HIT squad looking for targets 

Habitat Improvement Team tackles environmental projects one Tuesday at a time

Next Tuesday, June 15, the Whistler-Blackcomb Habitat Improvement Team, which is comprised of mountain staff and volunteers from the community, will get its hands dirty once again as it tackles environmental projects around the valley.

The list of previous projects includes everything from restoring wetlands to in-stream work to maintaining local trails.

All told the group has participated in 46 projects since it was created in 1997, with volunteers contributing thousands of hours of their time.

"Last year the average was 15 (volunteers) per session and we’ve never really tried to recruit, just little notices in the paper and on our internal bulletin board," said Arthur DeJong, the mountain planning and environmental resource manager for Whistler-Blackcomb.

"But once people show up, they keep coming back. When I went through the numbers last year over 85 per cent of people who showed up came back. It’s been easy to build a constant team pretty quickly, and we want to build on that."

The goal for this year is to double the participation and number of projects completed, working closely with partners in the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group, the Jennifer Jones Whistler Bear Society, the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment, the Whistler Naturalists, the Interpretive Forest Committee and others.

DeJong says people come back week after week because the HIT participants can see projects come together that benefit the environment as a direct result of their work.

"I think we have a very environmentally focussed, conscientious community and a lot of people are more satisfied taking a hands-on approach to environmental practices than an activist role," he said.

"On one of my most memorable HIT nights a girl in her late teens showed up, a new volunteer who had just got to Whistler, and she was struggling with Whistler which in her eyes, at first impression, is a transient community. She looked at me and asked where the community is here. I looked around, smiled and pointed at all the people who were working that night.

"That was a defining moment for me. My impression and the impression made on her is that HIT is so much of a reflection of the grassroots concern for the environment in the community, and the reason so many of us are here."

The list of projects for this year is not complete, but already includes:

• Building an interpretive trail for Spring Creek Community School;

• Seeding and erosion control on North West Passage;

• Removing forage around the Village North playground to protect children and bears;

• Planting and pruning White Bark Pine in the 7 th Heaven area of Blackcomb Mountain;

• In-stream fish habitat enhancement with the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group in the River of Golden Dreams;

• Trail construction in the Whistler Demonstration Forest.

Almost all of HIT’s projects are in the Whistler area, although they try to do one project in Pemberton every year.

After this Tuesday the team will tackle projects every second week, meeting at Merlin’s in the Upper Village at 5:30 p.m. The work projects typically last between two and three hours, and are followed by a group social at Merlin’s.

Everyone from the community is invited to come and help out.

Whistler-Blackcomb supplies transportation, equipment and other necessary supplies and HIT participants are responsible for bringing food, water and the right clothing for the weather and conditions. Be prepared to get a little dirty.

HIT welcomes ideas for projects from the community. If you have an idea for a HIT project for 2004 or want more information on how you can get involved, contact Arthur DeJong at 604-938-7080.

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