Funding initially earmarked for Sea to Sky Trail work north of Whistler has been reallocated to replace a rotting bridge over the Cheakamus River south of the resort instead.
At its Monday (Dec. 17) meeting in Pemberton, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board supported the re-purposing of $160,000 in federal gas tax funding originally awarded to the Resort Municipality of Whistler to complete a section of the trail between Green Lake and the Wedge Woods subdivision.
A bridge along the section of trail between Whistler and Brandywine Falls is in such bad shape that only two pedestrians may cross at once, said a staff report detailing the findings of provincial engineers. It’s closed in the winter and the log stringers are “rotted through,” prompting Whistler officials to request a change in priority for the funds.
“A more recent discussion with the engineer has identified that this bridge may be closed entirely at any time,” said Jan Jansen, the RMOW’s general manager of resort experience, in a letter to the regional district chair.
Jansen’s letter said the existing bridge would be removed and replaced with a 25-metre pedestrian crossing at an estimated $160,000.
The decrepit bridge is north of the Cal-Cheak Recreation Area. The SLRD report indicated that the connection to Brandywine Falls is one of the busiest segments of the Sea to Sky Trail, and that attempts to secure funding for the bridge through the Trans Canada Trail Foundation were unsuccessful.
The decision came as a disappointment to Area C director Susie Gimse, whose region loses out on trail improvements as a result. The original funding commitment would have been a link from Whistler to Wedge Woods, located just beyond the resort boundary. Until that section can be completed, logging roads provide the only connection from Green Lake.
Gimse asked if it was possible to dedicate the funding to the proposed Pemberton-Mount Currie Friendship Trail, which is also being supported by gas tax funding. Chief administrative officer Lynda Flynn reminded the board that the funding was provided based on a Whistler request, not one Area C was party to.
The funding was originally announced in October as one of three Whistler projects, and nine within the SLRD overall, that were approved for federal gas tax money.
In that round of funding, Pemberton, Area C and Mount Currie were awarded close to $370,000 towards a suspension bridge over the Lillooet River to help complete the Friendship Trail — a long-awaited, non-motorized link between those communities. Pemberton Valley lawmakers are looking for an additional $300,000 to $500,000, hoping to build a bridge strong enough for horses to cross.
Crompton named vice-chair
Whistler Coun. Jack Crompton will serve as the SLRD board’s vice-chair for the next year, having been elected to the position at the beginning of Monday’s meeting.
Crompton defeated Area A director Debbie Demare in a close secret-ballot vote after being nominated by outgoing chair Susie Gimse.
Gimse announced at the outset of the meeting that she wasn’t interested in another year as chair and nominated her vice-chair, Patricia Heintzman, to take over. The Squamish councillor was acclaimed to the position.
Heintzman thanked the board with her first words from the head of the table.
“That’s a lovely vote of confidence and I’m looking forward to 2013,” said Heintzman, who also spurred a round of applause when thanking Gimse for her efforts as chair since December 2010.
“She’s guided the ship through some challenging times, done it with aplomb … and has been extremely valuable to the regional district.”