In all the concern over particulate matter and toxic fumes, gravel trucks and zoning, I have to wonder if the underlying humour in the situation has somehow been lost.
After all, this bizarre chain of events with the asphalt plant comes on the heels of so many others like it that I feel our town has achieved a level of absurdity rivalled only by Monty Python. This is the kind of thing the Kids in the Hall wrote skits about, no punchlines required.
Think about it for a second. We built an entire employee housing neighbourhood, complete with a high performance athletes' centre for Olympic wannabes, within shouting range of an operational asphalt plant - not to mention a stone's throw from a reclaimed landfill that's venting methane gas, beside high tension power lines, and across the river from a sewage treatment plant. The only thing that would make it more ridiculous would be the discovery of Jimmy Hoffa and a few barrels full of radioactive medical waste where the soccer field is going to go.
You have to admit that it's kind of funny. No? Too soon maybe?
Before long, however, I expect all the people moving into the neighbourhood to lighten up a bit. Maybe nickname their new neighbourhood "Chuck-a-Lung Crossing," or one of the condos "Phalty Towers." They can tell visitors that they can find their new homes by following the plume of smoke and the scent of slow-roasting bitumen. Stick a piece of meat on a pole in your backyard and presto: instant mesquite.
Anybody? Is this thing on?
"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die." - Mel Brooks
There's a pattern to the absurdity, if people are paying attention.
Did you hear the one where we paid almost twice what we budgeted for a public library to make it green and get it open on time for the Olympics, only to have it closed to the public during the Games so VIPs would have a warm place to drink beer?
Or the one about cutting down a chunk of perfectly good forest in the village to host the Olympic medal ceremonies, and then later finding out that the medal ceremonies weren't going to take place there after all? (VANOC reversed its decision shortly after a closed door meeting where Whistler also reversed its decision to allow temporary commercial use permits, and everybody had a good laugh.)
The reason that particular location was chosen over, say, the driving range, was because of the potential to build all sorts of community amenities on the site - first a skating arena/conference centre, then an outdoor rink with an iconic roof, then an outdoor rink with no roof, surrounded by buildings contributed by national Olympic committees that would serve the public good. None of those things actually came to be, but more public meetings meant more free cookies so it wasn't a total loss.
Meanwhile the driving range was torn up anyway to put in a temporary parking lot and blimp staging area.
And then there's the whole pay parking situation that looms large at the end of the month. Whistler originally wanted pay parking to encourage people to leave their cars at home and subsidize transit. So we got control over the municipal day skier lots from the province, but only in exchange for paying about $6 million to build a new debris barrier on Crown Land in the Fitzsimmons Creek watershed. Pay parking was then brought in as the means to pay for that barrier, and for the cost of maintaining parking lots that we weren't entirely responsible for until recently.
It's kind of like debating the whole "chicken or the egg" thing after you've been tarred and feathered and have egg dripping down your face.
And while the original intentions were good, pay parking couldn't come at a worse time with the economy in shambles, new passport requirements at the border, high-priced gasoline and a plethora of other disincentives for people to travel. We're now the only ski resort I know of west of Alberta and north of Colorado where skiers are asked to pay for parking on top of their lift ticket.
Oh, and we built a hydrogen fueling station for the cleanest bus fleet in the world, then with a straight face promptly started trucking in the hydrogen from thousands of kilometres away in Quebec.
For the record, I don't expect Cheakamus Crossing residents will even notice the asphalt plant. I never have living in Spring Creek, or working in Function for the past 10.5 years, or running, biking, hiking in the area in all that time. It's not like it's churning out asphalt around the clock like the Cold Suck machine churns out grape slush at the Husky. The plant fills orders, and after the highway is repaved and a new section of Valley Trail completed that amounts to the odd patch job or new driveway.
For the record, I also think this is something that should have been dealt with quickly and quietly seven years ago when we won the bid to host the Games and the area was identified as a potential site to build the athletes' village.
While it's funnier this way, I assure you that I'm only laughing to keep myself from crying.