Determining a shared vision was easier back then

Pretend it’s 1975 and Whistlerites are asked to describe a shared vision of the future.

In fact, the few hundred people who lived here then, and a few Lower Mainland residents who owned Whistler property, were asked that.

In Whistler’s first ever municipal election those people elected Pat Carleton as mayor, and Garry Watson, John Hetherington and Bob Bishop as councillors. Al Raine was appointed to council by the province to make sure the elected guys didn’t screw things up.

Not everyone bought in, of course. There was a consortium called the Whistler Development Association who didn’t share the elected group’s vision for a village on crown land at the foot of Whistler Mountain’s undeveloped north side and across Fitzsimmons Creek from the undeveloped Blackcomb Mountain. The association thought the village would be better on their land.

And naturally there was a group of people who couldn’t be bothered with the whole idea of building a resort, or thought it far fetched. They were just here to ski.

Things were simpler then, if only because there were so few people interested in Whistler. The difficulty was in convincing people outside of the valley of the area’s potential.

Twenty-seven years later, Whistler is working on its first Comprehensive Sustainability Plan, the latest update of the Comprehensive Development Plans that was started in 1975. The first criteria listed in a document on sustainability produced by consultants to the plan is "creating a shared vision of the future." That seems to be more easily said than done today.

On a recent Saturday morning a stroll through the village found at one end people rummaging through used books at a sale intended to generate funds for the library. At the other end of town armour-clad mountain bikers waited in line to ride the lift up to the mountain bike park. In Town Plaza Corvette owners from Oregon, Washington and B.C. were showing off their cars. The banners that lined Village Gate Boulevard advertised Weetama, "Whistler’s celebration of aboriginal culture." Meanwhile, down at Creekside, barbecue fanatics were preparing to spend 16 hours cooking brisket and ribs.

There’s no reason why all of these activities and interests shouldn’t exist in Whistler. Indeed, discovering most of them on one 20-minute stroll through the village speaks to the diversity and vibrancy of Whistler, and the success of the shared vision from 1975.

But it’s a more complex place than it was in 1975. Convincing people to invest in Whistler – financially, emotionally or otherwise – is no longer a problem. Getting those investors to share in a common vision for Whistler’s future is more difficult. Finding common ground, without resorting to the lowest common denominator (good snow and a way to earn a living?) is the starting point.

But do condo owners, snowboarders, business people, artists, retirees, families, developers, and all the other people who have an investment in Whistler, have anything in common?

The answer is they all live here by choice. The trick is to make sure they all want to continue to live here and have the ability to continue to live here. That will be the final measure of the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan.

To reach that stage will require answers to some fundamental questions: Do we want to lift the cap on development? What would that achieve? Can Whistler be sustainable without physical growth? Can it be made more affordable for those who live here?

The Comprehensive Sustainability Plan has seemed like an abstract process to date, as consultants searched for common values among residents, but these are some of the questions that the plan should eventually get around to addressing as we try to determine a shared vision of the future.

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