Flute field trip to explain controversial boundary changes 

In a response to concerns over expansion into the Piccolo/Flute alpine Whistler-Blackcomb is planning a public field trip to the area in August.

The hike will begin along the Piccolo peak, up to the Flute peak and then along the ridgeline that goes back towards Singing Pass.

"We are going to traverse the boundary adjustments, although I don’t want our guests on tour to be doing 5.9 climbs up onto Piccolo peak," said Arthur DeJong, mountain planning and environmental resource manager, who will be leading the hike.

"We are going to walk, within the limitations of hike, along the... boundary changes"

Along the way he will explain the reasons why the boundaries of Garibaldi Provincial Park and Whistler-Blackcomb were changed at the end of May.

The land swap, which gave the resort 87 hectares in the Flute peak basin to put in ski lifts, was met with anger in the local community.

Groups are concerned that there was no public consultation process, that the pristine alpine of the musical bumps will be ruined, and that park habitat will be adversely effected.

In return for this parkland in the alpine, Whistler-Blackcomb gave the park 113 hectares of land in the Fitzsimmons area, including a section of the Singing Pass trail.

"We want to explore every opportunity where there is a possibility for a win-win situation," said DeJong.

"And if a win is to put more land into the park that we know does not have high skiing value, however, has ecological or recreational values to the park, our door is open in that discussion."

DeJong is quick to point out that this does not mean giving back the musical bumps.

That area will be developed for skiing in the coming years.

"People have to understand that we are not being economically responsible or responsible to system conditions in the Natural Step if we are turning over land that one day will be critical in ensuring that Whistler-Blackcomb continues to be successful as a ski/snowboard experience."

But land not essential for future ski development is up for discussion, he said.

There is a second purpose to the field trip – to generate ideas.

DeJong would like to gather as much information about habitat impact from local experts.

"It’s going to be very beneficial to us to hear people’s views on how to minimize habitat impact because this development, we fundamentally feel, has to be done differently than anything we’ve done in the past," he said.

"We have to minimize the habitat impact."

There was an open meeting about the Flute expansion on Wednesday, June 19 at Myrtle Philip Community Centre. About 25 concerned residents showed up.

At the end of that meeting Al Whitney, a member of Sea to Sky Park Watch, said Whistler-Blackcomb owed it to the community to sit down and talk about the Flute expansion.

"They don’t have a legal responsibility," he said.

But, "I think they have a moral obligation to the community."

"What I want is the ability to sit down with the corporation and negotiate a better decision."

He calls the field trip a step in the right direction.

"That’s the openness that I’m hoping is always available in the valley," he said, after learning about the field trip.

The field trip will be in August, when snow has melted.

Anyone interested should call 604-938-7220.

If there is a big response there may be a number of trips into the area.

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