Parkwatch group upset there was no consultation for Flute expansion 

Say land exchange between Whistler-Blackcomb and Garibaldi Park didn’t follow due process

A plan to swap Whistler-Blackcomb land for land in Garibaldi Park took local environmentalists and park watchers by surprise last week. They believe the province should have consulted the public and submitted studies to determine what the effects of the swap might be before the expansion is approved.

"I don’t think it should happen without meaningful public comment, a chance for the public to pore over the map, for example, while there is still time to change things," says Bob Brett, a member of the Whistler Naturalists, Sea to Sky Parkwatch, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and the municipal Forests and Wildlands Advisory Committee. None of these organizations was told about the possible expansion to the ski area until a decision was already being weighed by government.

"There was no consultation. There are no studies on how this might affect the park, the flora and fauna – how it might look," Brett says.

Last week Whistler-Blackcomb and B.C. Parks announced the land swap, in which Intrawest would gain 87 hectares in the Flute peak basin in exchange for 113 acres of land in the Fitzsimmons area.

Whistler-Blackcomb plans to eventually put two ski lifts up to the peak and develop ski runs in the Flute basin. Most of the area already falls within the mountain’s land tenure following a 1987 agreement.

If the land swap is approved – and the plan was introduced in the B.C. Legislature last week; the legislature adjourned for the summer on May 30 – Whistler-Blackcomb would be able to start developing the area in the spring of 2003.

B.C. Parks would gain the entire Singing Pass trail, including a 1.3 kilometre section that’s currently within Whistler-Blackcomb’s boundaries, plus some high elevation old-growth forest. Tom Bell, a planning officer with B.C. Parks called the exchange a "win-win" deal.

In addition to the lack of public consultation, Brett and other members of Sea to Sky Parkwatch and the Forests and Wildlands Advisory Committee are concerned that more than a few hectares of land is at stake in the deal.

"Before Harmony Chair went in, almost nobody went as far as the musical bumps. Now we’re adding easy access to Singing Pass, and will be using the ski area right to the edge of Whistler-Blackcomb’s boundary. It effectively shrinks the total area of the park, because it essentially takes away that buffer zone," says Brett. "Personally I’d rather see the buffer zone for the park outside of the park boundaries, rather than inside the park."

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