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Squamish gondola proposal inches forward

Residents, business owners seek clarification

Proponents of a Squamish gondola are meeting with less resistance to the idea than they expected.

"It was a healthy mix of people, there was very little of what I would call negative comments, sentiment and questions," said David Greenfield of Ground Effects referring to last week's public meeting on the proposal.

It is hoped that such a plan would stimulate the local economy by tempting Whistler-bound tourists to stop for more than a Tim Horton's coffee on their way through town. For that reason, developers behind the proposed Sea to Sky Gondola project say they're not meeting the kinds of resistance they expected, as shown by the level of support demonstrated at a public meeting held last Wednesday. The meeting drew around 50 people, many of whom were seeking clarification on location and environmental impact of the project.

Greenfield, along with partner Trevor Dunn, kicked off the mandatory public consultation phase of the proposal earlier in the summer. They have been meeting with individual interest groups from the climbing, hiking, biking and environmental communities since then. Thus far, no one has come out vehemently opposed to the gondola, which would run up Mount Habrich between the Chief and Shannon Falls,

"You never know how much of the community is going to not believe in something, period, we just weren't sure if the failure of the last gondola proposal was very focused on the Chief itself or the idea generally," said Greenfield of another company's failed attempt to run a gondola up the well-loved hiking trail known as The Chief a few years ago.

"I think it's safe to say that the failure of that was it was the wrong place to put it. Here we're going up to a previously logged area, starting from a gravel pit, we're not seeming to have huge impacts environmentally and we're going into an area where there isn't a lot of use anyways at this point and time so it's somewhat benign to a lot of people."

Greenfield and Dunn have applied to have the base lot they plan on using for their project rezoned by city council, a process that will carry through the fall. A BC Parks impact assessment will be necessary to ensure environmental consideration and they need to secure tenure for the top terminal, which sits on Crown land. A best-case scenario would have the gondola up and running by the summer of 2013.