Nordic centre could include RV centre, tube park, outdoor rink 

Public invited to comment on Nordic centre proposal at open houses

The Callaghan Valley will be changing in the coming years but not without public consultation first.

As part of the environmental assessment review for the Whistler Nordic Centre there will be a series of public open houses in the corridor for feedback on the upcoming Olympic development. Specifically, the public is invited to comment on the environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects of the Whistler Nordic Centre in the Callaghan Valley.

"(The public) can come and take a look at the maps and the text and really gain a pretty good sense of what the project is and where we’re going with it and it can create (an) opportunity for feedback from that," said Maureen Douglas, the director of community relations in Whistler for the Vancouver Organizing Committee.

She said the open houses will also help put the whole project into perspective in relation to the Callaghan Valley as a whole.

"We’re just a small portion of the Callaghan Valley," she said.

The information presented at the corridor open houses will be the same information that’s in the Environmental Assessment application – a review process VANOC voluntarily undertook prior to the development of the Whistler Nordic Centre. Some of the regulations in that review are more stringent than they otherwise would have been had VANOC not opted for the provincial Environmental Assessment.

"We chose to enter into that because we felt we wanted the project to go through that level of environmental scrutiny," said Douglas.

Located 10 kilometres west of Whistler in the Callaghan Valley, the Whistler Nordic Centre will be the site of the 2010 Olympic ski jumping facilities, a biathlon facility, including a shooting range and trails, and a cross-country stadium with associated trails. The site will also have a day lodge with permanent parking lot facilities and internal roads.

The area is also proposed to have summer and winter recreational amenities to complement the high performance sports facilities.

The design and the extent of the legacy facilities at the Whistler Nordic Centre has not been finalized but there are already a number of suggestions in the environmental assessment application. The report states:

"The goal for post-Olympics use of the WNC is to create an accessible, world-class destination for all the Nordic sports and to maximize year-round use of compatible outdoor recreational and sporting activities, while honouring the principle of environmental and economic sustainability."

Those amenities could include an area with an RV centre and camping facilities with 80 to 100 sites, a natural luge run, a snow play area with a tube park, an outdoor skating rink and a hut-to-hut ski touring and hiking system.

The review also highlights in depth the key impacts on vegetation, fish habitat and wildlife corridors, as well as the potential social and economic impacts associated with the development, among other things.

"We provide a lot of information but we also try to provide a lot of room for people to come in with some of their own ideas on ways to mitigate some of the concerns," said Douglas.

For example, at public meetings with the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations, Douglas said there were numerous suggestions for the development, such as having composting washrooms.

"People are coming forward with these ideas and it’s great that you’ve got a community that aware," she said.

"I know we’re going to see that in Whistler and I think Squamish and Pemberton. Everybody in the corridor is pretty astute from an environmental point of view."

Three open houses are scheduled for residents in the Sea to Sky corridor.

The Whistler Open House is on Wednesday, Oct. 20 at the Telus Conference Centre. The Squamish Open House will take place one week later, on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at the Howe Sound Inn. In Pemberton the open house will be held on Monday, Nov. 1 at the Pemberton Community Centre.

Each open house will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. There will be a brief presentation at 7:15 p.m. but representatives will be on hand throughout the evening to answer any questions.

For more information go to www.eao.gov.bc.ca or www.vancouver2010.com. Reference copies of the Environmental Assessment application are also available at the 2010 Whistler Information Centre in the village.

The period for general public comments ends on Nov. 8.

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