Digital billboards planned for North Shore, Squamish 

Squamish Nation chiefs and council to decide on proposal this month

Drivers on the Sea to Sky Highway could see more advertising en route to Whistler if the Squamish Nation moves ahead with its proposed electronic billboards.

One of the six digital billboards is set to go on reserve lands in Squamish, beside the new gaming centre south of town. It will have advertising in both directions to capture northbound and southbound drivers.

Squamish Nation Chief Gibby Jacob said this week that chiefs and council have yet to approve the deal, which is going before them for a decision this month.

While he would not disclose the value of the deal, which spans 30 years, Jacob confirmed it is in the multi-million dollar range. That, he said, will go a long way in helping the 3,600 members of the nation.

"If we don't create new revenue for our membership's programs and services, we're setting our future up for a pretty dim time," said the chief.

But the proposal, which was given the green light by the federal government last week, has drawn criticism from citizens worried about the aesthetics of the large signs, which will be 10 metres wide by 3 metres high.

About 10,000 citizens, mostly from the North Shore where four of the signs will be placed, have signed an online petition created by Citizens for Responsible Outdoor Advertising. That petition was created about three years ago when Squamish Nation first broached the idea of the billboards.

Wayne Hunter, chair of the group, said there are two key issues: driver safety and scenic heritage.

"We're not against billboards by the way," he said. "We just don't want billboards to cause ugliness and to somehow compromise the safety of our friends and neighbours in our communities from the North Shore, right through the Sea to Sky to Whistler. These are busy, undivided highways and the last thing that we need is the inattention of the drivers."

Hunter said there has been no acknowledgement of his group's lobbying efforts at the federal level.

Jacob is perplexed by the backlash to the nation's plans, stating that many more jurisdictions have more signs than those proposed on their reserve lands.

As for the aesthetics, he said the Squamish see themselves as environmental stewards of the land and over the years have worked to protect the land.

"We've fought many fights that have benefited everybody because of our rights and title," he said.

In this case, Squamish Nation will act as landlords and a private company will erect and operate the signs.

But, if the chiefs and council approve the deal, Hunter vows to continue lobbying politicians. If that fails to get traction the next step is to organize a boycott of the products or services advertised on the billboards.

In addition to the single Squamish sign, three more will be placed on the approaches to the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing, one on the approach to the Lions Gate Bridge and one near the south end of the Burrard Bridge.




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