November 16, 2011 Features & Images » Feature Story

Ken Melamed 

Fire in the soul

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"Not many people have done a lot of stonework like this," he says. "There are people that have been doing rock armory, but this is a whole other level. I can't tell you how many hours (I've put in). I probably came out here 20 days."

It would be easy to say that this Melamed is the chilled side of the more combative personality one sees at council meetings, but really, they are both parts of the same persona and they share a motivation: a "passion and commitment to a better world."

Melamed is inspired, in large part, by Torbjorn Lahti, author of "The Natural Step for Communities," a guidebook that talks about how cities and towns can adopt sustainable practices. In it the author talks about "Fire Souls," people who defy suggestions that there's nothing we can do to save the planet, who are determined against all common wisdom to strive for sustainability.

Melamed stops short of calling himself a fire soul, but the association is clear.

"There's a fire in my belly, and for the most part I try and stay reserved and calm and respectful," he says. "But there are times you need to let your frustration and your passion rise to the surface in a more compelling way."

That passion was hardly more palpable than at an April 2010 meeting at the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, where he doubles as a director for Whistler. At that time, the Garibaldi at Squamish ski resort was in the last stages of an environmental assessment. The regional district had a chance to comment and Melamed wanted fellow directors to be clear and condemnatory in opposing the new ski resort.

Among other things, he objected to what he saw as the developer's "wildly optimistic" assumptions about where the ski industry is going, a lack of information relating to socioeconomic analysis, as well as that, he had not seen a new, successful international ski resort in North America.

"I would ask that we as a board take a much stronger position than that recommended by staff and just outright object or oppose the application and ask that it be given a merciful death at this point," he said, his voice rattling as he fired off reasons to kill the project. "It's really time to pull the pin."

Melamed brings a similar zeal to the proposal for a Whistler University near the Alpha Creek/Millar Creek wetlands next to Function Junction. He says, emphatically, that he doesn't object to a university altogether - just this one, due to its choice of location, close to one of Whistler's few remaining wetlands.

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