First Nations get money to plan Callaghan legacy 

Letter of Mutual Understanding with VANOC sets out terms and conditions of the Whistler Nordic Centre development

The Squamish and Lil'wat Nations will receive up to $170,000 from the Vancouver Organizing Committee of the 2010 Olympic Games to plan their future in the Callaghan Valley.

This is just one of the conditions formally agreed to in a letter of mutual understanding between VANOC and the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations.

Signed in Whistler in early February, the agreement (this letter of mutual understanding) allows the rezoning for the Whistler Nordic Centre to move forward in time for construction to begin this summer but delays further development in the Callaghan Valley until more planning has been done, particularly planning with Squamish and Lil'wat Nations.

Lyle Leo, lead negotiator, Lil'wat Nation Economic Development, explained the letter of mutual understanding is a follow up to the Shared Legacies Agreement signed with the Olympic Bid Corporation and the First Nations in November 2002, during the development of the Olympic bid.

"We are therefore taking the next step in the spirit of openness and goodwill that the Vancouver Organizing Committee, the successor for the Olympic Bid Corporation, is going to honour and recognize the Shared Legacies Agreement with Squamish Nation and Lil'wat Nation," said Leo. "And we have identified in that legacies agreement that there's a larger picture in the Callaghan Valley of development and land use.

"We can move forward on executing the agreement which was signed now over two years ago so that we can get our benefits in order and have them fulfilled before the 2010 Games and ensure that the benefits are delivered to our community."

At a meeting on Monday, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District approved the revised zoning bylaws for the $105 million Whistler Nordic Centre.

The bylaws address half the land originally proposed by VANOC for rezoning in the Callaghan Valley. Only the "competition footprint" – the land needed for the Olympic facilities – will be rezoned at this time.

"A decision has been made now to do a split process, to work through the certification for the competition side of things and then deal with the legacies with… more time in the planning… to ensure that we have a project that works post Games in 2010," said Sam Corea, VANOC spokesperson.

As part of the agreement VANOC must turn over all its reports and studies on the area to the province and the First Nations partners. The Squamish and Lil'wat Nations must only share non-confidential reports and studies.

First Nations raised concerns several months ago during the Nordic Centre rezoning process when they saw the scope of the backcountry legacy trails.

Their concerns are centred on how the Callaghan, a place they claim as traditional territory, will be used and impacted by visitors after the Games are over. In particular the Squamish Nation is worried about trail development in a place they call Payakentsut, a Wild Spirit Place.

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