Hope not lost for trail grooming at Nicklaus North 

Council and Whistler Nordics agree to meet

Council is facing the fallout from its first round of cuts to service levels at the municipality but it's willing to go back to the drawing board for cross country trails.

It has agreed to a meeting with the Whistler Nordics to try to find a way to keep the Nicklaus North Golf Course trails groomed this winter.

That was after a presentation by Craig Mackenzie on behalf of the Nordics at the outset of the council meeting Tuesday.

"We are losing a significant community amenity bought with bed units," he said of the Nicklaus North trails that came as part of the golf course/real estate development.

"We are particularly hurt that there was no consultation on this decision.

"This decision is short-sited."

Council cut the $35,000 cost to groom the five to seven kilometres of trails, connected to the Lost Lake network, as part of its recent service review cuts that chopped the municipal budget by more than $1 million in an effort to balance the strained books.

Council took the blame for the lack of consultation.

"Mea culpa," said Councillor Ralph Forsyth.

"You were a lot better about it than my wife!" he joked of the reaction to cut the trail grooming.

The decision to cut the service was not taken lightly, explained Councillor Chris Quinlan.

"This didn't just get thrown into the package," he said. "We discussed this."

The Nordics aren't the only ones suffering. The Youth Centre, for example, is also losing significant municipal funds totaling $120,000, which will have a significant impact on its programs.

Quinlan said it's a "slippery slope" to reinstate the funds for Nordics, saying next week the youth club will be before council pleading its case.

"Please understand... these decisions are not made lightly," he told Mackenzie, who was backed up in the crowd by several members of the Whistler Nordics.

Mayor Ken Melamed also said he saw the interest in reviewing the service cut.

The message from the community, however, is that people do not want to see increased taxes: "Cut municipal costs and bring the costs down so we can have reduced taxes," said the mayor.

That comes at a price.

The library paid that price earlier this year when the municipality cut $54,000 from its budget and it was forced to close its doors on Sundays.

He also pointed to the numbers on the Nicklaus North trails.

There were 65 passholders using the trails, and 74 day-ticket holders over the course of the season. There were also 33 poachers logged using the trails without paying.

He called the area "non core," describing it as a "low usage area" in relation to Lost Lake Park.

"It's a real concern: value for money," he said.

"We're committed to an ongoing process of municipal budget reduction.

"This is where the tough decisions come."

He also explained that the municipality cannot use RMI (Resort Municipality Initiative) funds for the grooming. As per the agreement with the province for the provincial grant, which totaled $7 million this year, the money cannot be used to offset tax dollars and it is designed to be used for new tourism products, such as the new ice rink in the village.



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