population 

Second in a series of stories on the growth of Whistler and other mountain resorts. These stories are intended to complement information found in the municipality’s monitoring program. The municipal planning department will release results from its 1994-95 monitoring program in a few weeks, prior to the second annual Town Hall Meeting in October. In the two decades since its inception, the Resort Municipality of Whistler has experienced a population boom. Municipal planners have just finished counting heads in Whistler for the first time. As part of the fledgling resort monitoring program, RMOW canvassers hit the streets this past spring, knocking on the door of every home in Whistler, gathering statistical and demographic data that will be discussed at Whistler's second Town Hall meeting. In 1975 Whistler Village was but a dream in a developer's eye and the population of the valley was around 600. Now the census results of the 1995 monitoring program are in and the population of Whistler is 6,800. That's right, the sleepy little mountain town has turned into a four season resort with a rapidly expanding population and the problems that go hand in hand with growth. Whistler has gone big-time. Canada's last census was taken in 1991 and at that time Whistler's population was listed at 4,500. With some concrete data in hand it is time for Whistler residents, politicians and municipal planners to crunch some numbers and come up with some plans for the future — all the while managing Whistler's multi-faceted growth of the present. According to Mike Vance, director of the RMOW's Planning Department, as community facilities such as recreation centres and new schools are created more people are going to come to Whistler. But they aren't going to come only to cash in on the multitude of construction jobs in the valley and then leave when the jobs are over, as has been the thrust of many of Whistler's population discussions. Families are going to come and they are going to stay — increasing the need for community facilities to develop alongside the rapidly expanding resort. "What's happening is we are building a very attractive community," says Vance. "As the resort is built out we are going to see a transformation of the employment profile toward a more permanent population base." The popular misnomer that Whistler is full of transient resort workers in the winter and transient construction workers in the summer is changing. Vance says about 10 per cent of Whistler's employed population listed construction as their livelihood. People are coming here to work, and they're staying. While the annual growth rate averaged eight per cent between 1991 and 1994, the number of tourist bed units created over that same period increased by just over four per cent. "Our rate of population growth is doubling that of the development and that is something I'm sure many people are not aware of," Vance says. The resident and second homeowner surveys allowed municipal planners to get their hands on some solid, locally-based information that they have not been able to find anywhere else. According to Vance, one of the most surprising things culled out of the survey information was the number of second homeowners interested in making Whistler their permanent home. Approximately 27 per cent of second homeowners expressed some interest in making the move to Whistler in the future, while a whopping 20 per cent indicated they would like to make Whistler their home within the next two years. With a second Whistler elementary school in the planning stages and the finishing touches going on the new Whistler Secondary School, Vance says many of the families who want to move to Whistler already own a home here and have school-aged children. With technological innovations, young professionals are relocating to Whistler as a lifestyle choice and "telecommuting" to their offices. "The numbers seem to reveal we are quickly moving toward what would be classified as a typical community," Vance says. "Although we'll never get there totally because of the high amount of young people involved in seasonal employment."

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