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Letters to the editor for the week of October 25th

Get bear smart Last week was the one-year anniversary of Jeanie's death, Oct. 20, 2011.

Get bear smart

Last week was the one-year anniversary of Jeanie's death, Oct. 20, 2011. Whistler's most iconic black bear was destroyed by conservation officers due to concerns for public safety: Jeanie had been reported to have entered two restaurants on the week of her demise. She is survived by her cub, Jeanette.

In my 10 years of following human-bear conflicts in Whistler, I've never seen such a disheartening year. (This year four bears are dead.) In 2011, 25 per cent of Whistler's black bears were destroyed because of human-bear conflicts. One quarter of the population was eliminated. Half were due to car collisions. The other half to human (and businesses') carelessness and ignorance.

Please educate yourself. Try for information.

Landlords, educate your transient winter tenants. Fall and spring are the most active times for bears. Recycling is the same as garbage. Leave it out and bears get shot. Restaurants, powerwash your outdoor grease bins and garbage containers on a regular basis. Staff, use them properly. Regular public, close all bin doors at waste stations. Don't leave anything sitting outside. Call landlords if garbage sheds need maintenance.

Do not pose for a picture with bears. Make noise. Yell and holler when you encounter them. Let bears know that human interaction is a negative experience. Keep our wild, wild.

A bear's intelligence has been likened to that of the great apes. I remember one incident where a Whistler bear not only learned to turn a doorknob to get into a garage, but he figured out how to turn the knob in the opposite direction and then pull the door (instead of push) to get out again – not a coincidence, he came back the second day and repeated the incident. Once a bear finds a reward, they will come back again, year after year, even if there isn't a reward a second time. So we have to get it right the first time.

Do it for Jeanie. And more importantly, do it for the approximately, 75 remaining bears here in Whistler. This is all just a part of living and doing business in this town.

Nicole Fitzgerald


Business community says thank you!

On behalf of the Whistler business community, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce would like to congratulate its resort partners on their success in securing three iconic announcements for the resort in the last couple of weeks.

First of all, thank you to the Resort Municipality of Whistler for being supportive of the vision presented by Mr. Michael Audain to establish a private museum in our community. It is an unbelievable honour for Whistler to host Mr. Audain's extensive art collection and our council's decision to embrace the opportunity will expand our cultural offering and attract a significant number of visitors to our resort.

Secondly, thank you to the Resort Municipality of Whistler and to Tourism Whistler for wooing Ironman Canada to our community for the next five years, starting in August 2013. Hosting sporting events like Ironman is our specialty and no doubt the athletes will be blown away by our unique terrain, community support and enthusiasm for their craft!

And finally, congratulations to Whistler Blackcomb on the recent announcement that we all live, work and play in the #1 ski resort in North America!

Our partners have done the heavy lifting and secured successes that help to keep Whistler on the international stage and to drive visitation to the resort. It is now up to us, the business community, to pull our weight and ensure that when those (and all other) guests arrive, we deliver an exceptional Whistler experience.

To that end, I encourage all business owners, managers and supervisors to attend this year's Spirit Luncheon on Wednesday, November 14. It'll be an opportunity not only to celebrate the upcoming winter season, but also to remind ourselves that our delivery of an exceptional Whistler experience builds on the good work done by our partners, helps to set Whistler apart from its competition and benefits all of us over time. Let's do it!

Fiona Famulak

President, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce

How about peak time fares?

Regarding proposed cuts to the Vancouver to Mount Currie Greyhound route, I'm amazed that this company feels the need to cut services on this route, rather than simply increasing fares to a more sustainable level.

In the mid-1980s, we paid about $23 including tax for a one-way fare from Whistler to Vancouver. Today, I can buy the same ticket online, three days in advance, for $15 + HST. If I were to buy a one-way ticket to Vancouver airport (only 11 kilometres farther on Google maps), via Perimeter Bus Lines, the fare is $75 + HST. See anything wrong with this picture?

Now, I'm not trying to blow it for local bus riders on a tight budget, but I think it makes much more sense to increase the fare closer to what the market can bear, seeing as Perimeter seems to somehow get customers with their much higher fares.

I don't know if the airport bus companies are also losing money, but I certainly think that the public will understand that with fuel prices now about triple that of the mid-80s, it makes absolutely no sense that Greyhound should be charging less now than we paid 25 years ago.

Cutting services will result in a drop in visitors to Whistler, among many other issues and those businesses affected by the resulting visitor drop shouldn't allow this.

Maybe a better idea that may please more riders is to charge more during peak times and leave the price at non-peak times the same? This model seems to work on the city bus system in Vancouver.

Beric Pocklington


Time to change our attitudes

The rainy season has arrived and snow has begun to accumulate in the mountains. As the ski season approaches, so too does the ninth anniversary of the fatal car crash that brought public transit to the Sea to Sky Highway between Squamish and Whistler.

Transit began as a seasonal, winter only, service carrying commuters, shoppers and skiers in both directions between the two communities. It was popular. It was affordable. For many it provided a safe option to driving. For others, living without cars in Squamish, it was an affordable way to get to work or the ski hills. It provided a way for seasonal workers and the elderly in Whistler to shop, access medical and government services and seek a reprieve from the full-time resort experience.

After three years of seasonal operation it proved so successful that it became a year-round operation. Instead of the available, affordable buses that had been used in the past, new, expensive buses were purchased. Instead of the available, affordable transit facility that had been used in the past, a new, expensive transit facility was built in Whistler. Instead of raising fares to reflect the increased costs, fares remained the same.

Is it any surprise that municipal politicians eventually noticed that it was becoming too expensive to operate? After a sudden, 60 per cent increase in fares and three temporary extensions to operations, Sea to Sky Transit joined BC Rail service and the early morning Greyhound trip to Vancouver as part of our transportation history.

Since the 2006 Census our population has increased by about 15 per cent. Highway use increases by about 10 per cent per year. The number of people who commute from Squamish to Whistler or Metro Vancouver probably exceeds either of them. BC Transit seems to have given up. Local politicians don't seem to know where to start. The idea of asking TransLink for help seems to make many people irate, even as they drive to Vancouver across the TransLink supported bridges.

Now, we eagerly await the decision of the BC Passenger Transportation Board. Will they allow Greyhound to cut their minimum required service from eight trips per day to four?

Public transit and planned transportation do exist. On the Sunshine Coast there is public transit, seven days per week, connecting all of the communities between Halfmoon Bay and Langdale. Langdale provides access to Horseshoe Bay and all of the transportation options of Metro Vancouver.

All across North America, young people are choosing not to own cars. Instead of remaining in small towns and rural communities, they move to areas where a car isn't needed. All across North America older people are choosing to move to cities where they can have access to all the services they need without owning a car.

In the Sea to Sky corridor we are increasingly making cars the only means of transportation. What will it take to change the attitudes and actions along the Sea to Sky Corridor?

Murray Gamble


Thanks for trails work

On behalf of the WORCA board and its members I'd like to pass on my thanks and gratitude to the Whistler Bike Park for its recent investment in the maintenance of the Khyber's Pass trail. The new Top of The World trail has made both Khyber's Pass and Ride Don't Slide much more accessible and they experienced significantly more traffic than in previous years.

While working on Tunnel Vision last month I was amazed at the number of full face helmets and DH bikes coming out of Khyber's. The obvious increase in traffic has had an increased impact on the trails so we are very pleased to see the Bike Park take a leading role in the up-keep of these trails.

I was able to witness your trail maintenance team, Tim and Dave, at work; they are doing some excellent armouring in just the right places so this trail remains one of the epic descents in the valley. After a winter of snow compaction it will be ready for some fun next summer!

Thanks again and keep up the great work on these important trails for Whistler.

Tim Andrews

Trails Director, WORCA

If you are here, Volunteer!

As most of you have heard, in 2013 Whistler will be the new home of Ironman Canada!

As someone who has spent the last 12 years living and breathing this sport I can tell you if you are planning to be here get out and volunteer! Ironman is an epic and inspirational journey not only for the athlete, but also for all of the family and friends who support them, and all of the thousands of volunteers who come out and make the event a reality.

Ironman is not just a sport for the elite, though they are amazing to watch, it is the sport for the person who overcame cancer, suffering from ALS, who only has one arm or leg, who lost someone close to them, the double-lung transplant or heart transplant recipient and the person who just wants to see if they can complete it.

With over 2,000 athletes planning to compete next August, our town will be full of triathletes from all over the world. It will be a very exciting time and it will be an opportunity for our communities (Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton) to come out and support each person on their own personal journey to becoming an Ironman.

I have been both a competitor and volunteer so I know what it is like to have someone greet me in the morning and write numbers on my body, help me take my wetsuit off after the swim, someone to lather my arms and face with sunscreen, hold my bike while I use the porta pottie, hand me a drink, banana, gel, and ice cold sponge, take my bike and rack it for me before I start my run, cheer me on when I am feeling low, and finally catch me as I cross the finish line and stay with me grabbing me drinks, pizza, and if needed, medical support.

You have no idea the impact that you can have on one person through this long day. As a volunteer you will get to meet some amazing people and know that every athlete you help out and cheer on could not have completed the day without you!

Christine Suter


Canada-China Investment Treaty

Our government is preparing to ratify an agreement recently made between our government and the Chinese government, without public consultation or even a vote in Parliament. On October 31, our government will be bound by the Canada-China Investment Treaty. This event has received little press coverage and has stirred little public interest. 

Under the agreement, Chinese companies will have greater access to our natural resources by easing their takeover of Canadian assets. The agreement will further erode the state of democracy in our country by allowing Chinese companies to sue our government for damages if any decision at any level of government (i.e.: stricter environmental laws) reduces their expectation of profit.  Hearings will be held in secret, without the involvement of regional and provincial governments.

If in future our government decides to reduce access to natural resources, they must treat the Chinese companies as equal to our own companies, and not reduce access to a greater degree. 

What can we do? We can let Stephen Harper's government know this will not be accepted. Write letters to your MPs. Demand that the press covers this story. Fill up the message boards. Get out there and get noisy. This is how democracy works.

We have a voice; we need to use it to demand that this agreement not be ratified.

Margaret McLeod


There are Angels in Whistler and Pemberton

Yes there are, and I would name them, but then it would spoil the magic.

Over the past six months, and especially this week, I have been blessed by two Angels from a B&B near the river of Golden Dreams (she bakes the best bread ever!), an Angel who owns her own ecologically-friendly spa in the village, several Angels who run a healing and wellness centre near Whistler, an Angel in the RCMP, three special Angels at the Whistler Community Services Society, two divine Angels in Pemberton and another super-duper hot-pink Angel who flitters between Whistler and Vancouver.

All of these Angels noticed that I needed assistance and all of them took time out of their busy days to listen, show compassion and take action. That action translated into fresh fruit and vegetables, an impromptu garage sale, law enforcement officers and child protection workers responding to a teenager in need, and so many more blessings that I would need an entire blog article to describe them.

I have prayed to see community and social responsibility in Whistler and suddenly, it is all around me. We are truly a blessed community where there are so many more good people whose light and generosity sends apathy and bullying scurrying for the shadows.

I thank God for all of you and I am grateful to live in this sanctuary of sacred space called Whistler!

Lisa Tracy


Thanks for Making Old Forest Symposium a Success

Last weekend was a busy time for Whistler residents, with the Naturalists' Fungus Among Us and the Readers and Writers Festival happening we were a little concerned people would have run out of steam by Sunday evening when the Old Forest Symposium kicked off. Turns out we needn't have worried. The symposium hosted by the local environmental group, AWARE, set out to bring expert scientists to Whistler to share their knowledge about old forests and various approaches to managing them.

The symposium was broken down into three distinct sessions to maximize the opportunities for people to get involved, and get involved they did. With just under 60 participants on Sunday evening, 50 attending the talks on Monday morning and 30 people donning their rain jackets for the guided site visit to the Ancient Cedars Monday afternoon.

As with all events there are people without whom it would not happen. For the symposium this person would be my co-organizer Bob Brett. It was his idea to hold an event that brought this group of scientists to town and from that idea the Old Forest Symposium grew. We would like to thank the Community Foundation of Whistler who provided the funds that allowed us to turn an idea into reality and our guest scientists Ken Lertzman, Andy MacKinnon and Curtis Bjork who committed to take time out of their busy schedules to be a part of the event.

It was great to be able to add local context into the format as well, with Peter Ackhurst presenting for the CCF and Bob, who is a biologist by trade, presenting his research on tree ages, collected over the years around Whistler.

The symposium was originally intended to be a one-day session but thanks to a number of local businesses stepping up to support the event we were able to stretch the CFOW funds to expand the event.

So thank you to Nicklaus North and Millennium Place for providing free and discounted venues respectively, Kent at Creekside Market for providing lunches for the 30 people and Keenan of Whistler Eco Tours who sponsored our site visit by providing us with a couple of their passenger vans equipped with drivers.

I was humbled by everyone's enthusiasm and efforts to make this event a success. It goes to show that our Old Forests have many friends!

If you weren't able to attend the symposium all presentations can be found on the AWARE website:

Claire Ruddy

AWARE president