Olympic Nordic Centre sparks concerns 

Callaghan Country, First Nations object to size of legacy backcountry facilities


The latest plans for the Olympic Nordic Centre have raised the ire of a Whistler backcountry ski tour operator and First Nations.

"I don’t believe they have fully engaged our companies and other stakeholders," said Brad Sills of Callaghan Country.

Sills plans to file a letter with the Environmental Assessment Office that is reviewing plans for the Nordic centre in the Callaghan Valley. In the latest plans the legacy trails have grown to as much as 100 kilometres, close to three times what is needed to host the Olympic events said Sills. Some of those trails run adjacent to and intermingle with Callaghan Country’s own set of trails. Callaghan Country’s lodge is just 12 km from the Nordic Centre.

The latest proposal from VANOC also includes some accommodation at the Nordic Centre, as well as camping and a RV site. As far as Sills is concerned that means VANOC is proposing a business which could operate in direct competition to his own.

Alternately VANOC could sit and talk with Callaghan Country, which holds a licence for backcountry operations in the area, and get a plan in place for the legacy operation.

"I have been told it is too soon in the process to sit down," said Sills. "(In the letter) I will strongly urge them to commence these discussions on how (Callaghan Country) can merge with VANOC to create a truly fantastic comprehensive Nordic Centre.

"We need a resolution to the business operations of (Callaghan Country and the Nordic Centre) and I think there is one. Let’s get going with these discussions. Now is the time. It would be very difficult for us and a lot of the business community to support a rezoning process prior to the successful conclusions of these business agreements."

Sills is not alone in his concerns. Representatives of the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations have also submitted a letter to the provincial government outlining concerns they have about the proposed development of the Nordic centre site.

"(The) facilities go well beyond the original ‘footprint’ of the Whistler Nordic Centre that the First Nations understood was being developed in the Callaghan Valley," states a letter posted on the provincial Web site dealing with the environmental review process for the Whistler Nordic Centre.

Neither Squamish Chief Bill Williams nor Lil’wat chief Leonard Andrew was available for comment at deadline.

The concern, as outlined in the letter, is that the backcountry legacy facilities appear to infringe on the "aboriginal rights and title interests of the First Nations in that area." It also points out that the Squamish Nation’s Xay Temixw Land Use Plan identifies the upper Callaghan Valley as a Wild Spirit Place and the legacy proposals do not take this designation into account. The letter calls on the provincial government to consult the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations prior to any approval of the project by the Environmental Assessment Office.

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