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Bill Barratt gets Valley Trail section named after him

Section of Valley Trail recognizes a 29-year municipal career

Former Mayor Ted Nebbeling has a bridge; long time developer and volunteer Steve Bayly has a park; and current mayor Ken Melamed has an unofficial "parking lot traverse" named after him.

Not everyone can claim such distinction, and there is no set policy in Whistler for naming things after people.

But sometimes the perfect parting gift presents itself.

Such was the case for Bill Barratt.

After working for the municipality for 29 years, a good portion of which was spent overseeing the parks department, until he became the administrator for the last six years, Barratt retired last month.

Now a section of the Valley Trail, which he was instrumental in visioning and building, has been named Bill Barratt's Way in recognition of his contribution.

"I was very touched," said Barratt this week.

The trail marker is located between Alta Lake and Nita Lake close to Wayside Park.

Mayor Ken Melamed said council was unanimous in recognizing Barratt this way.

"They thought this was a very appropriate way of recognizing Bill," said Melamed.

The location of Bill Barratt's Way is fitting, he added, because it marks a section of the Valley Trail that has an interesting history.

More than 20 years ago, as crews worked to clear that steep, precarious section on the east side of Nita Lake, heavy equipment operator Jack Demidoff ran into some trouble.

It was the thick of winter, with four feet of ice covering the lake. There was a false edge on the side of the hill being held up by the ice, recalled Jack Demidoff's son, John, who was working with his dad that day.

"Dad was walking the excavator down the trail and he reached over sideways to pull a stump and the piece flipped off the stump and it transferred the weight to the back track and we looked one minute and the next minute it went straight over backwards, cartwheeled and went completely out of sight," said Demidoff, from his home base in Kamloops.

His dad fell into the water in the excavator. As he struggled to get free he ripped his hand out of the cab and followed the ice to the top. He managed to get out soaking wet and cold ... minus a middle finger.

That didn't stop him for long. Demidoff was back at work, finishing off the trail, within a day or two.

"It was probably the toughest piece of trail that we built," recalled Barratt.

Now, the 40-kilometre Valley Trail, which stretches the length of Whistler connecting neighbourhoods from one end of the valley to the other, is one of the resort's biggest accomplishments said the mayor.

"(The trail section) symbolizes Bill's ability to solve problems that other people just couldn't wrap their minds around," said Melamed.

Demidoff, who now owns Demidoff Equipment and works not only in Whistler but also in other B.C. communities, said Barratt's tribute is fitting.

"I'm glad to see he made it so far in the municipality," he said.

"I think it's wonderful."

Barratt's retirement send-off has come under attack recently after $2,000 in taxpayers' funds was used for his retirement party at the conference centre last month. Each departmental manager pitched in $500 from reserves,

"We don't even have a set policy to throw retirement parties for certain members of staff," said the mayor.

"This was impromptu.

"It was done with the blessing of council and council didn't have any money so the managers found money within their department savings to recognize Bill."

Staff also chipped in personally and bought Barratt a set of golf clubs.

He has been practicing his swing ever since.

Mayor Melamed in the meantime takes his unofficial "parking lot traverse" naming with a grain of salt.

Whistlerites began calling the walk from Lot 4, the furthest day skier lot, to the base of the mountain "Melamed Traverse" after Lots 1,2 and 3 became pay parking and Lot 4 remained free.