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Letters to the Editor for the week of July 2

Adventuring differently in Whistler On June 24, Premier John Horgan announced B.C.
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Adventuring differently in Whistler

On June 24, Premier John Horgan announced B.C.’s transition into Phase 3 of our province’s Restart Plan, and that provincial health authorities had officially lifted their advisory against non-essential personal travel. 

This was the announcement we had all been waiting for, and was great news for Whistler, and for the tourism sector across B.C. After many months of sheltering in place, British Columbians have finally been given the greenlight by government officials to get out and explore our beautiful province.

As we all know, tourism is Whistler’s lifeblood, so we are very excited to be welcoming visitors back to our mountain community! In the same breath, we also know that it is a huge responsibility, and that we need to manage the return to tourism carefully, so as not to expose our employees, visitors or residents to health risks, or our destination to reputation risk.

Our community has been working closely over the past months to ensure Whistler’s return to tourism is managed thoughtfully and responsibly, with enhanced safety protocols in place, along with a new business directory and communications tools to provide accurate and transparent information on Whistler’s new tourism experience. We all have a key role to play in our community’s recovery, and we are ready to take that next step.

Throughout the pandemic, Tourism Whistler has been engaging with our business community and residents to gauge local sentiments on the return of tourism and we have conducted visitor surveys to gauge travel intentions and destination expectations.

The feedback from all parties has been aligned:

• Visitors want to know what to expect when they arrive; they want to know that there will be appropriate COVID-19 protocols in place to protect them; and they want to be welcomed when they are here;

• Local residents want the assurance that visitor volumes will be proactively managed, and that visitors will exude responsible behaviours when here to keep the community safe;

• Resort businesses want a measured and manageable return to “new normal” tourism levels.   

While restrictions against international travel and gatherings of more than 50 people will remain in place for the foreseeable future, we know there is considerable pent-up demand from British Columbians for regional leisure travel, and that is where Tourism Whistler will be focusing our efforts in the short term—encouraging extended weekend stays, week-long vacations, and midweek getaways in an effort to balance visitation. 

Building upon our research, Tourism Whistler has now launched our new Summer Marketing Campaign, Adventure Differently, into British Columbia. The campaign redefines what it means to vacation in a COVID-19 world, and provides guests with comfort and confidence in returning to Whistler, while encouraging them to do so mindfully and respectfully, with a focus on responsible behaviours.

With this in mind, Tourism Whistler has developed four key messaging pillars, which provide guidelines for the changes we are asking of all of us who spend time in the resort this summer:

Let’s interact considerately

Let’s play simply

Let’s explore responsibly

Let’s enjoy patiently

You can learn more about these four pillars, and our messaging to guests, at whistler.com/summer.  

We have also launched a new Whistler Doors Open Directory on whistler.com detailing what businesses are open, what experiences are available, and what new COVID-19 safety protocols are in place across the resort. This is an important resource for locals and visitors alike, and will be a valuable tool for helping to manage visitor expectations and the in-resort experience this summer. 

This is going to be a very unique summer in Whistler as we conduct business with new capacities and new protocols, but we are delighted that the resort is again open to invite visitors back in a responsible and welcoming way.

Barrett Fisher // President & CEO, Tourism Whistler

More thoughts on grizzlies

It was great to see Brad Sills’ thoughtful letter about co-existing with grizzly bears in response (Pique, June 18, “Letters to the Editor”) to a letter to council from the Whistler Section of the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC), whose suggestion is to tranquilize and move grizzlies far away so they are not a nuisance to hikers and bikers around Whistler. 

I’d like to add some more information that I hope will be helpful when discussing our commitment to support grizzly-bear recovery. 

First, I hope we can all agree that independent researchers that study grizzly bears and conservation are an invaluable resource to guide decisions related to their recovery. Researchers gave us the good news that the local grizzly bear population had been recovering from historic lows, and they are also warning us their recovery will not continue without well-informed recreation management. (See Pique, “Grizzly plan review reveals unanswered, and unasked, questions,” June 3, 2019.)

One big issue is the sheer number of people using the trails. With the flip of a switch, thousands of people suddenly flooded into the home and feeding areas of recovering grizzly bears (about 2,500 users per month and 14,000 per year). While individually people can follow best practices, for an effective grizzly recovery strategy the cumulative affects of the number of users needs to be addressed.

The grizzly recovery in Yellowstone National Park is a truly uplifting story, but as always when navigating the complex issue of conservation, context is incredibly important. Taking Yellowstone’s success story and assuming it will translate anywhere in the world is problematic.

Yellowstone is four-and-a-half times the size of Garibaldi Provincial Park, which means hikers and grizzlies can avoid each other much more easily than in our small pocket of B.C. Mountain biking is prohibited in the backcountry and overnight trips are tightly controlled by a permitting process, which are other key differences.

Comparing travelling in grizzly bear habitat to travelling in avalanche territory is an interesting analogy (as per Sills’ letter). It made me want to think about what an analogy might look from a grizzly’s perspective. Maybe we can compare humans in grizzly territory to ants in your home—how many can pass through before there is a serious problem?

Banning dogs and e-bikes above the flank trail was a good start to support grizzly recovery. To fully meet our commitment, we still need to address limiting the number of trail users, rerouting trails to avoid grizzly habitat and halting expansion. I look forward to more community conversations about this issue.

Kristina Swerhun // Whistler

Whistler—let’s all wear our masks

Many in our community have been doing great things to get Whistler this far in the pandemic experience. Our community has gone from the sad look of the empty village and lonely parks and playgrounds to the recent days with people on the Village Stroll, sitting at cafes and going in and out of shops. 

It’s especially great to see the kids enjoying the playgrounds. It feels so much better.   

As we appreciate all of that could we ask one more thing—that we wear masks. 

Just trying to stay two metres away when indoors is not enough. Scientists and doctors say masks work to control the spread of COVID-19. And, as it’s a new thing for most of us, if you wear a mask it encourages me to wear a mask. You protect me and I protect you.  

Everyone in our community needs to go out and have fun and socialize… but then when we are at work indoors or getting groceries, stopping into the bike shop or picking up our take-out, let’s wear a mask (Google how to wear a mask properly, of course).

We now know people without symptoms of COVID-19 can be positive and without realizing it can spread the virus. So it’s good to see places in the community like Whistler Blackcomb making masks normal. 

We like to shop at Creekside Market where staff wears masks and many customers do, too. If we want to encourage the local economy and keep our jobs and businesses, then visitors and locals have to know Whistler is safe… or at least lower risk.  

Let’s make it our way of having good times, let’s make it our culture, that we keep others safe from COVID-19 because we wash our hands, watch our distance, AND WEAR A MASK. 

Leslie and Shep Alexander // Whistler

Restore access to public chinook fishing

[Editors’ note: This letter was sent to fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan and shared with Pique.]

I am writing to express my extreme disappointment and lack of trust in the consultation process that you conducted with the public and the Sport Fish Advisory Board on your recent decision regarding Fraser River Chinook Management Measures.

At no time during the consultation process was the extreme closures that were put in place by your department ever proposed or discussed. You now have closed access to any chinook salmon fishing for even catch and release in all of Vancouver area and the majority of Howe Sound from April 1 to Sept. 1, with no consultation on this with the public! 

This is disgraceful and totally unacceptable. Both the lack of consideration and unjustified policies the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) continues to impose on the public sector are destroying an important social and economic component of Canadian society.

The Sport Fish Advisory Board worked very hard since last year when Fraser River Chinook Management measures were put in place to make recommendations to DFO on recovery measures for the 4.2 and 5.2 spring chinook and 5.2 summer chinook stocks of concern. We asked for a recovery program that involved real actions, such as addressing water extraction, habitat degradation, pinniped predation, hatchery enhancement, enforcement of illegal in-river gillnets and selective fishing such as fish traps.

I also personally met with [former] Minister [Jonathan] Wilkinson in May of 2019 to put forward these recommendations, even going so far as to put forward a written proposal by the Spruce City Wildlife Federation to aid in recovery that never received a response from the minister.

So far, all you have announced is a smoke-and-mirrors plan of massive closures without consultation that has proven to fail based on past management.

Fishing restrictions have failed to save other salmon species such as early Stuart sockeye, Thompson coho and steelhead. During extensive meetings with DFO staff, the Sport Fish Advisory Board presented opportunities for mark selective fisheries for chinook salmon in areas of the South Coast that had a less than one-per-cent encounter rate with the chinook stocks of concern. 

This would have created retention opportunities for the many healthy chinook salmon stocks that are in the South Coast waters. It would have protected critical social and economic opportunities for all Canadians. Now you have decided that one per cent still was not acceptable and closed. 

I ask you and your department, if a proposal that was built on DFO’s own science and data is not acceptable at one-per-cent encounter rate, then what is? You have put in place a politically driven, two-tier management system without consultation or scientific basis to only pander to the Marine Conservation Caucus (MCC) and Fraser River First Nations opposition to the public fishery.

This unacceptable, politically driven decision will not be taken lightly by the public fishery and you will be held accountable for your management measures and complete failure to use science and data.

I can tell you that from 20 years of fishing the South Coast and specifically the Howe Sound and Vancouver area for chinook salmon, that I have never seen so many chinook salmon in our local waters. There are abundant numbers of chinook from the Chilliwack/Vedder River, Puget Sound, summer 4-1 chinook and east coast of Vancouver Island rivers such as the Cowichan and Puntledge, along with significant improvements in Squamish chinook as a result of hatchery enhancement and improved habitat work done by your own department.

This year I started doing chinook sampling for the DFO Avid Angler program. During days this spring, in a six-hour period of sampling chinook in Howe Sound and lower Georgia Straight, I caught and released 27 chinook between 55 centimetres and 81 cm in one outing. Several times this year I have sampled 12 to 15 chinook in three or four hours of fishing. The abundance of chinook in local waters is incredible, yet DFO chooses to ignore this and bring in management measures that are totally not science- and data-based.

Minister, I urge you to immediately reconsider your decision and restore access to the public fishery to the abundant chinook salmon that can be caught by sport fishers in a very sustainable manner and take real recovery measures for chinook stocks of concern!

Dave Brown // Squamish to Lillooet Sport Fish Advisory Board Vice-Chair

Wear a mask for others

I’ve decided I’d like to rant a bit.

We are up in Whistler and there are so few people wearing masks.

I’ve chatted with a bunch of folks about the value of wearing them and am disappointed that we have a lot of friends who don’t like the idea and won’t [wear them].

My question is, “what can it hurt?”

Can all of the international epidemiologists, scientists, health professionals and the WHO be wrong?

We are so proud (those of us in B.C.) of how we have “flattened the curve,” so why on Earth would we take the slightest gamble? It just seems absurd.

Simply look 90 kilometres to the south! Look what’s happening down there because Americans feel it is their “right” to not wear face masks.  

So, how’s that working so far?

When I go into a situation that doesn’t allow for social distancing, I wear a mask.

Does it work? I’m not 100-per-cent sure. But I am 100-per-cent sure that it could.

I’m wearing one for you and would like to ask you to please wear one for me and everybody else.

I know that this is going to upset some of you and I don’t want an argument. Please don’t reply with reasons against wearing a mask. You’re not going to convince me. But I hope I convince you.

If you need some more detail, visit here: ucsf.edu/news/2020/06/417906/still-confused-about-masks-heres-science-behind-how-face-masks-prevent.

Unlike U.S. President Donald Trump and his hydroxychloroquine, what have you got to lose?

Keep well.

Chris Patrick // Whistler 




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