VANOC to partially fund grizzly bear study 

Collapsed roof at Nordic venue will not delay summer construction schedule

By Clare Ogilvie

Olympic organizers will partially fund a grizzly bear study in the Callaghan valley.

But the $33,000 a year the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC) is offering up falls far short of the $100,000 a year the Ministry of Environment (MoE) had requested last month.

“It is part of responding to… concerns,” said John Eastman, VANOC’s vice-president of venue construction. “VANOC has committed to contributing toward that study.”

The concern is that the proposed legacy trails in the Callaghan will disturb grizzly bear habitat.

In its June 4 response to the provincial Environmental Assessment Office VANOC states that it will “co-operate with the MoE and take the lead in efforts to identify funding partners in addition to VANOC for the agreed research program.”

VANOC will also implement a bear management plan that emphasizes staff training, public education, garbage management, and other protection measures.

As well, VANOC will review the trail layout with MoE staff to consider seasonal grizzly bear habitat including possible vegetative feeding areas, bedding areas, and elements like “site lines” for visitor safety with a possible outcome of trail re-locations to accommodate critical bear habitat and potential summer bear/human encounters.

VANOC is proceeding on the assumption that construction of the legacy trails will go ahead this summer said Eastman. Olympic organizers won’t know for sure until the environmental assessment is completed in the next couple of weeks.

“Basically the environmental approval has gone ahead based on the plan we produced,” he said.

“ But… there is a commitment in there that as we move through the bush that if there can be some minor relocation of trails in order to reduce the impact and the footprint we would do that. The moving of these trails is very much an art not a science.”

VANOC has also committed to putting safety messaging on summer trails, producing educational pamphlets, and monitoring wildlife sightings.

Ministry of Environment officials did not respond by deadline.

Construction on the competition portion of the venue will be complete this year, though building of the day lodge will continue next summer.

The first test event will be held January 2008.

  It’s not clear yet whether the facility will be open to the public for the 2007-08 season, said Eastman.

“We are still debating whether it will be fully open or not,” he said.

“There are some issues that have to be resolved. There is the potential that it could be but the actual details of that have not been worked out yet.”

Five portions of the ski jumps, which were constructed in Vancouver, will be barged from Coquitlam to Squamish later this month and moved onto the site by truck.

VANOC was also able to salvage all the equipment and materials stored over the winter in a large steel shed which collapsed under the snow load. There was concern that the custom-made glulams might have been damaged, which might have delayed construction.

While it is still not clear why the roof of the shed collapsed the manufacturer stepped forward and offered to replace the building at no cost to VANOC. The new building will be able to withstand greater snow loads, said Eastman.

“We hope to have that here this month and we hope to have it up and finished by the end of July,” he said.

“We have gone back and checked all our buildings at the venue to make sure they are OK and we are very happy with those. The ones that did have a roof on them over the winter didn’t show any signs of distress.”

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