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Topics of interest from BCMC member Brittany Zenger about Conservation and BC Parks.

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Whistler-Blackcomb management planning – future expansion into Garibaldi Park and the Spearheads – an update
Whistler-Blackcomb management planning – future expansion into Garibaldi Park and the Spearheads – an update
1665 days ago 2 comments Category: Park Huts
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Comment by Michael Feller

BC Parks began developing a revised master plan for the Spearhead Range some time ago, and solicited public input last year. However, release of the proposed plan has been held up for almost 6 months even though it was apparently written in March of this year. No reason has been given for the delay, but it is rumoured that the new plan will limit some of the heliskiing and perhaps put restrictions on motorised use and downhill ski development within the Spearhead area. It is believed that release of the plan is being held up by Whistler-Blackcomb (WB) lobbying in Victoria as they are currently trying to get their own management plan approved and this plan wants to maintain opportunities for WB to expand further into Garibaldi Park over the Spearheads. This was indicated by a recent comment of Dave Brownlie of WB to Bryce Leigh of the FMCBC. Bryce asked Brownlie point blank why WB wouldn’t commit to further intrusions into the park. His answer was that they may need more area in the future but they wouldn’t ask for another expansion into the park in the next 20 years. Bryce responded that WB uses the park as their private land bank to be called upon when WB deems necessary. 

The fact that WB refuses to commit to further intrusions into Garibaldi Park comes from the management plan that they are currently developing. This plan was sent out to other BC government agencies for comment in February, 2011, then WB responded to the comments from the government agencies. The WB comments, recently made available to the FMCBC, suggest that they intend expanding into parkland at both ends of the Spearhead traverse. When they initially got approval for expansion into the Flute area, then in Garibaldi Park, at the Whistler end of the Spearhead traverse, they always downplayed their interest to build lifts beyond those in the Symphony area, but now they are proposing a lift to Flute Pk. They are also proposing lifts for Blackcomb Glacier Park – originally part of Garibaldi Park – at the Blackcomb end of the Spearhead traverse. The Spearhead Huts advocates believe that WB’s proposal for a new lodge at Lakeside bowl, and their tacit desire to expand their lift system into the park, suggest that WB sees the proposed Spearhead hut system as a threat to their medium and long term goals to expand into the park with lifts and motorised service.

On the subject of continued heliskiing in the Spearheads, WB has stated that if they are not allowed to continue heliskiing in the Spearheads, they will pull their first responder support for the area. This is interesting considering that they appear to have been rescuing only their own unprepared downhill skiers heading out of bounds – an activity that they have marketed themselves. Members of the Spearhead Huts Association believe that WB has “waged a campaign against the hut system for the last three years on several levels. They are demanding continued heliskiing unfettered; they are demanding expansion of lifts into the park with greater access for their skiers; and they have reneged on previous commitments regarding the park access for hikers, skiers and the general public”.

On the latter subject of access into Garibaldi Park, WB had committed to improving access to the Singing Pass trail. This is not happening or is happening at the pace at which most glaciers used to move – nothing discernible within the last 12 months. WB’s response to government agency comments on their proposed management plan states “we are fully committed to providing the most practical FREE public access possible to the park.”  Dave Brownlie, of WB, in response to questions from Bryce Leigh of the FMCBC put forward numerous arguments against action that are so easily dismissed it appears that WB just doesn’t want to do anything. For example, Brownlie listed many obstacles to the public driving to the IPP site on Fitzsimmons Creek (which could provide good access to the start of the Singing Pass trail). “It is a steep mountain road”. Bryce’s response:  “if the road to Cheakamus Lake or Callaghan Lake was that good we would all be thrilled”. Brownlie: “The WB bone yard is located there”. Bryce: “true but it contains used steel towers, cable, and old heavy parts not new laptops or I phones that are easy to steal”.  Brownlie: “Having the public go through the sliding centre is a big concern”. Bryce: maybe, but anyone with grade 3 math could figure out it isn’t going to be running long as it is sucking the legacy funds dry”.  Arthur DeJong, environmental planner for WB and strong proponent of summer hiking and improved Singing Pass access, thinks the WB decision makers need to see a business case that supports improving the access.

WB needs to provide to the government certain commitments for their Master Development Agreement. The Master Development Agreement is the contract between the Provincial Government and the resort that allows them to operate the resort and carry out recreational activities on Crown land.  This contract outlines the rights, responsibilities and obligations of the operator and the Province. 

If you have any questions or require more information, or wish to comment on what has transpired to date please contact, as soon as possible, Tori Meeks, Land Officer, Mountain Resorts Branch, with the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations at 510 - 175 2nd Ave, Kamloops, BC  V2C 5W1, or phone: 250-371-3943 , or email: Tori.Meeks@gov.bc.ca

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