Letters to the Editor for the week of April 19 

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF WHISTLER OLYMPIC PARK - HELPING HANDS Volunteers during their orientation at Whistler Olympic Park in December 2017.
  • Photo courtesy of Whistler Olympic Park
  • HELPING HANDS Volunteers during their orientation at Whistler Olympic Park in December 2017.

Volunteers: helping us to grow sport

Thank you to all our volunteers that helped us through an amazing winter season, both at Whistler Olympic Park and the Whistler Sliding Centre!

Over 100 kind individuals from the Sea to Sky corridor and beyond lent a hand at our venues this past season. As a not-for-profit organization, this is of immeasurable value. Not only did they support our team in the delivery of our community programs, but they also constantly help raise awareness of our legacy venues and our mission to grow sport.

Whistler Olympic Park had 68 volunteer ambassadors this winter, that supported patrol on trails, helped school kids put on their skis, or shovelled snow to get the facility ready for our guests. Volunteers helped facilitate events, such as the FIS Continental Cup, an international ski jumping competition with athletes from over 20 nations, or the 15 other cross-country, biathlon and community events. They supported our sport initiatives on 94 program days last winter, introducing children and youth to Nordic sports in camps and seasonal programs.

At the Whistler Sliding Centre, 41 volunteers supported us during the IBSF Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup in November 2017, contributing to a first-class sporting event broadcasted worldwide. Our volunteers got to witness no less than four Canadian podium finishes, of athletes that spend a significant time each year training on our track.

In February/March of 2019, we will be hosting the IBSF Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Championships at the Whistler Sliding Centre, and we hope to see many of our enthusiastic event volunteers return for the biggest sliding festival Whistler has seen since the Olympics.

We also want to thank the many Nordic and sliding club volunteers and race officials, without whom the competitions and seasonal sport programs at our venues would not be possible.

So to all the volunteers associated with our venues, thank you for your hard work and support, we are looking forward to seeing you again next winter!

Roger Soane
President and CEO, Whistler Sport Legacies

AWARE ACKNOWLEDGES BOARD DIRECTORS

On behalf of the AWARE board of directors, we are saying thank you and farewell for now to three amazing board members; Nalini Binet, Natasha Tatton, and Victoria Lopez. 

You all played an essential role in the direction of AWARE. Some examples of AWARE's recent growth within the last few years include: increasing our memberships and volunteers, accepting larger grants, taking on the Grow Whistler program, introducing children's nature camps, partnering with other non governmental organizations, and many others. We couldn't have done it without your dedication and hard work. We sincerely appreciate your consistent commitment. Thank you.

We would also like to extend our thanks to those who attended our annual general meeting on March 6 at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) and wish to express our gratitude to our partners at the SLCC for hosting us in such a beautiful space. There were very interesting presentations led by Bob Brett, Johnny Mikes, and Arthur De Jong. Thank you to our special guests for providing a stimulating discussion themed around environmental issues related to methods for protecting species, key habitats and biodiversity, and climate change.

 For those who don't know what AWARE is, we are Whistler's environmental non-profit organization and have been Whistler's stewards since 1989. AWARE is a member-driven charity working to protect the natural environment in Whistler and the Sea to Sky corridor through advocacy and speaking up about key environmental issues.

We aim to inspire and empower others to do the same through science-based research and education, all while working towards a vision of a knowledgeable community that is engaged and empowered to preserve and enhance the environment on which it depends.

Claire Ruddy, our executive director, and the AWARE staff operate various ongoing programs, projects and campaigns. The Board of Directors is comprised of Mélanie Tardif, Marcus Culver, Andrew Runciman, and Emma Mostrom-Mombelli—we help govern the organization and drive the team while implementing our strategic plan.

We are pleased to welcome and introduce five new board members who bring many valuable skills: Rowena Diggle, Tanya Kong, Mark Little, Diana Mulvey, and Kim Maitland. 

Each board member offers unique qualities and diverse background experience. We are all very excited to see what will unfold when we put our minds together to tackle some heated, local issues that need addressing. 

We are always looking to grow our membership and diversify the organization, we absolutely love it when the community comes out and gets involved at our events! For ways to join our membership or volunteer at one of our upcoming events, please visit http://www.awarewhistler.org.

Melanie, Andrew, Emma, Marcus and the team
AWARE

GETTING PEOPLE OUT OF CARS IS THE ANSWER

Funnily enough, while reading Mr. Maxwell's latest editorial (Pique, April 12), I happened to be listening to an old Neil Young song that concluded with "there ain't nothin' like a friend who can tell you you're just pissin' in the wind." Unfortunately, I'd say this sentiment applies to Max's well-intentioned advice. Admonishing people to drive better is likely about as effective as admonishing my obese patients to lose weight ... I've had maybe a two per cent success rate over the years.

But if groceries suddenly doubled in price, I suspect a lot of people would quickly lose several kilos. But eating is a basic human necessity and not all of us would benefit from being skinnier, so I do not suggest that the government make eating more expensive.

On the other hand, the whole world and all of its human and non-human inhabitants would vastly benefit if people drove less.

Unlike eating, driving is not an essential human activity. But our society encourages the behaviour by making it very cheap and convenient.

Rather than ranting and raving against bad drivers, why don't we simply provide clear financial signals that motivate citizens to consider alternatives? Universal paid parking, tolls on Highway 99 and higher taxes on gasoline would save far more lives than exhorting everyone to drive better (and, coincidentally, would also help the obese to lose weight, as the alternatives require more legwork!).

But politicians in North America, almost all regular motorists themselves, never have the courage to do anything that may raise the ire of their car-dependent constituents. So, like Max, I suppose I am just pissin' in the wind ... and I must accept that 1.2 million road deaths annually worldwide, along with another 50 million seriously injured, and a fried planet are all reasonable prices to pay to maintain personal motor transport as cheaply and as conveniently as possible.  

Thomas DeMarco
Whistler

Keeping Vail Resorts in perspective

The complaints about Whistler's incipient demise are overblown and premature.

Yes, there are more Epic Card holders showing up. Apparently seven per cent of all 650,000-plus holders came to Whistler this year. So if they stayed an average of four days, that means about 180,000 skier days. Subtract from that the number of Americans who came up before without an Epic card (let's say 25,000, staying an average of three days), and that brings the increase to around 100,000 skier days. Spread over a 150-day season, that adds 666 extra skiers per day.

In reality, those numbers are clustered, but remember that Christmas, Martin Luther King Day and Presidents' Day weekend were already attracting nearly 30,000 to the mountains daily. 

The last time I was at Whistler, during spring break and post Easter this year, mid-week, there were few lines on three of four days and good conditions.

The Mexicans don't have Epic Passes, and they come up early April in droves as well.

I think people may be miffed that Vail Resorts treats Whistler Blackcomb (WB) as a vassal—(in the beginning) quoting temperature and snow fall in Imperial measures, not metric, and currency in U.S. denomination (though the conversions to Canadian currency are done daily at good exchange rates). Big deal!

They are going to put a whole lot of money into the mountains and village, starting this year.

WB is already beyond the pale. Compared to interior mountains with arguably better snow, some with great terrain, way less expensive, and a zillionth of the traffic (both on the hills and roads), Whistler lost its down-home feel decades ago. I don't see the add-on pressure as that significant.

WB has the attributes of a mega-resort, which it is, and does extremely well. A lot different from Jan. 1, 1966, when I first skied Whistler, but the appeal is enduring.

Peter Frinton
Whistler

CONFLICT OF INTEREST?

I just want to point out what appears, from my perspective, to be a significant conflict of interest: The "Pemberton Council Ponders Downtown Enhancement" article from the April 12 Pique edition indicates that the Pemberton mayor is fully involved in the planning process for parking spot increases in the Pemberton Community Barn area.

Now, it's also been reported in the Pique, that this same mayor is opening a new restaurant business in this exact same area.

Being a past restaurant developer in Pemberton, I am familiar with parking. Part of the equation to seating capacity in a Pemberton restaurant is the number of parking spots available to that restaurant.

Basically X number of parking spots equals X number of dining seats. In the restaurant business dining seats equal revenue opportunity.

I am seeing an elected individual being allowed to engage, beyond a normal citizen's ability, in the future planning of an area that he stands to personally benefit from.

This is not the way that municipal leadership should work.

Randy Jones
Pemberton

ZERO WASTE FOR RMOW?

#MyFutureWhistler is being used to 'set out ambitions and aspirations for the future' of our community. My question to the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is as work is being done on our community vision how does tons of plastic grass fit into a defined goal of zero waste?

Over the past 12 months, I have raised many questions about the artificial turf project, now in the 11th hour. A year ago, I was told by staff that there had been considerable community engagement with no concerns. Now, in the 11th hour, there is growing opposition and more and more questions about how this project has moved forward, as well as what impacts it may have on the health and wellness of our community and our environment.

Here is this week's fact about the artificial turf project: At the end of its lifespan (eight to 10 years at most), plastic turf is currently being sent to Malaysia for recycling (that's from the RMOW today). So, it seems, the RMOW will work towards zero waste, and simply send tons of plastic via the ocean to another country.

I would also like to comment on the statement presented by the RMOW's CAO Mike Furey at last week's council meeting that crumb rubber is safe, according to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH). That is not an accurate statement.

VCH continues to await information from a multi-agency investigation led by the EPA in the U.S. to inform its position. Its letter includes an in depth description of recommendations to avoid exposure to crumb rubber infill.

There should be no voting by RMOW councillors on material for the artificial turf field until more information comes forward from the scientific community. In fact, the mayor told me in April 2017 that the RMOW would await the EPA report before making any decisions. That would be prudent in this case regarding any possibility future liability.

What is the rush for this project? It is time to listen to the community voices being raised in opposition.

This project will be a million-dollar white elephant every eight to 10 years for the community. Let the newly elected council of October 2018 vote on it and decide.

Please attend the next meeting of council, April 24 at 5:30 p.m.

Dawn Titus
Whistler

ANNUAL SAILING FUNDRAISER A HUGE SUCCESS! 

The Whistler Sailing Association (WSA) would like to send a huge thank you to all of those who participated to make our 2018 Annual Creekbread Fundraiser such a success. Community members, club supporters, residents and guests gathered at Creekbread on Tuesday, April 3 to enjoy delicious pizza, a silent auction, and time with friends and fellow sailors. The evening raised $3,830.50, which will be used to support the expenses of maintaining our boat fleet for the 2018 season—now over 40 boats!

WSA would like to recognize all of those supporters and local businesses that contributed items to the silent auction for the evening. It is thanks to such a passionate community and local involvement that the sailing club exists today, and for that we say thank you! Visit us this summer on Alta Lake, or at whistlersailing.com!

Francois Hebert
General Manager, WSA

BEARS NEED OUR HELP NOW

I write with great sadness and disappointment regarding Pique's article about the Conservation Officer Service (COS) searching for, trapping and consequently, as the RMOW confirmed (after the newsmagazine's deadline), destroying a 20-year-old bear (Pique, April 5). 

It seems that the future of our premier ski resort, a supposedly "bear-smart" town with its cuddly toys in souvenir shops and artworks of bears in every other café, is more important than preserving life in a fear-driven world.

Are we to become like The Cove in Taji, Japan, where they have toy dolphins and a statue, then plug up the dolphins' air holes and batter them to death in horrific drives? No, we do not want to become hypocrites but stay in the truth.

This bear was considered a threat to public safety because someone received a "minor injury," and was killed by the trigger-happy conservation officer. Year after year, the same arguments come up and yet another bear dies. There are never any other solutions other than more killing.

Yet, I think that most people do not want this death on their hands. Tourists come here to see bears in the summer. It is a key part of vacationing in Canada. 

The bears have just woken up, hungry, and stand no chance with people irresponsibly leaving garbage around. We should be leaders, not followers, paving the way for the future of the wildlife we so like to sell to the tourists. All of us need to be accountable and if we are truly bear-smart then we need to find solutions to get to zero bear deaths. Bylaws and fines are ineffective.

Sylvia Dolson, formerly of the Get Bear Smart Society, secured electric fences in Squamish to curb habituated bears. Why is this not an option?

These irresponsible people who leave garbage around should pay for something like this. There are experts like Charlie Russell who have spent over 50 years with bears and preserve their lives. Why are our conservation officers not working with him?

Tasers have been used successfully in Alaska to remove moose and bears. "Bears who returned to a dump after being shot at with tasers showed greater aversion to people than before they were hit," said Larry Lewis (adfg.alaska.gov), a wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Has the Conservation Officer Service (COS) in Whistler even tried this?

COS officer Simon Gravel said: "Relocation is no longer an option." Is it because it is stressful and unkind to bears? Do you think that killing them is not? Translocation does not work because they are hunted and found pretty quickly, or they go into another bear's territory and fight to their death. But at least that way, they would die naturally and not be shot.

It would be nice to have bear sanctuaries instead of wasting a ton of money on a plastic soccer pitch all set to leak micro-plastic into the Cheakamus River and then the ocean.

Bear families and populations have been devastated by our fear and ignorance. Now let us aspire to do better and stop the deaths. Let us allow bears to live safely among us, after all, it is their home and we are just the visitors.

Natasha Tatton
Whistler

BUS SERVICE ON SEA TO SKY HIGHWAY CAN BE IMPROVED

Highway 99 serves as a vital link for passengers between the Sea to Sky communities and Vancouver, Vancouver Island, the YVR airport and points beyond.

There are buses running during normal hours approximately every 15 minutes on this route; in addition, there are cars every few seconds. Due to historically (poor) regulation and lack of future thinking, the service is beyond terrible—it is nearly unusable.

It takes hours to catch a ride on any one of the buses and none of the systems connect smoothly—too many different locations and schedules. Consequently, the existing buses every 15 minutes are driving partly empty right past passengers waiting for another bus. This is stupid. We do not need a government-run bus system—we just need to be able to get on and off the buses, which are already running on this route.

The solution is simple:

• Define common highway-passenger stops.

• Require all buses, including tour buses, to stop at those stops on demand.

• Encourage passengers and taxis, and also the informal sector (rideshare/hitchhiking) to use these same stops by providing signage and bus stops and adequate safe stopping zones.

• Cancel historic contracts that give some bus and taxi operators priority over others. These arrangements have made the current system inefficient, expensive and unusable.

Why is changing the system important? Because it is inefficient and dangerous for my employees to be required to hitchhike to get to work; because the fastest service from the airport to the Sea to Sky is the YVR to Canada Line, then Squamish Connector from the Waterfront Station, but this is only a few times a day; because it is inexcusable to not have any system beyond taxis to take people late at night to or from the Sea to Sky communities; because people (including myself) waste gas driving single-occupancy vehicles to Vancouver since we do not want to wait hours for a scheduled bus; because different people are going different places and the transportation systems need to connect; because the existing system does not serve our First Nations communities effectively.

Where on the side of the Sea to Sky Highway should the stops be?

Mount Currie, Pemberton, Whistler North at Alta Lake Road, Whistler Village, Whistler Creekside, Whistler Olympic Village, Black Tusk, Squamish Tantalus Road, Squamish Adventure Centre, Britannia, Furry Creek, Lions Bay, on the side of the old highway by Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver Taylor Way and Hwy 1, West Vancouver Park Royal, Burrard Station, Waterfront Station and Train Station. Also, for Hwy 1 North Vancouver Phibbs Exchange, Vancouver Hwy 1 and Hastings (PNE).

In order to connect passengers from the side of the old highway to the Horseshoe Bay ferries, a "people mover" gondola will be built up the side of the hill.

Let's install the official bus stop signs this summer and get this working now!

Calvin Winter
Squamish

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