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Howe Sound forum discusses regional issues that 'affect us all'

Members of the Howe Sound Community Forum are starting to see the benefits of belonging to the organization, says a representative form the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

Members of the Howe Sound Community Forum are starting to see the benefits of belonging to the organization, says a representative form the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

"Everyone is beginning to see the value of meeting together," Pam Tattersfield, the SLRD’s Area D director, said after the quasi-governmental group met May 30 in Furry Creek.

The once-embattled community forum includes close to 30 elected representatives from regional districts, municipalities, villages and First Nation bands from around the watershed who gather to discuss a common vision for the Howe Sound region.

Various regional lobby groups and industrial players also sit in on the meetings.

The SLRD and the District of Squamish had previously expressed concerns about participating in the forum, but the apprehension seems to have been washed away like an outgoing tide.

"It would have been difficult to work together if Squamish did not participate," said Whistler mayor Hugh O’Reilly. "They are a major player because they sit in the heart of the area."

Squamish mayor Corrine Lonsdale and councillor Paul Lalli both attended the meeting.

"I think there was some fear over giving up control of jurisdiction," Tattersfield told Pique Newsmagazine . "But now everyone seems to support the idea of speaking with their neighbours and we all went away agreeing to continue meeting on an informal basis."

According to Tattersfield — who represents an area including Furry Creek, Britannia Beach, Porteau Cove, Upper Squamish, Upper Cheakamus, Ring Creek, Pinecrest and Black Tusk — the group discussed a number of common concerns currently affecting the region at the recent meeting.

"We worked on a draft protocol — a kind of general document — that would give us a purpose and rationale," she said in an interview from her home in Britannia Beach. "A document like that will keep things from falling off the table."

Once a protocol is established, a logo and Web site will both be designed to enhance the organization’s public profile, she said.

"It was very valuable," agreed O’Reilly. "We asked ourselves ‘who are we?’ and ‘what are we?’."

Other issues that were discussed include the proposed liquefied natural gas plant near Port Mellon, the Britannia mine cleanup, land-use planning in the Sea-to-Sky and Sechelt areas and increased traffic congestion on Highway 99.

"These issues impact every community, both directly and indirectly," said O’Reilly.

"Most growth from Vancouver has occurred in the Fraser Valley. But it’s now starting to move into the Howe Sound region.

"There could be more than 15,000 people living in the Furry Creek area and we need to plan for that."

The 2010 Olympic Bid Corp. also made a presentation to the forum on their plans for the Vancouver-Whistler corridor.

O’Reilly said the bid could provide an impetus to decide on a transportation plan for the area. "We should be using the bid as a tool to solve our problems."

"The area is under considerable pressure because of growth and I would hope that we will all help each other in dealing with controversial issues," commented Tattersfield.

"We all have a common interest in preserving the environment while respecting sustainable development."

She pointed out, as an example, how the organization has thrown its support behind West Vancouver’s fight with BC Ferries Corp. over the proposed expansion of the Horseshoe Bay terminal.

The forum meetings, which have all been held in Furry Creek, will now move around so representatives get a chance to visit each community around Howe Sound to see, experience and chat about the various pressures being placed on each of areas throughout the region.

"I live on Howe Sound, so I see a need to work with our neighbours to inform each other about issues that affect us all," said Tattersfield.