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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Clean up your butts for the love of pups

Photo by Mo Handford

Hi, I’m Mac, one of the many new puppies in Whistler. I’ve only been here for four months, but I love this place. I love the lakes, the forest, the trails, including the Valley Trail, between Lakeside and Wayside parks, which I get to explore daily.

I’m really good at sniffing and I like to taste everything. I’m a puppy; that’s what we do. I will eventually outgrow it.

But there’s a problem. Lots of people are dropping their cigarette or weed butts. I am learning to ignore the tobacco butts, but cannot stop sampling the weed roaches. They just smell so good! 

I have gotten really sick from eating cannabis at least five times in my short life here. IT SUCKS! I feel like crap, my head shakes, I pee myself and I can’t stand up properly. If I eat a lot, I barf!  

I sometimes have to go to the vet for tests and treatments, and my owner feels very badly that she can’t do more to help me. My owner keeps me on a short leash and tries to watch everything I pick up. I even found a discarded vape in the bushes beside the Valley Trail one day. Not cool. I could have been seriously injured/poisoned.  

My owner is talking about putting a muzzle on me because I’m such a wily puppy. I don’t even get to go to the local park anymore. No fair! 

Please help me out by doing your part. 

PLEASE don’t drop butts of any kind, chuck them from your car, throw them in the bushes or stub them out on the Valley Trail or in tree stumps. I will find them! Just like hiking, pack it in, pack it out!  

Put that roach in the trash can, a baggie, or your pocket! It’s easy for you to do and it saves animals like me! 

On behalf of all the Whistler puppies and our big brothers and sisters, thanks for reading, and doing your part to keep us healthy.

Woof woof, 

Macchiato (and Mo) Handford // Whistler 

Summer crowding safety concerns  

I wanted to share two experiences of mine at Whistler recently that cause me concern. 

The first: face masks and physical distancing. On the last two walks that I have taken along the entire Village Stroll recently, I was alarmed by the lack of facemasks worn by visitors and the lack of two-metre clearance between individuals and groups. 

On Saturday, July 18, my loose count was that 14 people (seven per cent) were wearing facemasks out of a total of perhaps 200 people that I walked by. On Saturday, Aug. 1, I counted 45 facemasks (nine per cent), but there were probably 500 people that I saw in much closer proximity to each other due to the long-weekend crowds. 

My sense is that not enough people really understand how to protect against the transmission of COVID-19. As a senior, wearing a mask and keeping two metres apart is common sense. But for the other 90-plus per cent, it seems like they are not understanding this yet, which is why, unfortunately, the likelihood of a higher and faster spread of COVID-19 in Whistler and other parts of B.C. appears inevitable. 

Sorry, Whistler, your small signs that say “use of masks encouraged” and the larger “practice physical distancing” signs are simply not working. Can you use some enforcement to get this message across? 

Second: Valley Trail safety. As an avid walker of the paved pedestrian/cycle paths around Whistler, and especially the south Valley Trail, it is very clear that increased activity on summer weekends is resulting in crowded trails and a dangerous mix between families, dog walkers, walkers and bikes (and more and more electric bikes). 

Serious accidents look to be inevitable, considering that many of the younger riders are not slowing down and are cutting downhill corners, passing on blind corners, and essentially not being courteous to other walkers or bikers—especially on the winding and hilly sections of the trails.

Why not make it mandatory that all bikes on Whistler trails must have bicycle bells and, most importantly, have the riders ring their bells as an essential courtesy as they approach walkers or before they pass other bikes? Or perhaps post signs along the trail stating that cyclists must ring their bell as they approach slower bikes or walkers. Something simple like this can only help reduce the risk of a serious accident—a low-cost investment to improve safety. 

My personal solution to both issues is that we have decided not to go into the village or travel on the Valley Trail on weekends, and especially long weekends. Other visitors do not have this luxury, so keeping the rest of the visitors safer should be a higher priority for Whistler in the summer. 

Russ Taylor // Whistler

More courtesy needed from cyclists 

With the gym closed and social distancing a concern, more pedestrians and cyclists are using our paved paths this summer. Most cyclists are respectful of pedestrians. 

However, a significant minority are not. Shouting “f**k off” or gesturing with your hand is not a respectful way to respond to a pedestrian’s request that you stay in your lane—both of which I experienced on this morning’s walk. 

I’ve been hit twice by cyclists: once when she ran a red light and once on a crowded pedestrian street. The second time landed me in physiotherapy for the better part of a year. Both times, the cyclist was in the wrong. 

Cyclists don’t like cars that encroach on their space; pedestrians don’t like cyclists who do the same.

Valerie Whiffen // Whistler

Thank you for emergency help 

My wife Suzanne, a very good friend Alan Baldwin, and I were on our mountain bikes and were heading south to take a ride to Callaghan Lake. As we approached the top of Power Line Hill, we were directed onto the main highway, which had been torn up in preparation for new asphalt.  

We were following a dump truck down the hill and then we were directed back into the original paved roadway. I was leading our team and could see the abutment or transition back to the original roadway was approximately a three-to-four-inch (eight-to-10 cm) curb.  

I approached the curb at a 70- to 80-per-cent angle and my bike easily handled the transition. Behind me, I could hear my wife Suzanne slamming to the ground. I quickly looked around and saw Alan approaching from the same angle and take a disastrous fall.  

Both riders had come into the transition pavement at a parallel angle, which caused both bikes to crash. Suzanne fortunately only suffered a mild concussion, road rash, bruising and a very sore shoulder.  

Alan wasn’t so lucky. Alan was motionless on the roadway and was in obvious pain. He ended up fracturing his pelvis in two places, three ribs and his clavicle and has a bad concussion. 

He is still in Vancouver General Hospital and will require a stay at UBC for rehab for a couple of weeks; he will also be wheelchair bound for a month.

We wanted to acknowledge what a great job that the paving team did when this accident occurred. The truck driver, Owen Sculley, jumped into action. He immediately asked if he had caused the incident and I assured him it was biker error.  

He immediately tended to Alan, carefully removed his helmet, used my jacket as a pillow and insisted that he not be moved.  He got on the phone and called for the ambulance.  

The flagging crew redirected and altered the traffic flow to prioritize the ambulance coming from Whistler. The ambulance crew were excellent and more or less diagnosed Alan’s condition with great accuracy.  

This Whistler Health Care Centre was also excellent and made things happen to get Alan the care he needed. We would also like to thank Alex Relf, co-owner of Peaked Pies, who transported the bikes back to Whistler.

We do have our local heroes who should be commended for doing a job well done and helping in a tough situation. 

Robert Wheeler // Whistler 

Successful, distanced BioBlitz 

The Whistler Naturalists would like to thank Pique for writing about our 14th annual BioBlitz (Aug. 6). In these uncertain times, all involved were so thankful to have the opportunity to celebrate our natural world—even with all the distancing requirements. 

We could not have run the event without support from: the Whistler Community Foundation and AWARE as our charitable sponsor; Whistler Blackcomb EpicPromise Giving Council; Creekside Market; Legends; Purebread; and Stewardship Pemberton. 

We also can’t thank our visiting and virtual volunteer scientists enough for sharing their knowledge and passion for nature with our community. To explore more, look for our BioBlitz recap, Seed Cone Scavenger Hunt and webinars that can be accessed from our home page: See you next year!

Kristina Swerhun and Bob Brett // Whistler Naturalists

Immediate financial assistance needed to save B.C. tourism sector

Let’s talk about 2023. That’s the year British Columbia’s tourism industry could be fully recovered. To make it so, government must act today.

No surprise: B.C.’s 2020 tourism industry is in the tank. One estimate is a 69-per-cent decline in tourism revenues from 2019. It will be difficult to regain the sustainable tourism industry we once took for granted. 

We want our visitors back.

We need airplanes in the skies, trains on their tracks, conventioneers convening, cruise ships in the passage, restaurants fully open and visitor attractions humming with happy tourists, locals included.

A viable 2023 envisions a return to our 19,300 working businesses in the tourism sector, ensuring 160,000 direct jobs, all generated by $21.5 billion in visitor spending. That provides $4.5 billion in tax revenues each year across all levels of government! 

To achieve that, we need a return of 6 million overnight international visitor arrivals.

Of course, we’d all wish 2021 to be the year of full recovery. It’s not going to happen. 

Even if the COVID-19 crisis abates on a favourable timeline and borders safely open, people around the world will need to find the willingness, money, time, freedom and personal priority to travel again. 

Yet, the stepping stone year of 2021 could see a huge increase in visitors to B.C. with their spending and resulting jobs for British Columbians. If we act now. 

And 2022 could see continued growth of foreign visitors, if we do the right things soon to build toward that.

We used to say, “Most people in tourism don’t know they’re in tourism.” Now, educated by COVID-19, everyone knows the damage of a tourism downturn. If a hotel is empty, no one’s needed to clean rooms, do the laundry, fix the furnace, paint the building or pave the street out front.

You know the story of hospitality: If a restaurant is closed, no one needs the food supply chain. Not the fishers or delivery truck drivers. Not waiters or cooks, or someone to bus tables. No taxi drivers or those repairing refrigeration units.

Here’s a hard question with an easy answer: What’s the impact on local jobs and employee spending when there are no vehicles with American license plates filling up at our gas stations around the province?

We could describe a thriving B.C. tourism year in 2023 like this: In January 2023, businesses around the province have plenty of advance bookings for the year ahead, with deposits already paid. There is strong consumer confidence that travellers will have the funds and opportunities for weekend and weeks long vacations in the coming 12 months. Tourism businesses around the province offer year-round employment with seasonal bumps for ski and summer destinations. 

That’s what it was like in January 2020. That’s what it could be like in January 2023 if the provincial government delivers on three things right now:

A strategic investment of $680 million to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our visitor economy, and reposition businesses for a future of job creation and service delivery;

Provision of working capital recovery grants aimed at 2020 through 2022;

Support funding for communities, businesses and associations to adapt marketing and visitor servicing to the new world of hospitality and tourism.

There’s no shortcut. Even with this financial assistance, it’s a long journey ahead.

The immense benefits of a healthy, viable, sustainable tourism industry are economic, social, cultural and environmental. The positive impact on city, rural and Indigenous communities is well documented. We must make it happen, again.

We need short-term action for long-term benefits.

It’s all in the recovery. Act now.

Rick Antonson is the former president & CEO of Tourism Vancouver, and former chair of Destination Marketing Association International (based in Washington, D.C.).

Rick Antonson // Former president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver