At what cost the right decision?
The final chapter in the excruciatingly painful and drawn out Olympic Sledge Hockey Arena soap opera can finally be written. Like any good story, it kept us on the edge of our seats until the final page. There was a long list of treacherous and evil characters popping into the story and then disappearing, their acts of mayhem and disruption complete. Plenty of innocent villagers seeking salvation only to be sold a "pig in a poke" by slick talking money changers and black knights on their steeds. Who the true wizard is that finally drove the steak through the heart of the "beast that would not die" may not ever be known – I'm just euphoric that this tale is now over and council and taxpayers can now focus on the long list of pressing local issues.
But – but, before we move on there is an accounting to be done.
What were the costs, all the costs, to the taxpayer of the arena debacle over the past two years?
Public meetings, surveys, staff time, Eldon Beck and large entourage, drawings, newspaper notices, legal opinions, sitting committees, council time and on and on?
Because of the tirade of a small select cadre, not only has the Whistler taxpayer seen hard earned tax monies wasted, this ego-stretching effort cost Squamish any chance it may have had in gaining a new arena and hosting sledge hockey in 2010.
The harpies who shed crocodile tears at the potential of dispersing the Paralympic Games beyond Whistler effectively undermined any chance Squamish had of hosting hockey. The "Yes!" lobby gave Vancouver the sledge hockey and curling events. "Nice work!"
What would have been the only true legacy from the Games for the Sea to Sky, a Squamish arena, is lost. If Whistler Council had stood up for what they knew was the correct decision 18 months ago we would have had the compact Games, the corridor would have had a new and modern arena and we may have been further along on a workable/affordable "Whistler" second ice sheet.
And let’s put to rest the democracy card on this question. This was never an exercise in a grass roots democratic process.
The citizens of Vancouver, the Canadian Olympic Association and the International Olympic Committee each exercised their democratic right by voting for Vancouver/Whistler to host the 2010 Games. Arrogantly, it was pre-determined by the power brokers that there was no need to afford the people of Whistler that luxury – to vote, to democratically verify the dictate of the C.O.A. and big business. No one has voted on the $44.99 million overrun on the sliding centre and the $135 million short fall (and counting) of VANOC – the Olympics have never been about democratic process.
At the end of this very long day, council (past and present) should be held accountable and not congratulated for their failure to do the job they tried to do and should have stood up for months ago.
They finally made the right decision but what has been the cost?
Don’t blame bears for being hungry
After reading about Heather Peebels’s experience, I feel compelled to add my voice to Bob Brett’s on the issue of bear management.
Bears always have been here on this valley floor and will continue to do so. The current craze of triumphantly chopping down Saskatoon and other berry bushes tells me that we really have not learned anything over the years. We should live with nature, yet we still try to dominate it. If we intend to keep up this form of "nature management" let’s save ourselves a lot of trouble and expense. Get a boxcar full of agent orange and spray the hell out of the valley. This way the panicked citizens can program the cell phones growing permanently out of their ears to automatically dial the wildlife officers, as the bears will now be visible from a long ways off.
We have lived here with bears for close to 40 years and no problems. As we remove native plants bears feed on they will be forced to turn to more alternate food sources. More garbage, more home invasions, more conflict with humans. Anyone who thinks the bears will move away due to a lack of food is kidding himself. Bears will continue to do what they have always done; amble through the countryside and grab every meal they can. If we want to spend money on the issue, we should be planting more berry bushes, not chopping them down. Encourage berry growth in a belt around the perimeter of town, dispense with the sentimentality and cull those bears that are into garbage, continue hazing and aversion methods to get them to learn that they are not welcome here.
Our bear problem is the direct result of habitat loss and non-caring attitudes. How do condo complexes handle and store their garbage? What do tenants who rent and have no car do with their garbage? They can’t take it on the bus. As for Bob Brett’s hope of educating and managing people, good luck! The municipality installed bag stations along the Valley Trail so folks have one less excuse to clean up after their dogs. This past spring, it was a sight to behold. During the winter people scooped their dog’s poo, tied a knot in the bag and dropped it back onto the trail where it had been dropped in the first place. As spring progressed, these bags popped out of the snow all over the place, and not just a few of them.
What kind of mentality is this? These people do not deserve to be in a beautiful place like ours. They obviously have not been weaned yet and still have mommy cleaning up after them. So, I can’t say that I am overly optimistic about educating people, but I do hope you will reconsider the plant chopping issue together with Michael Allen and the wildlife officers, who no doubt have enough frustrations dealing with the overall issue and deserve our support and gratitude.
Human-bear conflicts the issue
The Whistler Black Bear Working Group (WBBWG) would like to clarify their position with respect to landscaping with bears in mind.
As part of an independent review in Whistler’s Bear Hazard Assessment, it was recommended that landscaping that is attractive to bears i.e. artificially planted shrubs and trees that produce berries, no longer be allowed at certain landscaped sites and that they be replaced with plant species that do not attract black bears. This was just one recommendation among many in our quest to become a bear smart community. We will continue to work on bear-proofing our waste management system, as well as reducing other types of attractants in residential backyards.
Nonetheless, with this recommendation in mind, the WBBWG began working with landscapers, property management companies, hotels, nurseries and the RMOW for their assistance in "reducing" landscaping that attracts bears into heavy-use human areas. More specifically, we suggested that these plants (or their fruit) be removed in locations "where we don't want bears to feed.
Our main areas of concern are public heavy-use human areas, particularly the core village area. All of the pedestrian village has been identified as a No-Go Zone for bears, in other words we don’t want bears to use this area at all. Therefore, we need to contain attractants like garbage and recycling, but also remove berry producing shrubs and trees that bears feed on.
We have had numerous conflicts within the No-Go Zone as a result of bears feeding on artificially planted berry bushes and trees. Many bears have died to ensure human safety. It is a very serous problem.
We are further recommending that berry producing shrubs and fruit trees are removed from areas where you don’t want to find a bear feeding, i.e. outside a busy entrance way, in a children’s play area or perhaps, along a very heavily used pedestrian walkway.
We are NOT suggesting, under any circumstances, that all berry-producing plants and fruit trees be removed in Whistler. We want to assure residents that the area from which we would like to remove the most attractive bear food is relatively small and should not cause a loss of habitat to birds and insects or affect biodiversity. There are quite a number of native substitute species that do not attract bears such as white birch, cinquefoil (found in dry areas to east), juniper (berries are not that attractive), alder, willow (other than red osier), maples, white rhododendron, just to mention a few.
This project has been undertaken to mitigate human-bear conflicts, while maintaining a high level of human safety and minimizing property damage. Just last week, we had our first ever human injury as a result of an encounter with a bear. Bears can also cause significant property damage in their attempt to access anthropogenic food sources. For example, a bear did over $20,000 worth of damage to the hot tub covers at the Montebello complex, where he had also been feeding on the berry plants.
As a multi-stakeholder group, the WBBWG is keenly interested in working with residents, NGO’s and businesses to identify suitable replacement plants that will not attract bears, while still adhering to Naturescaping principles. We are confident we can work together to find a solution that addresses bear-attractant management and is in step with biodiversity initiatives.
on behalf of the Whistler Black Bear Working Group
A step in the wrong direction
I agree with naturalist Bob Brett that the removal of native berry bushes within the municipality is a step in the wrong direction (Berries, Bears and biodiversity, Pique letters Aug. 17).
As a trained landscape architect, horticulturist and organic farmer my principles are based on ecology, permaculture, conservation and sustainability. Removing the bears’ natural food seems to me a misguided knee-jerk reaction and indicative of bear management politics that are out of hand.
I have an unfenced rural property that has nearly a hundred naturally occurring saskatoon bushes, wild raspberries and carpets of kinnickinick and wild strawberries. Over the years I have planted over 50 various fruit trees, 125 large blueberry bushes and seven rows of raspberries. In addition I have several hundred various fruiting native plants in a plant nursery. In over 12 years I have never experienced a nuisance bear related conflict. Only in the odd year when the bears’ natural food sources are scarce do I have to share my fruit with them. My only bear control is my barking dog.
Isn't the whole idea to coexist with this lovely creature whose habitat we are taking over? Aren't tourists delighted when they spot bears munching on their favourite foods? Don't you think the bears may get into the garbage if you take this food away?
Here we are…
Re: Romancing the worker (Pique News, Aug. 10).
We read with interest the continuing problems in filling the requirements for seasonal workers. We applied for permanent residency in Canada a year ago and should we be successful (we meet the standards of employment, education etc.) we would come to live and work in Whistler, a place we have spent a lot of time as visitors over the years.
We thought that it may be possible to come and work on work permits while we waited for our PR status (this can take over three years!) but any attempts we made were rebuffed. We understand that getting work permits involves administration and paperwork from the employer but here we are, two people who have found our home and can't wait to become a part of Whistler and all that that entails.
Well at least we have Pique to keep us up to date on the latest hot topics!
Stuart and Jayne Woods
West Sussex, England
A sad day in Pemberton
Today I was witness to a very sad scene. While driving to One Mile Lake to take my dogs for their daily swim and romp we came upon a scene at the side of the highway just south of Pemberton. It was a mother bear and her just recently hit cub.
My instant reaction was to cry as I watched her in pain, as any mother, human or animal would feel. She was confused and trying to lift up her baby while crying out.
But, the saddest thing about this whole scene was the lady wearing a huge grin taking pictures of this very sad moment. I don't feel many people would find much natural beauty in a mother bear and her dead cub lying beneath her. You should be ashamed of yourself!
Just a reminder to all of us who drive the Sea to Sky Highway, we share it with many types of wildlife whom are not street savvy. Slow down and pay attention to what is happening on the highway.
Helping Hands a great show
Kudos to your paper for the great preview and follow-up coverage of the UNICEF benefit concert on Aug. 11, 2006 at the Maurice Young Millennium Place.
It really was an exceptional evening, and the Jim Byrnes/Marcus Moseley collaboration on "Bridge Over Troubled Water" alone was worth the price of admission.
Organizer Jay Wahono's brilliant initiative not only raised awareness and funds for his ravaged Indonesian homeland, but gave all those attending yet another reason both to celebrate our magnificent MY Place and to relish our thriving arts and music scene.
Better days ahead
I write this determined not to be discouraged by today's events, and share this in hopes that if anyone happens to share a similar experience in their future that they will not only handle it better than I did, but will also not let others ruin their day as I almost did.
Doggie Beach at Lost Lake is a gift. We share it as locals and as tourists, with appreciation that not everyone loves dogs, and that those who do can take theirs for some fun and a swim.
Unfortunately sometimes people claim to be dog lovers, but happen to only love their own, see theirs can do no wrong and everyone else's are culprits of "unfair play".
Dogs have their own language, their own way of communication. Sometimes what we see as aggression is actually a friendly communication. Sometimes ignoring your dog’s real aggression can be dangerous.
Regardless, it is a lovely place to have and it is a shame that on more than one occasion I have experienced dog owners who are more aggressive than their dogs.
To the owner who today ignored the fact that their dog was being aggressive towards mine, a labrador who I would hardly imagine had an aggressive bone in his body;
To the owner whose dog bit my dog twice and caused him to yelp;
To the owner who asked me if I was a local, as if that should matter;
To the owner who said she came every day and hadn't seen me there before, as if that should matter;
I apologize for owning a dog who wanted to play. I apologize for being upset by your tone and nasty aggression.
I apologize for intruding on a space that you thought was your right to dominate and that I understood to be open to the public, be that tourist or local. I apologize for speaking out in front of our five year old daughter, which was not a good example to set.
And I hope that you were able to look beyond the events and have a wonderful day.