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VANOC’s plan for recreation trails

In response to recent discussion regarding legacy trails at the Whistler Nordic Competition Venue, I am writing to provide further clarification on our proposed recreation trails plan.

The Whistler Nordic Competition Venue (WNCV) legacy recreation trails will be designed and built as determined under the Environmental Assessment (EA) review process, a rigorous public process that requires in-depth assessment by government agencies, Squamish and Lil’wat Nations, stakeholders and the public.

VANOC held a public open house in Whistler recently to present plans on the proposed 20-25 km legacy recreation trail network for the WNCV. The assessment and feedback received has already made the project better for the environment and the public.

VANOC continues to strive for the most sustainable development plan for the WNCV and as such is operating with a much smaller footprint than originally contemplated in 2003. As a result the recreation trails will be constructed solely in the Madeley Valley area. Trails will not disrupt wildlife in the Upper Callaghan or Callaghan Park.

There have been questions about the need to build the trails now, rather than after 2010. Building the trails in 2007 allows us to use current crews now on site and the experience required to build these trails. This will reduce impacts by avoiding the need to re-mobilize the site and re-train contractors about our environmental management plans (EMPs). Costs today will be less than costs after 2010, providing the opportunity for a greater legacy post-Games, but most importantly undertaking this project now will remove the uncertainty around these trails being available to the community after the Games.

Avoiding grizzly bear and bear impacts is important to everyone and we are taking great care to address this important issue.

The Sea-to-Sky LRMP maps identify the majority of the lower Callaghan Valley (the WNCV and recreation trail site) as a medium grizzly bear management priority area. The background document on Callaghan Lake Provincial Park (TFEC 1998c) notes grizzly bear possibly occurring as a transient species (TFEC 1998c).

VANOC has contributed to this existing research with a new study showing that the Callaghan Valley bear habitat effectiveness is much reduced given the past history of mining, forestry and motorized recreation access and that the incremental impact to bear habitat and increased risk of bear mortality is limited as a result of the legacy trail plan. Recent assessments undertaken on behalf of VANOC showed no apparent evidence of grizzly bears in the Madeley trail development area.

Notwithstanding that the probability of grizzly bears residing and denning around the WNCV is low, it is still something that needs careful attention and VANOC will continue to work with its partners to incorporate Bear management mitigation measures into the design and operations of the venue and trails.

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