Letters to the Editor for the week of May 30 

click to enlarge WWW.SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

Mountain biking has positive future

In his opinion piece last week ("How now, brown pow," Pique, May 23), Andrew Mitchell outlines his concerns for the current state of mountain biking in this community. I would like to take this opportunity to provide an outlook that is significantly more positive and yet rooted in the same passion, culture and commitment of days gone by that Andrew alludes to.

It's important to put on record that in 2017-18, Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association (WORCA) members completed Cut Above, Lord Of Squirrels, Industrial Waste, Scotia Creek climb and rebuilt the Lower Sproatt Dessert Platter. These are all blue-grade trails.

In 2019, WORCA members plan to build a blue-grade exit from the wildly popular Lord Of The Squirrels trail, realign HiHi and lower Cat Scratch Fever (both blue grade) after forest thinning impacted them, and we hope to start work on the Far Out/Flashback route, which will connect two existing blue-grade trail networks (Farside and Cheakamus Lake Trail) to create an epic blue-grade loop that could lower potential road user conflict, encourage people to pedal rather than drive to the lake and serve the expanding population of Cheakamus Crossing.

These are just the WORCA projects, not counting the considerable and extremely professional work that the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) crews continually add to the Lost Lake, Emerald Interpretative Forest and Cheakamus River trails.

The sport of mountain biking has exploded and there are more riders able to take on the trickiest of trails today than there's ever been before, so we're going to have to contend with offering trails that satisfy their needs while doing so sustainably and responsibly.

The original trails weren't built to handle the transition from mountain biking being a niche, hardcore sport to serving the populist and tourism machine that it now feeds. We need to build trails that use the gradient wisely and can handle much larger numbers of riders. If we don't do this, we'll only increase the desire for people to go out into the forest and build trails without proper authorizations. This is why any move to halt or slow the construction of new, sanctioned trails is going to create more problems than it'll solve.

WORCA is committed to the promotion and construction of sustainable, formally sanctioned trails. To discourage rogue building, we create opportunities for community members to work on exciting, sustainable projects, such as the list of projects above or our very well attended weekly Trail Nights, in the hope we'll satiate their need to build something.

Times are changing, but it's actually changing for the better. Trails are more sustainable, the number of kids and diversity of riders is increasing every day, community stakeholders are working in an effective and coordinated effort to address many of the concerns (mentioned in Andrew's column) and passion for riding bikes continues to grow.

Perhaps to ease the old man in us all, the Pique could champion a few column inches towards a comprehensive weekly trail update from the WORCA and RMOW trail crews so this hard work is presented to the community.

Seb Kemp // Trails Director, WORCA

E-bikes a good alternative for recreation

I am not "an average nobody" because I ride an e-bike as stated by Andrew Mitchell in his "How now, brown pow" opinion column (Pique, May 23). Rather, I have ridden a mountain bike since first invented, but my almost 70-year-old legs can no longer get up steep trails.

I used to be a WORCA Monday night bike guide who just happens to be getting older. Please stop promoting age discrimination.

Secondly, where is the research and evidence that e-bikes do any more damage to trails than regular mountain bikes? Properly designed trails at Whistler can handle all bikes.

I observe that aggressive bikers on non e-bikes that hit the brakes and skid around corners do more damage to the trails than conservative e-bikers.

I would never suggest restricting trails. Let everyone be encouraged to recreate!

Michael Blaxland // Whistler

Connecting communities to tackle mental health

Mountain living can be spectacular—both the beauty of being surrounded by the great outdoors and the camaraderie of a tight-knit community. But the same characteristics that make it unique have also created barriers to addressing a critical issue facing mountain and remote communities around the world: mental health.

Despite the prevalence of mental illness—one in five adults will experience mental illness in a given year—the majority of those affected do not receive the services they need. In mountain communities, the issue is intensified. Suicide rates are higher than average, emergency room visits for anxiety and depression are up by triple digits, and we continue to see a rise in substance abuse.

Why? Unfortunately, there is a devastating shortage of mental-health-care service providers in smaller and more remote communities. And, even when services are available, those affected are less likely to seek help because of the social stigma already associated with treatment, which is often exacerbated in more intimate communities.

The good news is there is brave and inspiring work being done to address the issue in our mountain communities—from the Hope Center's crisis response work in Eagle County, Colo. to Building Hope's stigma-reduction marketing campaign and provider network in Summit County, Colo. to Park City's collaborative efforts through the Mental Wellness Alliance to Whistler Community Services Society's outreach programs to Truckee's high-school wellness program—just to name a few. At Vail Resorts, we have also made our Epic Wellness program—which provides free, confidential counselling and other mental health care services—available to all of our employees.

Last fall, my wife Elana and I launched the Katz Amsterdam Foundation with a clear mission: to be a catalyst for eliminating the stigma of mental illness, increasing access to behavioural and mental healthcare, and improving the quality of care for all in the communities in which Vail Resorts operates.

Since then, the foundation has been able to meet with dozens of non-profits and organizations committed to creating truly healthy communities. As we listened to their concerns, perspectives and ideas, we have been inspired by their passion for making a difference. Our goal now is to help amplify the work they are doing by connecting them to critical resources—and to each other.

Our communities can be far more powerful if we work collectively. Our foundation is seeking to help make those connections: Connection between communities to share experiences, learnings and programs; connection to knowledge, research and innovation happening across the world; and connection with financial resources—both through grants from the Katz Amsterdam Charitable Trust and by helping to attract others to give as well.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In the spirit of connections, we're hosting the first Katz Amsterdam Foundation Convening, where 60 non-profit, local government and health care leaders from 10 mountain communities (including Whistler) are coming together May 29 to 31 in Boulder, Colo., to establish a foundation for shared learning.

While we're incredibly excited by what this group of passionate and experienced minds will discover, we encourage everyone to get involved by taking even one small action: Ask someone how they are. Share a challenge that you have had. Show others it is OK to ask for help. By connecting, we can help break the stigma and create stronger, more-resilient and more-connected communities.

We're all in this together.

Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts // Broomfield, Colo.

Parents oppose three-grade French Immersion classes

At Spring Creek Community School, there is a possibility that all French Immersion classes may be comprised of a three-way split of grades 5/6/7 for potentially all four of its late French Immersion classes. There was a meeting held at the school (recently) about different scenarios of class composition for next year, which included this idea. Many parents opposed voiced their opinions; however, school administrators seem fixated on implementing this concept. 

This year, there was a 5/6/7 split late French Immersion class, which my child was in and it was a challenging experience on an educational and social level. As a Grade 7 in that class, my avid learner switched off for the first four months, while the class went back to basic French so the Grade 5s could understand what was going on.

One of my biggest concerns is burnout of the amazing teachers who are given these classes. How can an educator effectively teach three grades to 28 students with the Grade 5s having no previous French and the Grade 6s and 7s at a good level of French language comprehension?

Imagine putting a group of never-before, green-run skiers in with blue- and some black-run skiers all in the same ski lesson. I'm thinking someone would want their money back and the instructor would be quite challenged.  

The social aspect is another concern for many parents. If they want to build empathy and inclusion for kids of all ages, continue with little buddy groups, reading buddies etc. Our children will learn to get along with people of all ages all their lives; surely this lesson does not need to be taught at the detriment of their education. 

I would like the school board to take into consideration the opinions of parents, teachers and students on this matter, as I feel we are all not being heard and an agenda is being pushed forward. The school district has widely implemented the practice of two-grade split classes, which is now the norm in Whistler and I am personally OK with this.

However, why is there a need to push it to three-grade split classes and what is next, four grades in one classroom?

Allie Gilchrist // Whistler

School Board needs to listen to parents

I attended a meeting at Spring Creek Elementary (recently), discussing having three grades in one class for the Late French Immersion program.Three grades in one class have not been confirmed at this point, but the meeting was to let us know it's a possibility. This idea was met by opposition from the parents, myself included, and so I wondered who does this actually benefit? 

(Currently at Spring Creek, there is one class of Grades 5/6/7 and a straight Grade 5, 6 and 7 in French Immersion.)

Social implications: I have seen firsthand the detrimental effects on young impressionable boys with having older boys influence them in the classroom. It robs children of their innocence. If my nine-year old going into Grade 5 was placed with 12-year-olds in Grade 7, the social implications could/would be devastating. Socially, I want my son to belong with other students of his age.

Educational implications: I have asked Grade 7s if they would like to be in a class with Grade5s. "No way" was the answer. How fair is it to a Grade 7 student that they can't be in a class with their peers learning at a grade-appropriate level?

Grade 7s, who are fluent in French, have very different educational needs than Grade 5s who are just starting to learn a new language. When there is such a large age and educational gap, there is a fear of loss of engagement from the older students and intimidation from the younger.

Teacher resources: Teaching is a profession that I would not consider for myself. I admire anyone who has chosen this as their career.  With large class sizes and the overall behaviour of students these days, I am surprised that anyone wants to be a teacher.

Why make it harder on teachers by having them have to prepare for three grades in one class, especially with students who are also trying to learn a new language?Shouldn't teachers have the ultimate say in this, as they are the ones who have to deal daily with students?

As a parent, I am very opposed to a three-grade split and can't see any clear benefit. 

I hope the school district takes into consideration the opposition from the parents. We are the voices and advocates for our children and only have their best interest in mind. 

Christy Craig // Whistler

Get a rain barrel

Most people in Whistler don't have rain barrels—we're not accustomed to saving water in this province. But that's not the way it is anymore.

We have two rain barrels but could easily use 10 more when it rains. That's water flowing away unused.  

With all the water runoff and spring flooding, we could create another Great Lakes if we saved it, but politicians talk oil pipelines. We can't drink oil.  We can't grow food in oil.

As a tiny beginning, I'd like to see the Resort Municipality of Whistler offer a "rain-barrel incentive." Sell them at reasonable prices to encourage usage, work with federal and provincial politicians to promote them, not just offer rebates if we happen to buy one.

We've got more plastic garbage than we know what to do with—that could be turned into rain barrels.   

I'm not saying plastics don't have essential uses, but they need to be drastically reduced. What we don't need is China, or anyone, sending us cheap plastic products that end up in the ocean. We don't need plastic milk containers, margarine only came wrapped in paper at one time but now it has to be soft in a plastic tub for our convenience—conveniences that are killing our planet. Pulp and paper mills are disgusting and plastics were considered an alternative. Hemp is a better alternative.

Some people think we shouldn't have gardens at all, but they want the bees and butterflies that go with them. If wildflowers don't bloom or die off because of lack of water, the bees won't have much of a food source. Some people think wildflowers bloom regardless of the weather; that's not true. I have lupine in areas I never water and they don't do well if it doesn't rain regularly—if they don't bloom, they don't reseed and eventually die out completely.

With rain barrels we can limit watering in our yard to treed areas that, at one time, didn't need it because of B.C.'s rainfall amount—that's not the case anymore.  

I know I'm not the only one who's noticed all the dead and dying trees. Cedar trees are being hit hard by repeated summers of hot dry weather. Beetles are attacking pine and spruce trees. Dead trees make fire hazards worse, and if wildfires continue like they have and trees keep dying, we won't be beautiful B.C. much longer.   

Our forests are dying in front of our eyes and some politicians want more oil pipelines, heating the planet even more, adding to the problem rather than working to find ways to reduce it. There's more than one way to earn a living. How about a cross-country pipeline for water, create a river and lakes, save water—a lot of it could be along the border, stock them with fish, make it a swimming event ... tourism makes money too.  

If the Chinese could create two rivers out of one, we can create one river with lakes.

Erna Gray // Whistler

© 1994-2019 Pique Publishing Inc., Glacier Community Media

- Website powered by Foundation