Barnett for his interest in our tourism policy (NDP needs to commit to tourism, Pique April 19).  Adrian Dix and the B.C. New Democrats recognize the vital importance of tourism for British Columbia's economy. As Official Opposition critic, I've been excited to work with many industry leaders and small business owners to develop our vision for a stronger tourism sector. I've also been pleased to share that vision with the Tourism Industry Association of B.C. at their leaders' summits on a few occasions.

I've been advocating for the creation of an industry-led tourism marketing organization with stable and predictable formula funding — much like we had with the New Democrat-created Tourism B.C. before the Liberals dismantled it right before the 2010 Olympic Games. Businesses and organizations like Tourism Whistler need to be able to plan more than a year in advance and have confidence that tourism-marketing dollars will be there and be used wisely.

Greater focus on cultural tourism, which the Canadian Tourism Commission has acknowledged is one of the fastest growing sectors in the industry, needs to be taken. The Whistler Arts Council is a great example of an organization that demonstrates the value of culture to society and to tourism.

I've also been delighted to work with Aboriginal Tourism B.C., and am excited about their ideas and contributions to a stronger society, economy, and tourism sector.

Rather than making the deepest cuts to cultural investments like the Liberals did, I believe we need to work with our artists, event producers, and creative economy leaders to grow tourism and support culture in B.C.

New Democrats have been impressed by the number of jobs and new business opportunities in tourism and will continue to work with the industry to advocate for this vital sector.

Spencer Chandra Herbert

Official Opposition Critic for Tourism, Culture, and the Arts

MLA Vancouver West End




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