Big turnout for recreation plan open house 

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Whistler is in the process of developing its first Recreation and Leisure Master Plan to determine future priorities for the resort, and as part of the planning process they opened up the floor to the public last Wednesday, May 15 at an open house.

The format was simple: maps were positioned around the room detailing different aspects of recreation, such as indoor recreation opportunities, outdoor recreation opportunities and the trail network. People were invited to use Post-It notes to place their own suggestions on the map in the appropriate space.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler counted 93 participants, who generated hundreds of notes and suggestions. In some cases recreation groups mobilized their supporters, resulting in clusters of notes in support of initiatives like a BMX track, additional squash courts, dog-friendly trails and additional Valley Trail connectors to places like Function Junction and from Nesters to Meadow Park.

Ben Thomas is a member of the municipal Recreational and Leisure Advisory Committee but attended the meeting as president of the Whistler Squash Club. The club boasts over 120 members, with just two courts at Meadow Park Sports Centre to handle league events.

"We would love to see a facility with three courts because then we could host proper sized tournament, run clinics and run camps — all of which we believe can deliver some incremental visitors to the resort in the shoulder seasons," said Thomas, adding that it was also in the resort's interest to provide more indoor recreation options to guests during poor weather.

The municipality has approached all of the recreation groups in town and is hosting a series of meetings to discuss what they would like to see happen in the next 10 years. For Thomas, the ideal situation would be for the Holborn lands at the tennis court to be developed, along with a tennis and squash facility that offers up to five squash courts and includes an area for socializing. He knows that plan hinges on a private developer coming to an agreement with the municipality, but said it doesn't hurt to aim high.

"This is a chance to look forward at the next 10, 15 years like we did with Whistler 2020, and I think we've got a good track record when it comes to making these things happen," said Thomas.

Peter Schelling, who used to run the Whistler Tennis Club with his wife Marjorie Blackwood, was in Whistler for a tournament he hosted that weekend and was able to participate in the open house. Several supporters of tennis added their notes to the map in support of a permanent indoor facility.

"I was there from day one (of the tennis club) and knew what the original plans were," he said. "There was lots and lots of excitement, and down the road we were looking at hosting the Davis Cup and Rogers Cup and nationals for kids and seniors, and to see all the delays and indecision since then..."

The tennis club has three indoor courts in a temporary bubble that is expensive to heat. It was originally only supposed to be in place until an indoor facility with up to six courts was built as an amenity for a hotel on the property. Almost 20 years later, the future of the amenity is still to be decided.

The Whistler Youth Soccer Club has close to a third of local kids enrolled in any given year. Teams already play at Whistler Secondary and Myrtle Philip Community School, but are looking for additional fields to be able to host tournaments and an artificial turf field to lengthen the season.

Crosland Doak sits on the board of directors as the director of pitch development. "None of these things has been approved, but we've identified a number of candidates for expanding," he said. "We're willing to work with partners if we can. For example, if there were a higher educational facility established and they want to work with us we would welcome it. We recognize that local governments don't have a lot of money right now and we're ready to go out and do some of our own fundraising as well."

Doak said that the goal is to be able to one day host large tournaments and draw people to the resort; "Put some heads into beds and... and generate some economic spinoff for the community from the facilities," he said.

A draft of the master plan is expected by mid-summer.

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