February 29, 2008 Features & Images » Feature Story

A Tale of Two Trail Networks: 

What Whistler has and Pemberton needs

click to enlarge This 90 Degreen Bend on the Pemberton Meadows Road near Kiaora Trailer Court is particularly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. Photo by David Steers.
  • This 90 Degreen Bend on the Pemberton Meadows Road near Kiaora Trailer Court is particularly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. Photo by David Steers.

Whistler and Pemberton are both promoting active lifestyles through non-motorized trail networks linking residents to essential services and recreational facilities. Accomplishing that requires different approaches from the two communities.

The Valley Trail

If you build it, they will walk. Or cycle. Or cross-country ski. That is the adage that has guided Whistler’s municipal planners since the early 1980s, when Tom Barrett, Whistler parks planner and landscape architect, aggressively sought the right-of-way after sewer lines were laid throughout Whistler’s new subdivisions. The result of his efforts is the impressive and popular Valley Trail system, considered by many Whistler residents to be the community’s best amenity.

“It took great foresight,” said Whistler Municipal Councillor Gordon McKeever of Barrett’s vision and accomplishment. “The Valley Trail is immensely valuable to the community; it’s good for public safety, and great for public health.”

At the time the Valley Trail was established, Whistler had the benefit of being a relatively new community, with few or no private property issues. “It’s much harder to retrofit this kind of thing into an existing community,” said McKeever, who is also the project manager of the Sea to Sky Trail — an ambitious off-road project that will eventually serve as an arterial route linking communities from Porteau Cove to D’Arcy by a gravel trail.

McKeever refers to the Valley Trail as essentially a “pearl necklace” which links all the residential subdivisions of the Whistler Valley together – the “pearls” being the various parks throughout the municipality. “Rainbow Park, Meadow Park, Lakeside Park, Lost Lake, Spruce Grove – they are all accessible by the Valley Trail,” he said.

The trail, like the park network, gets its heaviest use during the summer months. “It is our single most appreciated summer amenity,” McKeever confirmed.

But the importance of the Valley Trail to Whistlerites is not confined to the summer. “Residents also use the Valley Trail as a commuter route,” said Keith Bennett, General Manager of Resort Experience for the Whistler Municipality, which oversees parks operations. Through Whistler’s “linear parks system”, every residential subdivision has access to the route, effectively making the entire length of the valley safe and accessible for “active transportation” (to adopt a planner’s parlance).

Such an extensive paved trail system does not come cheaply. Living and working in the most expensive municipality in Canada has its benefits, as large property tax revenues allow for top-notch recreational facilities. The trail network in Whistler receives all the maintenance required to keep residents more than satisfied with the amenity.

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