Whistler guests to be welcomed at Brandywine Park 

The municipality is moving ahead with plans to put a Whistler Welcome Centre at the entrance of the Brandywine Provincial Park.

At Monday’s meeting, council supported an agreement in principle to support the partnership with B.C. Parks for the development at the Brandywine Park entrance.

The welcome centre will be a place to get information about the resort such as activities, events and accommodation, as well as an opportunity for travellers to get oriented before driving into Whistler.

That’s a service that some guests say is currently lacking in the resort and causing confusion and poor guest arrival experience.

At Monday’s meeting Councillor Ken Melamed questioned how the municipality would entice travellers to stop at the Brandywine site and get information before coming into Whistler.

"I’m afraid it’s going to be so far before Whistler that people are going to pass it by," he said.

Paul Shakotko, manager of transportation with the municipality, assured him that there would be appropriate signage to draw visitors to the welcome centre, which is 17 kilometres south of the village, as well as easy access to pull off the highway.

Chosen out of five potential sites, Brandywine came out as the preferred site in part because of its natural setting and its proximity to the Brandywine waterfalls and the resort itself.

In addition, BC Parks is planning to revamp the park entrance and is willing to partner on the development of the area.

"We found that there is a lot of synergies between their goals and our goals," said Shakotko.

Councillor Kristi Wells encouraged staff to investigate the possibility of more partnerships as the centre’s business plan evolves over the coming months.

"I see a broader community initiative," she said.

Shakotko confirmed that the municipality’s goal is to find more funding partners for the development.

Staff has met with Chief Ian Campbell from Squamish First Nation to assess their interest in participating in the centre either financially or through support in-kind.

To date, Squamish First Nation has indicated a strong interest in being involved.

In his report to council, Shakotko estimated the capital costs for the information centre could be $1 million to $1.5 million depending on the size of the building and the services within.

Operating costs could be in the range of $150,000 per year.

Those figures would be confirmed in the next six months during the business plan development.

B.C. Parks is planning to replace the small campground at Brandywine with a larger, upgraded day use facility, which will focus on improving park visitors’ experience and opportunities.

Parks also has an agreement with the Ministry of Transportation to rebuild the entrance to the park, including turning lanes, and provide parking spaces.

Throughout the fall the municipality will focus on the building design and business plan while B.C. Parks works on the design of the day-use area.

Construction work is slated to get underway in spring 2005 and be operational by the winter.

The Brandywine site was chosen over sites at Function Junction, the Callaghan Valley, Squamish and the Crown land just north of Brandywine.

It is hoped the new centre will ease congestion at the Gatehouse Information Centre in the village, where 70 per cent of visitors arrive by car.

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