Seeing the village for the trees 

The case for preserving a tiny bit of nature in Whistler Village

 

By Stephen Vogler

One of my favourite areas in the village is the little corridor of forest that follows the waterway from Main Street toward the Story Teller’s Chair at the west end of Village Creek Park. The waterway — which cost a controversial $2 million-plus — is a nice feature, but it’s not what was added that makes this area special: it’s what was left. One can dip off of Main Street and instantly step into the middle of a shady alluvial forest, small and second growth though it is, the huge stumps with their springboard notches tell a forgotten chapter of the valley’s history. Such a corridor puts one in touch with the natural geography of our Coast Mountain habitat without ever leaving the village.

To have elements of our surrounding forest incorporated into the town centre is a rare treat. The only other parcel of forested land within the village is Lots 1 & 9 between the post office, the Olympic trailer and the Brewhouse. Lot 1/9’s fate is now up for consideration as our decision makers determine whether it should house a Paralympic sledge hockey arena, an arts or other kind of community facility, or simply be left intact for the future — a parcel of forest in the village bank, so to speak.

Martin Pardoe is a planner with the RMOW who is looking at possible uses for Lot 1/9. “Historically, that site was identified for an ice-based entertainment centre with a public market component,” Pardoe says. “Then when we were making a bid for the Olympics in 2002-2003, it was identified for a Paralympic arena. The cost to develop a suitable facility was quite expensive so we turned to pricing other sized rinks and looking at other locations.”

Besides Lot 1/9, staff are currently looking at Meadow Park as well as the athletes village near Function Junction. Senior level negotiations are ongoing, Pardoe says, which will result in a decision on the Paralympic arena by mid July.

Maintaining the forest, as was done in Village Creek Park, is not a likely scenario if the sledge hockey arena were to go on Lot 1/9. “On that site, it would be difficult to tuck an arena into the forest,” Pardoe says. He cites water qualities of the land and blowdown of newly exposed trees as some of the difficulties in trying to retain forest around a large building. “Ultimately it has to be safe,” he says. “As soon as you put services in for buildings, you’re digging up ground and roots.”

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