First in a series of stories on the growth of Whistler and other mountain resorts. Theses 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. "We’re a throw-away society; there’s always been a new frontier. (So) we spend less energy and effort on maintaining our cities or communities than on building them. It’s a big question for a lot of communities." The speaker is Myles Rademan, director of public affairs for Park City, Utah and a resort consultant. Rademan, who grew up in Philadelphia and has a law degree and a masters in urban planning from New York University, has studied and worked for resort communities all over North America, including Whistler. He was in town last week for a series of workshops with municipal planning staff. Following the workshops he talked with Pique about the state of mountain resorts. "Many resort towns are turning into international residential communities," Rademan says of the boom in mountain resorts all over North America. "Whistler is in its teenage years, kind of gangly. It’s mature as a resort but young as a community. The question now is what do we do for the community, as opposed to the tourist. A balance is needed." Rademan compares this maturing of resorts to the life cycle of humans. "At 50, you’ve reached middle age, there are some slight declines in physical and mental capabilities, but they are richer years for other things," he says. The next step for Whistler and other resorts, developing a sense of community, can be more work than building the resort. "Once you lose the entrepreneurial drive that created this place, can you maintain the energy to keep the community going?" Rademan asks. "From our experience, the only wisdom is the wisdom of holding hands — we’ve got to talk to each other." Civic dialogue — "the basis of democracy" — is the way for resort communities to set a path for sustainable, healthy living. "There have to be opportunities for people to participate. "'Community' is a contraction of 'common' and 'unity', it's what binds us together. We see so many building cranes we tend to forget the glue that holds us together," he says. "You (Whistler) have attained what you set out to do, become the number one ski resort. And you should be congratulated for that success. But as the Chinese know, there is also the tragedy of success." Rademan says the next step, re-focusing, setting goals for a liveable community, will take as much work as building the resort. "To me the essence of community is one where the relationships are as important as the issues. We have to trust each other. "My own experience is that places that work on their relationships are more successful. "Local government’s role is to bring people together, to foster relationships." Rademan's own hometown, Park City, is less than 40 minutes from Salt Lake City. That close proximity to a large urban area threatens to turn Park City into a "resort-burb," Rademan says. And "the more muddied the line between Park City and Salt Lake City becomes the more difficult it is to maintain our identity." About 50 per cent of the people who live in Park City work elsewhere, and are not directly tied to the tourist economy. On the other hand, about half of the Park City work force comes from outside the town. The net result every morning is a "great diurnal flushing" of people moving in and people moving out. One in every 16 residents of Park City is a real estate agent. "In Park City people have had similar feelings to (the people) in Whistler: we’re growing too fast, we're losing our sense of community etc.," Rademan says. One of the steps Park City has taken is to initiate a community leadership program. A one-year program sponsored by local businesses, successful applicants study local history, issues, problem solving, leadership skill training and go to other similar communities to look at how they deal with problems. More than 130 applicants applied for the 25 positions last year. Rademan has suggested a similar program might be useful for Whistler. But even when the community is training leaders and there is dialogue among the people, the issue they must deal with is growth. "We’re all grappling with it. It’s the number one issue in all resorts," Rademan says. Across western North America, the resorts that have paid attention to their physical surroundings are booming now — and more people are going to want to move to them. With advances in communication and transportation technology, and the re-structuring of traditional jobs, resort towns are no longer remote. In 1996 40 million Americans, the first of the baby boomers, will turn 50. According to a study by Cornell University and American Demographics magazine, the baby boomers eventually stand to inherit $10 trillion. That money, early retirements and other factors are going to impact on resort towns. "It's troubling; it's a schizophrenia inherent in resorts," Rademan says. Growth is what creates amenities and improvements, but at the same time there’s a need to maintain the size and scale of the town in order to preserve what makes it special in the first place. Rademan says the key element is to have a great deal of local control. "Each resort is a lab, a Petri dish. You watch it grow and try to decide, is it penicillin or malignant?" Trying to control growth becomes a question fundamental to a capitalist society: "Can you manage growth in a democracy so that it’s fair and equitable to most people? Most places that have managed growth are not democracies, and most centrally planned economies have been disastrous," Rademan admits. Despite that, "most of our (resort) communities are looking at mechanisms to manage growth." What it comes back to is dialogue, there have to be opportunities for the people of the town to sit down and discuss the trade-offs and the hard issues. Rademan doesn’t know the final answer to the growth question, but says at some point we may have to reconsider some core North American values, like private property rights, freedom and individuality. He suggests it might come down to a lottery of permits to live in resort towns, not unlike the lottery system for permits to walk the West Coast Trail or to raft the Grand Canyon. While that may smack of Big Brother, he notes that one place such a system is already in effect is Banff, where residents must demonstrate a "reason to reside" within the national park.


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