Letters to the Editor 

On the meaning of hospitality, snowmobiling, a down under perspective and thanks again.

Searching for a word

I attended an interesting meeting at MY Place on March 9.

A gentleman named Anurag Gupta took those interested in Whistler's future on an exercise of self-examination.

After getting a predictable core sample of Whistler citizenry to agree that they did indeed want to take the journey Mr. Gupta said that to get anywhere it is essential to be honest about from where one is starting.

Anyone can get to Point B if they're sure on the location of Point A, he explained.

Using a technique that I'm sure works well with corporate clients Mr. Gupta asked the crowd to describe Whistler in one word. He had assistants write the words on large sheets of paper. It didn't take long to fill three sheets. The process Mr. Gupta employed was to distill all these words down to one word that the whole town could buy into.

At a previous meeting a sort of mission statement was created about what kind of Whistler people wanted. It was determined that Whistler should be, to paraphrase, "a place where people felt themselves to be fundamentally changed by the mere experience of being here."

The effort behind this meeting was to find the one word that everyone could keep in mind to create the desired effect while going about their daily business.

Having Whistler pull on a common oar, so to speak, would create an environment that people noticed and were profoundly changed by. Everyone's cumulative effort would make this happen.

I bought into the concept because I too believe that an infinitesimally small deed performed by a large number of people can create a dramatic effect. Think what saying "Hey" not only to friends, but to everyone else you pass would do.

Most in attendance could see the power of what Mr. Gupta was selling, but a few were skeptical. It led to some tense moments that Mr. Gupta could have handled better. He was just trying to keep the night on track, but his confrontational style was more suited to motivate corporate types who pay for his services than concerned villagers who donated for the rental of MY Place.

The evening stalled for me in the effort to wordsmith the perfect nuance. Things got the tiniest bit inhospitable and I left.

As I walked through Whistler Village it dawned on me that perhaps "hospitable" is a word Whistler can rally around. We are inhospitable to our environment by building golf courses on wetlands, to business owners through increased commercial rents in times of economic downturn, to long-term employees through the 500 names on the Whistler Housing Authority waiting list, and finally to guests of Whistler because service staff replace attitude for being courteous and competent.

Whistler is in the service of being hospitable. Hospitality is the seat of civilization. In an increasingly hostile and aggressive world being conscientiously hospitable in all facets of Whistler life could indeed change the lives of people.

Brian Walker

Whistler

Snowmobilers are trying to work with others

For the record, I (Nelson Bastien, President, Powder Mountain Snowmobile Club) was and still am a member of the Sea to Sky Back Country Forum. Meetings were held monthly over two years in Squamish with all the various stakeholders represented.

One of the directions laid out by the government-sponsored facilitator was to get all the stakeholders to understand and have some sympathy for others. A large task but it was fairly successful. While the motorized and non-motorized have co-operated at the Back Country Forum and LRMP for over four years it is counterproductive for a few on either side to be slamming the other side. Despite the notion we should share and get along in the backcountry I for one am tired of the constant barrage of negative comments from a few uninformed, non-mechanized sector folks in the local papers, and in particular comments about trash being left. Let’s remember there is a major job to be done on educating the masses about leaving trash about.

These comments are always about environmental damage but never mention the other mechanized users such as:

1. Helicopters, which can be heard over the sound of a sled in full throttle;

2.The thousands of litres of fuel burned to groom ski slopes;

3.The risky storage of these fuels in the alpine, not to mention the fuel the non-mechanized folks burn to get to their destinations.

As for the forum results, at this point they are still recommendations and at that have not been well communicated. The LRMP study slowed down the action but we still hope to see the recommendations enacted. The documents are meant to be dynamic and open to review.

The area between Madley and Sproatt is meant to be non mechanized but to be fair to snowmobilers, how would they know – particularly city and out-of-province visitors?

I personally feel there should be a large area like the Callaghan east that is dedicated to non mechanized and those folks should begin to pay their way and pay for snow clearing of parking areas and grooming if required.

Powder Mountain Snowmobile and Outdoor recreation Club has signed a management agreement with Forestry for the Forest Service roads in the Brandywine area and is charging for use and providing education about looking after the backcountry and is providing grooming, garbage and recycle collection plus toilet facilities at the trail head.

I feel snowmobiling is going to be here as long as vehicles run up and down the highway and chairlifts carry people up the mountain. Let’s work towards co-operation instead of confrontation.

Nelson Bastien

Black Tusk Village

How much better?

I had the privilege of reading/enduring the rant of Mark Grist of North Vancouver in the March 16 issue (Pique letters). I thought, as I was reading it, how much better a person he must be than anyone else, just because he "chooses" to be a "self propelled back country enthusiast." I was curious why he wasted so much fuel, polluting the air and congesting the highway as he drove by three different provincial parks, which snowmobiles are not allowed in. If he feels so strongly about being environmentally conscious, he should have walked to his favourite ski touring area, or at least driven to the closest one.

But this isn’t the reason for my rant. I was quite amazed at how little tolerance Mr. Grist has for other people if they don’t follow his example. Given his self-righteous attitude towards people that ask how his day is, I’m tempted to use the word "arrogant."

There are two other definitions of the word "ignorant"  – "informal, discourteous or rude," and "easily angered." So I suppose Mr. Grist should lump himself in with the ignorant.

I have come across backcountry skiers out in the middle of nowhere and asked if they needed a ride. Some appreciated the offer and some have even accepted, because they were late returning. That fellow from Surrey didn’t get up in the morning looking to ruin anyone’s day; all he did was say "Hi."

I’m quite aware of the Back Country Forum and I’m also quite aware of the restrictions that are to be imposed on the Sproatt and 21 Mile Creek drainage (which is one of the reasons I don’t snowmobile there) because I am in the snowmobile club. However, the restrictions haven’t been enforced and they certainly aren’t publicized or noticed because of a lack of or absence of signs. How do you suppose the man from Surrey is supposed to know this?

I have a thought for people to ponder: If motorized vehicles are to be prohibited from non-motorized areas, then does this mean non-motorized enthusiasts should be prohibited from motorized areas? Should we, as the motorized faction, be as militant towards non-motorized enthusiasts? The intolerance seems to be aimed at snowmobiles, but there are far more polluting forms of backcountry access that fly overhead.

Grist and others should be lobbying the government to open more of the thousands of acres of provincial parks for self-propelled backcountry. Imagine nice, plowed parking areas from which you can self propel your way into the backcountry and not even see a helicopter.

Anyone unhappy with the outcome of the forum shouldn’t blame the snowmobilers. The governing body that agreed with all the concessions has not done its part in enforcing the non-motorized areas. Signage and education are required.

I agree there needs to be some areas to ski in peace and quiet. The provincial parks offer exactly what people like Grist are looking for, and they don’t even have to fight for it.

Lincoln Ferguson

Pemberton

A view from Down Under

I’d like to add an Australian perspective to the backcountry snowmobile letters initiated by Al Whitney’s observations. Although the issues of 4WDs on beaches aren’t exactly the same as those for snowmobiles, there are some overlaps and recent developments down here (in Australia) that might provide an additional perspective.

Just offshore of where I live in Queensland is one of the world’s largest sand islands. It’s called Stradbroke Island (Minjerriba). The island is a tourist destination; it has white sand beaches, warm blue water, plenty of sea life and great surf. The beaches of this island are popular with that icon of Australian outback ruggedness, the 4WD truck. And on most weekends the beaches are packed with recreational motorists enjoying the sun and the surf, much like their snowmobile cousins on the snowy ridges and bowls of the backcountry.

In the same way that snowmobiles undermine the enjoyment (for people) or livability (for wildlife) of the backcountry, 4WD beach motorists are equally problematic. For the non-motoring public there are issues of safety as well as visual and noise pollution, but those often boil down to values-based arguments that are challenging to resolve. And until recently, it was hard to argue that 4WDs had an impact on the ecological integrity of the beach because all you really see is sand – empty miles of it (except for the tire tracks, of course). However, as any marine biologist (or reasonably observant individual) will tell you, all kinds of animals live below the surface amongst the sand grains. Clams, ghost crabs, worms, crustaceans, larval forms of different invertebrates… make their home in the sand.

Responding to the increasing pressure of trucks on the island’s beaches and community concerns, the local government and a neighbouring university recently got serious about examining exactly what trucks do to the beach and the animals that live there. The results (still coming in as I write) reveal far more extensive impacts than anticipated. Compression from the tires kills about 40 per cent of the clams under the sand and over half the beach experiences changes to density from the truck tires down to a depth of 20-30 cm. Findings for ghost crabs are similarly morbid, as they are either crushed in their burrows or crushed on the surface trying to escape.

So what, you might ask.

Apart from the existence value of other life forms, there’s the inseparable ecosystem and economic linkages to consider. For example, ghost crabs clean up organic debris washed up on the beach, processing the nutrients and making them available for other organisms that, in turn, feed the small fish (that then feed the big fish), feed the shorebirds (over 40 species) and keep the sand clean. These interconnected natural systems are partly responsible for generating the tourist economy on the island. With this kind of hard data in hand, what should the local government do to manage the beach for all users, human and non-human and for future generations?

Whistler promotes itself and gets international recognition for its sustainability initiatives and "nature friendly" image. In light of what is known about the incompatibility of "polluting for pleasure" with frameworks like The Natural Step and with maintaining local wildlife populations, how long can Whistler afford to remain neutral over motorized use of its backcountry?

Dan McDonald

Australia

Marijuana economics

The utter backwardness and ignorance exuded in Cpl. Vadik’s quote in the March 9 Pique has left me concerned with the state of our municipality’s police goals and/or the intelligence level of its members. "Our goal is to rid the supply to defeat the demand…" One can’t help but hear the echoes of laughter of even the most half witted high school graduate who understands the concepts of supply and demand. Decrease supply to reduce demand eh? Kinda like we’ve done with gold, diamonds and oil?

Decrease supply of a finite resource and you will merely find an increase in price… in the case of a sustainable infinite resource (drugs) an obvious vacuum is created bringing new sources and connections. That’s right, demand does not change in response to supply. Please confirm that this is merely the uninformed ramblings of a tired brainwashed drug warrior and not actually the policy my tax dollars are paying into.

I urge prohibitionists to look toward logic and not towards police propaganda in forming their attitudes towards the legislation of recreational drugs. Prohibition of drugs continues to not only fund the obvious sects of organized crime that embrace an easy money maker but also funds government bureaucracies, police departments, privatized prison industries as well as the pharmaceutical and drug companies.

Let the 1920s and ’30s failed prohibition and subsequent legalization of alcohol be an example of today’s errors and obvious solutions. Take heed to the consistent advice offered by the committees charged with the task of evaluating our drug laws, most notably the 1972 LeDain Commission as well as the 2002 Senate Committee report on Marijuana, both recommending not the "decriminalization" of marijuana but its legalization.

Andrew Budgell

Whistler

Clear choices

We would like to thank Randy and Whistler Glass for their generous donation towards the Whistler Museum's exhibit celebrating the Whistler and Blackcomb anniversaries. The exhibit is entitled Two Mountains Are Better Than One and features a chance to vote for your favourite mountain by dropping a coloured "ballot" into one of the plexi-glass boxes – the unofficial winner, to date is Whistler!

Thanks again, Whistler Glass.

Karen Overgaard for

Board Members and Staff

Whistler Museum & Archives Society

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