Stawamus Chief sightseeing gondola goes public 

A proposed sightseeing gondola on Squamish’s Stawamus Chief has been a poorly guarded secret for some time, but the proponents say the provincial assessment process is holding up full public discussion of the project.

Whistler residents Paul Mathews, president of Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners, and Peter Alder, a senior associate with Ecosign and principal of Peter Alder Enterprises, released a press release last week outlining their proposal and where it is in the assessment process.

"At the request of the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, the consultation process is proceeding in two distinct phases," the proponents stated in the release. "Initial consultations are first being held with key stakeholders including the District of Squamish and Squamish First Nation If these initial consultations indicate that an amendment to the Stawamus Chief Park Management Plan should be considered, the second phase process for broad consultation with the community will follow in October/November 2004 including Open Houses and a variety of other forums for feedback."

In addition to the District of Squamish and the Squamish Nation, the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee and the Ministry of Transportation and Highways are part of the initial consultations.

The $12 million gondola proposal would run from a former gravel pit next to Shannon Falls Provincial Park, traverse the southeastern flank of the Chief and terminate at the top of Peak No. 2. All commercial facilities would be located at the base of the gondola. Facilities at the top of the peak would be minimal.

The proponents say the gondola would not be visible from the highway and their proposed route would minimizes impact to current users of the Chief, including climbers and hikers, and to the environment.

Despite those assurances many in the climbing community are opposed to the proposal, with some citing the spiritual nature of the 650-metre granite massif that was first climbed in 1961.

The Chief is well known by the climbing community around the world and draws thousands of climbers and spectators every summer.

The Stawamus Chief is also in a provincial park, created after many years of effort by Squamish residents. To allow a gondola in a provincial park the park plan must be amended.

The Squamish business community has yet to voice an opinion, although Alder said people he has talked to individually are generally in favour of any business that attracts people to Squamish.

According to the press release: "The developer's philosophy is to respect the environment and the rich culture and heritage of the Stawamus Chief, while providing greater accessibility to all members of the public.

"The benefits associated with the development include the creation of an icon attraction that will serve as a catalyst for the further development of Squamish tourism economy and for the evolution of Squamish as a premier destination for international travelers."

Alder said a Web site outlining plans for the gondola, and designed to gather public feedback on the proposal, should be on-line this week. The Web address is: www.stawamuschiefgondola.com

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