After the election to the south of us we should not need reminding that we need to be aware of the language used by those with a vested interest in the outcome of a debate. The notion that designating the wetlands surrounding the Zen lands as an area of special interest is “junk science” (as claimed by Doug Player) should only serve to make us all more cautious of the proposed Whistler International Campus.
In years past when the owners of these lands wanted to zone it for apartments, I walked these land with two different groups, both including people with excellent scientific backgrounds, and including some who were professionally qualified in the environmental sciences. The conclusion communicated to the councils of the day by both these groups was to avoid development on these lands. But one hardly needs more than an appreciation of high school ecology to walk this area and see that the provincial regulations for riparian land are very difficult to apply in the lands below Spring Creek and above Function Junction.
The issue for the lands where the WIC wishes to build a campus, is that besides the main drainage, which would be assessed by the provincial regulations, there is also a wide area of vertical bog — water trapped by the underlying strata — which governs most of the ecology of the area. Such systems are quite unique, harbour a large diversity of flora and fauna, and while these bogs are more important than the creek, they would not be assessed under the provincial regulations. It is incumbent on all of us to be responsible to see that we don’t loose them.
The real test of the sincerity of the people backing the WIC is to offer a trade in lands with the price being the six private lots the area is zoned for. The idea of a campus at Whistler could then be assessed separately from these ecological issues above. If it is possible to get away with calling this part of our OCP “junk science” I might suggest that the idea of an institute of higher learning where students and faculty compete with the distractions of our great mountain resource (how would a 20 cm rule apply to class time?) might be labeled a “junk proposal.”
The original notion of a bedroom cap on our community was not to protect property values, or so that we could keep our little peace, or to support other similar notions. It was based then on the well-founded idea that the impact of populations living at the summit of a mountain pass are much greater than the same population would have on the lower slopes.
The movement past the initial cap was done for good political reasons, and this is a richer community because it was done. The adding of another group to our mountain pass may just well be an increase in our ecological footprint that we should avoid. Council needs to commission an up to date study on the probable impact of: another increase in the actual cap, on becoming a college town on a mountain pass, and on how a Whistler U might just make it harder to get better at what we do best.
Alan G. Whitney