Why can't we play in the sandbox together? 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY TOSHI/TOURISM WHISTLER - A family gets ready to ski the Lost Lake trails out front of the Lost Lake Passive House.
  • Photo by Toshi/Tourism Whistler
  • A family gets ready to ski the Lost Lake trails out front of the Lost Lake Passive House.

Whistler is passionate about its parks.

So it is not surprising that there was an active community discussion on social media about council's proposal to impose a fine of $100 on those not following the rules at Lost Lake park.

Each winter the picturesque park, within walking distance of the village, is turned into a haven for skinny skiers and snowshoers alike.

It is a beacon for visitors (and residents) looking to enjoy a winter experience they can access conveniently, and with most trails easy blues it is also one that every age and ability can enjoy.

The frozen lake at the centre of the park just makes it all the more attractive — like a postcard.

But every year, and perhaps this year more abundantly, people are using the area to walk, hike, run and even bike through and around. Some even bring their dogs — after all in the summer Lost Lake's dog beach is a very popular destination.

Most people know that this is a park that has been designated for specific winter uses — but for some reason a growing number of people are choosing to ignore the rules and in some cases have even become belligerent about it. One Village Host volunteer was pushed down while trying to enforce the rules.

Really, are we at a place where park users are pushing volunteers — there to help keep the park running smoothly and visitors feeling cared for?

What happened to respect?

So now council wants to fine those not following the rules — no running, walking, hiking — and absolutely no fat bike riding, please.

At first blush this seemed a little extreme as a response to those who have been using the trail system throughout the park this winter — in a year where little snow has made many of the trails particularly accessible.

And let's face facts many residents are just as passionate about biking as they are about skiing and with the low-snow season currently underway people are dusting off their two-wheel toys a little early.

Added to that is the growing popularity of the fat-tire bikes, which are great fun in the snow.

The Resort Municipality (RMOW) correctly argues that there are other parks and trails for these activities. Skinny skiers, walkers, hikers and bikers — with or without dogs— can enjoy the free Valley Trail system to Rainbow (Nordic tracks are groomed in the trail about every three days by the RMOW when conditions allow). The paved trail around the Whistler Golf Club is kept clear as well. And there is the Green Lake trail.

Out at the Callaghan organizers have seized on the fat tire bike idea and are not only allowing them on a trail, they are renting them out.

It begs the question, will these new fines just be tickets with no teeth? Are we now going to have bylaw stationed at Lost Lake to monitor it, or wandering around the trails looking for rule breakers — how will this be enforced and is this a good way of spending taxpayer's dollars.

The really annoying part of all of this is that council would likely not be considering this if the trail destruction wasn't so noticeable. Maybe if we had tons of snow we wouldn't be in this position, but winter is still to firmly get a grip on Whistler and so the degradation of the skinny-ski tracks, by bikes and boots is seriously affecting the trails.

Perhaps the municipality also needs to consider that our changing winter climate may mean that we need to adapt how we use valley trails in future winters if the lower areas are staying green. Is forcing Lost Lake to be a Nordic area the best way forward?

Some who took to social media also bemoaned the fact that a fee exists for the Lost Lakes trails at all, pointing to places Kitzbuehel where kilometres of trails are free. At Lost Lake adults pay $20 to use the skinny-ski trails during the day and $10 for night skiing. Snowshoeing is $10.

As council moves toward adopting the introduction of a fine for the Lost Lake trails it's hard not to feel that if we all played better in the sandbox our leaders wouldn't have to resort to police measures to manage our environment.


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